Chris Liu, Feb 18
- Divide and Conquer
- Make Achievable Goals
- Time Management
In the previous post You Really Need to Overcome Procrastination: Part 1, I introduced what procrastination is and how you can start overcoming it. In this post, I will focus on what you can do to overcome it specifically.
Divide and Conquer 🧩
You may know “divide and conquer” without me explaining it. Exactly, it literally means dividing a task first and conquer the small pieces one by one. [Divide and conquer] is also a strategy in computer science which can make it really easy and efficient to solve significant problems by breaking it down into small subproblems recursively. Thus, it has proven its correctness. So how do you implement it in real life task management?
First, make sure you know your task. Without knowing your job well, you have nothing to divide, let alone conquer. You can do it by reading instructions thoroughly, or familiarize with the material. After that, try to split the task into subtasks. There is more than one way to do this, and everyone can do it differently, so the size of a single subtask is up to you. For example, if I have a programming assignment, I can divide it into different modules of the program; if I am reading a book, I can consider a subtask a chapter or even a small section of one episode. Divide and conquer also makes you feel much less stressful in the process because you only need to focus your attention on a small problem, which you feel confident to solve, instead of facing the massive problem and having no idea where to start.
Make Achievable Goals 📌
When you knew what’s your task and properly divided them into small pieces, it’s not over. You need to set deadlines for all of these pieces, or the “divide and conquer” technique is useless if there is no action. Making achievable goals (short-term) is not asking you to do a little bit or do so much in a day, but to assign a moderate amount of work within your power. You can do it the way you like. For example, conquer the most challenging part in the first few days and leave the easy part for later, or complete the easy work first and leave more time for the hard part. I usually start with the most challenging task in the morning right after I wake up in the morning, and gradually decrease the difficulty of the subsequent tasks because I run out of motivation in the evening. Make sure to try different habits and feel which one works for you, and stick on that one for some time. Short-term goals are designed for short term, and you also need long-term goals. This might be more difficult than making short-term goals since there is more uncertainty in the long-term, which requires you to really think about what you are to finish in the long term. Be sure to remember that don’t make significant changes to these goals once you made them unless you have to.
Time Management ⏱
Time management is never an easy task. I admit that even until now I sometimes manage my time poorly because I usually don’t take breaks, and this is bad. Of course, not taking breaks and not focus are both terrible, and that’s why you need to manage your time in a balanced way. Use the same technique: start small. Manage things you will do in the next day before you go to sleep at night, which anyone can do. Think about what you are going to complete in the next day, and when to finish the specific task. Estimate the duration of every event and schedule them in every time slots you like. And the most important one: follow the schedule. Many people do manage their time but never or seldom follow the plan, which results in both wasting times maintaining and completing nothing at the end. As I mention in my previous posts, I use OmniFocus (which I don’t recommend for regular users unless you have a large number of tasks to manage, I basically put the whole part of my life on the app) for my time management. I also recommend Things 3 if you use iOS and Todoist if you use Android. These are both paid apps but it saves your time, so they are definitely worth the price. If you already have yours, just use it.
Being different from the three techniques above, reverse-procrastinate is not for everyone, but feel free to have a try. Reverse-procrastination literally mean it, which is the opposite of procrastination. When I reverse-procrastinate, I finish all the tasks as soon as they are assigned. Yeah, it is sound difficult to you, right? It used to be difficult for me as well. After I master the three techniques above, reverse-procrastination became more comfortable because I know how to deal with a big problem, what goal I should make, and how to manage my time correctly. I find using reverse-procrastination extremely efficient when I am dealing with easy tasks. Because they are easy, the precondition (no obstacle) is met, and it makes sure I will not be stuck on the road. No barrier means I can do it really fast. But if you have hard problems, think about it and decide whether to reverse-procrastinate because if you are stuck, you can waste a lot of time making no progress on it.
Feel free to discuss with me if you disagree with me or want to correct me if you think I’m wrong (which I probably can be).