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  • Katie Hughes

NREM #4: Fighting Procrastination

The Endless March

There always seems to be a never-ending tide of projects to do, tasks to finish, and content to absorb. It's so easy to fall behind (and post a New Rules Every Monday on a Tuesday...)

But I've tried to gather the best wisdom on how to complete projects without losing your focus and becoming drained.

1. Map out your projects in advance - I have a list of dozens of short stories and painting ideas I want to complete at some point, and I've divided this list into categories of "To Do Now" "To Do Soon" and "To Do When I've Acquired More Skills." It helps to map out projects that also must get done and separate them from projects that don't need to be done right now.

2. Break out projects into distinct steps and work breaks in between them. Working for hours straight on a project is inevitable, but allowing yourself time to recharge, take a walk, and come back with a fresh and refreshed set of eyes is always helpful.

3. Planning in advance also helps prevent backlog - if you know how much you have in front of you, you're less likely to have surprises creep up and throw you off schedule, and more likely to be good about communicating deadlines with yourself and others.

4. Keep allowing yourself to be inspired along every step of your journey. Inspiration isn't just something you should have at the beginning of a project - allow yourself to be open to new ideas and viewpoints. Changing your project doesn't mean it wasn't originally successful, it just means you can make it better.

5. KEEP GRINDING. You're never going to want to do the hard or tedious parts of a project. I hate cleaning my brushes after I finish a painting, but if I don't it always bites me in the end. Other than brute forcing your way to do the less exciting parts of a job, remind yourself also why you are doing the project and what its completion means to you.

6. Be honest with yourself. We all have our limitations, and no one is perfect. Sometimes it's fine to set reasonable goals rather than hard-to-achieve ones. Allowing rest and focus helps prevent burnout and ultimately means your work is going to seem more refined.

7. Work in fun side projects too, wherever you can. While re-learning photoshop and trying to brush up on new skills, I came across an old photo of a drawing I had done of my friend's foot. At the end of what would have normally been a tedious and boring task (working alongside tutorial videos on marketing images I didn't care about), I could work on something fun and personal and end up with an image I like.

8. Just listen to this a bit.

9. If you're going to procrastinate do something healthy like:

drink water/meditate/take a nap/go for a drive - you'll feel better and more focused afterwards

10. Find the right balance of working hard and giving yourself a break. In college I had a hard time writing a paper in more than one sitting. Arguments flowed best for me when I could sit down and synthesize everything I'd learned in one shot. This was pretty unreasonable when I was writing 3 20-page long papers in my last week of my Master's program, and those three days of writing were physically and mentally exhausting. But in the end, I knew myself and the way I worked best and the work flowed easily that way. After four years of writing papers, I'd figured out a system that allowed me to outline and execute everything that needed to be done, and it worked out. Now I work differently, but staying in touch with those changes and personal expectations is what's key.

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