Date published 10th December 2020
How to stop procrastinating: A guide to managing time online
Christopher Parker once said, ‘procrastination is like a credit card. It’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.’ Procrastination is kryptonite for many students, but learning good time management can have positive implications at every stage in life. Not only does it ensure you get work done to deadline, but it buys you more time for the things you would rather be doing.
Time management is often easier said than done. Distractions are everywhere. Opening a new tab is so easy that we sometimes find ourselves scrolling before we even realise it’s happening. Push notifications on laptops and phones are even harder to resist. According to a study by DScouth, the average phone user touches their phone 2,617 times a day. This figure begs the question, how can we ever find our flow when we are so distracted? As we shift to online working and studying, learning to control these habits is crucial for managing time online. Here we’ve compiled a few simple actions to help.
Maintain a regular study/sleep pattern
Setting aside regular hours in which you work is key to forward planning and productivity. If you know you have a few hours in which you always study, you are far more likely to use them efficiently. Without a routine, impromptu bursts of study here and there can be unproductive and disjointed. If like many students, you are balancing your studies around a job, keeping a sense of regularity to your work and study can also make the workload feel more manageable. Crucially, this also helps to keep your sleep pattern in check.
Trello is a free workload organiser that allows you to create interactive lists of all your tasks. This is arranged on an easy-to-navigate board, so you can view everything you need to do at once. Each task can be allocated a colour, for example, red might show your ‘to dos’ while yellow tells you tasks ‘in progress’. This means nothing falls through the net.
Trello provides sample boards to help you get set up. Think about arranging your lists by days of the week and making sure the first task of the day is quick and easy to achieve. Even if the task is simply ‘tidy your desk’, this gives you a win early on, setting yourself up for success throughout the day.
Install the Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator
This plug-in replaces the entire newsfeed with a quote about procrastination. Even as you flick absentmindedly to a new Facebook tab, you will be reminded about your efforts to manage your time. Once you download the extension, it’s surprising how quickly you break the habit of constantly checking Facebook.
Download Self Control
Self Control is a desktop app that blocks you from distracting websites. Through the app you can create a blacklist of all your ‘problem’ websites, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Gmail. You can then set a timer for how long you need to concentrate. Once you run the timer, you cannot access your blacklisted websites, even if you uninstall the app.
Plan and prioritise your week
The value of planning ahead for the week cannot be understated when it comes to good time management. This encourages you to think ahead, identifying things you need to do, both social and study-based. Be realistic when you plan your week, and leave buffer time for tasks to spill over. If you don’t get something done, it’s important to remember that things rarely fall accordingly to plan. Simply reshuffle your tasks (Trello makes this easy!)
Consider prioritising your work according to their importance and their urgency. Steven R. Covey lays out a useful matrix in his bestseller 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that might help. By allocating each task a number based on its overall importance and urgency, if and when you have to reshuffle, it’s easy to decide what can be pushed back.
This is possibly the most important rule of good time management. It’s impossible to work effectively and efficiently without regular breaks away from screens. According to Time, ‘the most productive workers engage in job-related tasks for 52 minutes, then take a 17-minute break.’
The same logic applies to taking time off. Ensuring you have days away from work and studies allows you to refresh, recalibrate and re-motivate. Just make sure that’s not every day of the week!