Procrastination can, on the odd occasion, be good for you but sometimes you need to knuckle down. For ages. Thankfully we’ve gathered together a variety of tried-and-tested techniques to help you focus. Try and spot the one I’ve totally invented.
The Pomodoro technique
Developed by Francesco Cirilli in the late 1980s, the technique breaks down your workload into 25 minute bursts called “pomodori” – which is italian for “tomatoes”. Nope, no idea.
You’ll need: a stopwatch, a quiet space and the ability to actually operate the stopwatch correctly (don’t underestimate that last one):
1. Set the timer for 25 minutes and start working. Don’t do anything other than the task at hand during that, erm, tomato. If your phone rings, ignore it/turn it off/throw it in a drain.
2. When the timer goes off, have a 5 minute break away from your workspace doing something totally unrelated.
3. Repeat three more times and, on the fourth tomato, have a 15 minute break.
4. Continue until you’re finished, then celebrate by eating an actual tomato.
The 1-3-5 rule
Developed by Alex Cavoulacos, the co-founder of The Daily Muse (love their site, do check it out) this is basically a turbocharged to-do list which helps you actually get stuff done if you’re feeling really, really unproductive.
You’ll need: a to-do list, some paper, and a pen.
Break down everything you have to do that day, from finishing that job application right through to hanging the laundry up or doing an online food shop. The theory is that you can, in a day, only manage:
One big thing (a job application, say)
Three medium things (check through a cover letter for spelling mistakes, pitch something, do all the dishes in the kitchen)
Five small things (email that important person asking them out for coffee, shave, buy bread from shop, change your sheets, give your mum a hug)
Download this template or copy it out onto the paper you’ve got ready. With the pen you’ve also prepared. Now, prioritise your tasks and don’t do anything that isn’t on the list, unless it’s urgent (i.e. you’re allowed to go to hospital if you get hit by a car), just be sure to readjust accordingly (i.e. replace the big thing you’d planned with “get hit by car and go to hospital”).
Visualise your goal AKA “do some hippie stuff”
Actually, it’s not just for hippies. Athletes practise this before big sports events, and thinking about what you want to achieve, before you start, is proven to help focus.
You’ll need: your mind
Before you attempt the project, pretend that you’ve already done it. See yourself sending off that job application, turning to your reflection in the mirror and saying “well done you. You’ve really achieved something today”. In slow motion. You can be more attractive in the visualisation, if that helps.
Seriously, though, concentrating on what you want to achieve as if you’ve already achieved it does boost motivation; close your eyes and think about it hard. Think about what you’ll do and how you’ll feel once it’s done – will you go read a book? Meet friends? Eat a massive pie?
The magical nude technique
You’ll need: A crossroad
Find a crossroads and stand on it during a full moon while half naked (top half, obviously). Do a bit of a dance that an onlooker would describe as “all arms”. After five minutes, everything you needed to focus on will have been done by your mind.*
*this is the one I made up. Please don’t do this.
The Be Here Now and Spider Technique
A very simple idea that, unfortunately, doesn’t involve spiders, Spiderman, or bees. Instead, it helps you focus your wandering mind and deal with distractions.
You’ll need: Your mind, again.
1. Whenever you find your mind wandering, repeat the words “be here now” and bring yourself to the current moment.
2. You’ll find it wanders less and less. Now introduce the spider technique for the double whammy.
3. The first few times you hear a door slam/someone texts you/your mum pokes her head in, you’re going to be distracted. That’s natural, so try not to a) get annoyed or b) use it as an excuse to go off-course.
4. The next time this happens, pretend it never happened and plough forwards.
5. As time goes by, and you consciously ignore more and more distractions, you’ll start doing it subconsciously. And concentrate more intensely.
Slightly unsure as to why this is called The Spider Technique. Maybe it’s like when a spider is in a web and thinks something’s caught but actually it’s just you poking a pencil at it. It gets all upset. Then eventually it’ll stop coming to investigate whether you’re a fly because it knows it’s a pencil. Ok that didn’t work and I’ve lost sight of where this simile is going, but it’s a good technique.
Now why not put those excellent techniques (except the nude one, just to reiterate) to good use when applying for one of our many internships, work experience placements or entry level jobs?
If you liked this article, why not have a look at:
- The best time of day to apply for jobs, and other ways to trick your brain
- How to turn job envy into motivation
- Motivate your morning, Wallace and Gromit style