"Dear Editor. I'm offended. Not always, but often." - Letter in the Daily Universe
Question #92473 posted on 07/24/2019 5:38 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I recently got my first job (retail, part-time) and I think it is a good starter position. I don't have to deal with greasy food, super late hours, and the store is closed on Sunday so that's super nice. However, since I have had this job I feel more lazy and anxious. It's like when I'm not working, I trick myself into thinking that I deserve a break/rest 100% of my off hours and I get nothing productive done at home. Then whenever I have to work I get this feeling of dread inside of me and to distract myself I just waste more time doing non-productive things until I have to work. I have always kind of struggled with being productive and it makes me sad a lot because I feel so lazy and ungrateful for the life I have sometimes. I know I probabaly just need to suck it up and do what I know I should be doing, but it seems so hard to break the cycle. My question is, do you have any miracle tips for breaking unhealthy habits like this?

-procrastination station


Dear Procrastinator,

Learning how to function with a job for the first time is hard. But luckily for you, I don't think you're the only person that has encountered this kind of habit. I've found a few things that help me be productive - whether after work, after school, or on weekends when I have free time.

  • Make plans. This makes you more excited to go home, and it will structure your time. Being productive can mean having fun too! I try to have something fun to do every weekend, even if that just means shopping. 
  • Plan days where you don't have to be productive. For example, on most Wednesdays, I spend a couple of hours after work just watching a TV show. I find that I do need this kind of time during my week, otherwise I abuse my free time the rest of the week. Give yourself space to not be productive so you don't feel forced to be productive all the time. Plus, this way, you'll feel less guilty when you do take time for yourself - because it's part of the plan. 
  • Go places. What I find is that I only ever waste time when I'm at home, and when I could be doing something, I choose to do nothing instead. So the solution is to go out and do things. For example, during the school year, I stay on campus to do my homework so I don't get distracted and start watching TV instead. Go to the library, the park, for a walk, a bike ride, whatever. 
  • Pick something specific to work on/focus on. If you don't have to be doing anything, you won't. But if you have something that you're excited about to work on, then it won't feel like a burden to do something productive when you have the time. Any kind of hobby will do - like spending hours writing for the 100 Hour Board. 
  • Plan in some exercise. If you work out at least a few days a week, it'll help you spend the rest of your time wisely, it means you're already doing something meaningful with your time, and it motivates you. I don't know what it is about planning in exercise time, it just makes everything better.
  • Lastly, give yourself a break! You can't be productive all the time, and going to work is productive. Don't abuse it, but allow yourself to not do things. Have a project to work on, but don't feel bad if you don't work on it every single day. Work on letting go of the guilt of relaxing. 




Dear Aziraphale,

I can definitely relate (not with my current job, but with previous ones).

Perhaps this isn't the solution for you, but something that has helped me is to have a very clear focus outside of work. I know this is a lot easier to say than to do, but try to think about work a bit less. Decide on something else you really want to be doing and do it. 

And finally, it's okay to not be super productive in all seasons of life. I feel like in my personal life, I've gone through whirlwind months of endlessly grinding myself, but on the other hand, I've had months where pretty much all I do is read all day. So long as you don't waste your entire life away, I think you're just fine.


posted on 07/24/2019 8:54 p.m.
You may find helpful the perspective this recent article in the NY Times offers, it certainly has been for me.
In summary, if you don't want to read it (but hey you might as well), the author (with some evidence backing them) suggests that procrastination has more to do with avoiding an emotion than laziness or poor time management. Identifying the emotion you are avoiding and practicing self compassion are therefore among the best things you can do to help yourself and break the procrastination cycle.
-Corsica S.