You've heard general methods of preventing distraction: turn your phone off, go to the library without headphones, sit in front of a teacher while working, etc.
But while those techniques are great if you just can't focus on work, that's only a small part of working, especially when it comes to large projects.
1. Quotas (Conventional)
“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” – Henry Ford
One of the best ways to feel satisfied at getting stuff done without being overwhelmed is to assign a work quota. There are many different kinds of quotas that can be tweaked depending on what your project is.
a) Write X # of pages or words each day (report).
b) Work X # of hours each day (general homework).
2. Incentive (Conventional)
“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.” ― Albert Einstein
Well, sometimes you just need one.
Although not having to worry about working is its own reward, sometimes you need an extra little push. Some suggestions of incentives are:
a) If you're on a diet, buy yourself a chocolate bar each time you attend a study group session.
b) For every page (or half hour, etc.) you complete, you can watch an episode of Mad Men.
In addition to positive incentive, there's negative incentive:
a) If you don't finish the paper by tonight, you don't get to watch this week's episode of Mad Men.
b) For every half hour you procrastinate, you have to do twenty pushups.
3. Working by Procrastinating (Unconventional)
"Every day rings new choices." -Martha Beck
This is one of my personal favorite techniques because it taps into your inner laze and uses it against you. Here's how it works: if you dread completing a certain task, assign yourself an even worse task and tell yourself that you can choose between them. Mine generally go like this:
a) I need to call up my bank and ask to change something for my checking account, but I'm an introvert and abhor talking on the phone. So I tell myself that I don't have to call the bank, as long as I agree to finally practice tiger squats. Suddenly, calling the bank doesn't sound so bad.
b) You can either call your mom or write a page for your term paper. So which are you going to choose?
4. Daring (Unconventional)
"Only those who dare truly live." – Ruth Freedman
Though it sounds harsh, daring is a lot less intense than the above techniques. You dare yourself to just work on something for ten minutes, or dare yourself to open a Word document and just read the last sentence of what you wrote last time. Normally, only the thought of doing work repels me, but when I actually sit down to do it, I feel fine. This technique allows you to overcome the DREAD of doing work by promising yourself that you only HAVE to do a little. And then, once you're settled, you can take the opportunity to double-cross yourself and work on the whole thing.
a) Just read the first page of A Tale of Two Cities.
b) Just step onto the treadmill at the gym and then you can leave.
5. Gambling/Drinking Game (Unconventional)
"There's a drinking game in Heaven, where angels do a shot every time humans invest for the long term." – John B. Truant
This is especially good for the superstitious or romantics out there. The gambling technique works like this: you base whether or not you work according to some outside factor out of your control completely. The drinking game works for larger projects (long chapters to read or working out); you do an X every time Y happens.
a) Turn on the radio. Whenever "Can't Stop the Feeling" plays, do ten situps.
b) Turn on the RNC. Every time someone says "Hillary," read a page in Tale of Two Cities.
c) Turn on your computer. If no one has messaged you on Skype, then do your homework. If they have, then you don't have to do it.
d) Don't want to go to the gym? If your roommate is home, then go. If they're not home, don't go.
e) Don't want to email that professor? Flip a coin.
6. Get Help (Conventional)
"It is not so much our friends' help that helps us, as the confidence of their help." – Epicurus
Everyone has trouble with procrastination. So find a close friend, give them a blow horn and tell them to wail away any time they see you getting distracted. This also helps with the "incentive" section, because you may still buy yourself that candy bar even if you didn't do your work, or you might still watch Game of Thrones even though you said you couldn't. Give the candy bar or your phone/laptop to a close friend and tell them not to give it back until they see you drop and give them twenty!
Do these strategies work? Yes, they do. I use them on a regular basis. A great strategy is a great tool for students, but a tool is only as good as the one who wields it. You still have to unplug your Internet router, find a quiet place, turn off your phone and get a good night's sleep. Let your friends and roommate know that you mean business, and you'll find it's much easier to hold yourself accountable when others are watching. Whether you stick to one strategy or combine several, the most important part is dedication.
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