I am sat at my desk, all the books that I need are by my side, my laptop on full power and a new Microsoft Word tab is opened. My room is clean, my corridor is pindrop silent. The conditions for productivity are perfect. This will be the best essay ever to grace this prestigious university.
I launch into my introduction the same way a world-class athlete launches into their race. Proud of my succinct and engaging start, I decide to reward myself with a biscuit. And so begins my fall.
As I open my kitchen cupboard of culinary wonders, my eyes are bombarded with a colourful assortment of snacks. Suddenly that one, pathetic custard cream looks like it’s not enough to keep a sparrow alive. I proceed to tear open a packet of Doritos like a toddler with its presents on Christmas morning.
It is at this point I forget my essay question and begin to ponder the real questions: Should I be vegan? Why can some people wiggle their ears and others can’t? What time is it in the Philippines right now? The Philippines! That reminds me, I have a friend from there who I haven’t spoken to in a long time, I wonder how she’s doing? Let’s check her Facebook. Is that a boyfriend? The rest is history.
Sadly, far too many of us can relate to such an episode. We reserve multiple hours for carrying out a task and prepare the perfect conditions to go about it. Yet this is not enough—we are missing that all important drive. Frustrated at our own lack of productivity, we deprive ourselves of proper breaks, under the impression we don’t deserve them. And so we remain at our desks, with all the time in the world, though with nothing we’d rather do less than the task we set out to complete.
Psychologists state that our irrational desire to favour pointless tasks over necessary ones stems from the fact that we subconsciously place a low value on the task at hand. We run away from our work because we doubt our ability to do it well. Conversely, we know very well that it is much easier to succeed in eating multiple snacks or completing Buzzfeed’s Which RuPaul Drag Race Queen are you? quiz. Procrastination is a comfort that lets us forget out doubts.
We can only reduce our tendency to procrastinate if we understand why we do it. We should avoid plunging into the miserable state of unproductive guilt; the ball and chain that prevents us from looking after ourselves. Taking a real, well-deserved break will freshen our minds and boost productivity once we return to our work. I would even argue that having too much time to do a task is detrimental. We have a false sense of security if we have an entire free day to complete a task that does not actually require so much time.
We need to take a step back from our unrealistic expectations of ourselves and maintain a healthier work-life balance. This way the task at hand will become a more organic part of our day. Just how we wouldn’t miss eating a meal, we can learn to view our work as nothing more than an element of daily routine, reducing the pressure that we feel to achieve the unattainable: perfection.