I tried the best productivity hacks to see if they’d stop me procrastinating
Once a procrastinator, always a procrastinator?
Whilst some of us are smugly spending every night in Hive celebrating the end of deadline season, others are still snowed under by endless essays, lab reports, and readings. But we all know the temptations of the internet don't make it easy. Just think how much time you'd save if you didn't procrastinate so much? Imagine writing an essay without having to check Facebook every few minutes ?
I tried some of the best gimmicks and tricks designed to help wean us hopeless millennials off our social media and actually get shit done. Is it possible? Reporting back from the other side…
The Forest App
The first method I trialled was the snazzily-designed Forest app. The idea is that you set a timer for how long you want to work, and so long as you don’t exit the app, a cute little tree will grow. Over time, after having endured a lot of inspiring and quite insistent quotes of encouragement, you might be able to grow a whole forest!
After having spent £1.99 of my precious cash on an app with not a lot to it, I was hoping for results. Snuggling into my table seat for a long train ride, I cracked out the laptop, hoping to do some reading. I set the timer to a conservative 20 minutes, rolled up my sleeves, and got to work.
Sadly, a rookie error caught me at the first hurdle – after only 5 minutes, when I had to show the conductor my mobile ticket. As soon as I clicked out of the app, I was bombarded with notifications to QUICKLY return to my forest or my tree would DIE REALLY SOON. Unfortunately, it did.
My second attempt was more successful, even though I was slightly frustrated to not be able to amuse my long-suffering friends with snaps of funny signs on passing platforms.
This one might benefit from more long term-testing, since the forest grows with every minute that you spend using the app, but so far it’s proving quite fun. You can also see your minutes of studying build up, which is a nice way to prove to your mum you actually try at uni.
The Pomodoro Technique
Unfortunately having nothing to do with tomatoes or Italian food, the Pomodoro technique is basically the idea that you break down your workload into small, manageable chunks. One Pomodoro = 25 minutes, which you can follow with a 5 minute break. After you've completed 4, you get a longer break.
The lack of incentive – or any kind of deterrent to stop me from opening Facebook – made this one a little more tricky. Though it was helpful to break down a project into 25-minute tasks, I still didn't get through the four Pomodoros procrastination-free. I also quite depressingly found that you can get way less done in 25 minutes than you think. Maybe one for the stronger-willed?
Giving your phone to a friend
An old classic – the phone swap. This time, rather than using an app to help me study, I got rid of the Instagram temptation device altogether, by entrusting a flatmate with my phone for an hour whilst I wrote up an essay.
I would recommend getting your friend to actually take your phone out of the room for this one, since every time I heard mine do a Facebook buzz from across the kitchen I had to compulsively check my messages from my laptop, because I am weak. Could be a good method if you need to do something not involving a computer/the internet, though.
Treating yourself at the end
This one I was excited for – with a pizza in the freezer and renewed self-discipline fuelled by an unproductive day, I was ready to let the reward spur on my work on a uni assignment. I decided that after I'd done two readings, I could eat my pizza.
Amazingly, this technique proved quite effective. The lack of time limit meant that there was an actual incentive to get the work done quickly, so that I could eat sooner.
Even if it might encourage rushing rather than actually properly doing a piece of work, it could also just mean you get on with it minus all the faffing around. Bonus points if you put your pizza on to cook and manage to restrain yourself from eating it straight off the oven tray before you've finished your work!