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Clarissa Yap

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology

Sunset over water and islands
Take a quick moment to yourself, and step back from the noise of the world.

Have you ever felt the need to get something done and all of a sudden you think, “I know my paper is due soon, but I still have a few days left to finish it? If it’s not due tomorrow, why not just do tomorrow?” In comes the procrastination monkey. With it, you go stumbling down the YouTube rabbit hole because look, there’s a new video out from your favourite YouTuber and you just HAVE to watch it. You’ll do the work later. If you’re like me, you’ve probably had these thoughts before.

As university students, procrastinating has always been a constant issue in our lives. It’s easier to put off assignments and leave things to the last minute until we can’t avoid it. Then comes the exhaustion, stress, and frustration of having to pull another all-nighter to get it done. Just like in classes, procrastination can affect the quality of work being submitted when starting a new job. As the new hire, working with a new company, a new team and a new department can be nerve-wracking enough.

For me, as a communication student working in the media field, being able to take charge and handle multiple tasks and projects is a daily responsibility. In a remote working environment of a global pandemic, I admit I’ve struggled with being able to stay on top of things and not let the procrastination monkey take over. This metaphor of a “procrastination monkey” comes from Tim Urban, who did a Ted Talk on the topic 5 years back and has impacted the way I think about procrastination. Using the monkey example, I stayed productive and took the wheel through three simple steps that I thought I’d share.

Need a Break? Shut Off Distractions

This is a big one. It’s so easy to get distracted from work, especially when you get a message from a friend or family member. One of the issues I find myself doing is jumping from one thing to another and getting off task. I’d jump on social media or respond to a text, then scroll Twitter because while you’re here, why not scroll through some tweets. The minute this happens, the procrastination monkey has taken over.

Taking breaks is important when you’re staring at a screen for 8 hours a day, but ensuring you stay on track is crucial to your success. I find going back on an electronic device won’t help, as I end up staying on it longer than I should, jumping from new topics to another that doesn’t require much thought or effort. Eventually, a 5-minute break may turn into 20, then 30, then an hour. Instead, if you feel overwhelmed and need a break, try setting an alarm for 5-10 minutes. Leave your electronic device alone and go take a breath of fresh air and get out of the office for a moment. Have a drink of water. Take a quick moment to yourself, and step back from the noise of the world. By doing so, I find that I come back with a clear focus on the work that I need to complete.

Set Daily Goals

Getting handed multiple tasks at once can be a bit overwhelming. For me, sometimes it can get so difficult to focus on what I need to do that I end up jumping back on social media and the procrastination monkey pops in again. Instead of succumbing to things that aren’t helping your goals, I find it’s easier to step away and focus on something you feel confident in completing than to go and tackle an assignment that might make you feel more unsure.

In the past when I’ve felt stuck, I found that breaking down the steps of a project into small, manageable tasks kept the anxiety at bay. Making a schedule and handling small issues at a time not only boosts productivity but holds you accountable. Even setting a time for how long to work on an assignment before taking a break helps, and if you’re stuck or feeling overwhelmed, you can come back to it later. By setting a schedule with daily goals, not only was I able to keep motivated and organized, but it assisted in creating projects that helped the company and improved my quality of work. The finished assignment didn’t end up being just a project that I had submitted but became work that I was proud of.  

Ask Questions to Get the Hard Stuff Done

No one really likes doing the hard stuff, but life isn’t easy. It’s much easier to let the monkey in and procrastinate instead, because you think you can always do it later. While that may be true, a mindset like that doesn’t help in the long run. Remember: the challenges that we face today will make us stronger in the future. When I’m feeling stuck on an assignment, I try and think of alternate ways to look at the project. When that doesn’t work, sometimes meeting with your supervisor is the best way to move forward.

Thankfully, throughout my internship, my supervisor and my co-workers have been incredibly supportive of my work. Having a good relationship with my boss provided a comfortable environment where I didn’t feel afraid to ask for help when I needed it. It’s a common type of advice many people receive, but sometimes the nerves of failing, the fear of asking a stupid question or wanting to do it yourself clouds the actual quality of work that needs to be done. If your supervisor happens to be away, reach out to another member of your team. Keep in mind that the work being submitted doesn’t just affect you but reflects on the whole organization. No question is a dumb one, and your group wants to help you succeed. They know you can, especially when they have offered you a spot on their team. It’s been a weird year, but we are all in this together. The same is said for working with a team.

Final Thoughts

For me, the procrastination monkey is always going to have a place in my mind. After all, it signifies all things fun and enjoyable. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing; I just have to prioritize the work I need to get done first. Take control of the wheel and organize your schedule. Find a way to get through the hard stuff, even though it may feel so much better to let the monkey take over. Remember the monkey only satisfies for small moments at a time. By taking the wheel, long term goals can be set, and in the end, you’re in control.

Beyond the Blog

About the Author

Clarissa Yap

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology
Connect with Clarissa on LinkedIn
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