Always late? There’s an app for that

Our tech columnist vows to get his tech column in on time in 2014

It’s nearly 1 am. I’m still juggling ideas for an article that should have been submitted hours ago. Leaving things to the last minute isn’t new for me. I thrive on it. 

Panic has always been my greatest inspiration. I’ve written 10 page university pages starting at 10 pm and going to 6 am. I’ve even changed my topic halfway through the process and started from scratch. Sacrificing my sleep and sanity has always been the tradeoff for the creativity fairy who will only visit me when the whole world is mocking me with its snoring.

It’s fitting that I should decide my resolution nearly a week after January 1. This will be the year I develop positive habits and “take back the night.” I will stop my procrastinating.

Anyone who has the same affliction knows that the worst thing you can do is trust yourself. I’ve identified several things that I need and tools to help me achieve them.

I’m not a were-writer, whose writing ability is triggered by the moon. I’m more productive the night before because my environment has fewer distractions.

Sadly, the computer is my greatest ally and enemy. I need it to work, but having it in front of me is like asking a dog to fetch a steak and bring it back in one slobbery piece. To help me I’ve had to remove the temptation, the steak, from my computer.

First, I found extensions for my browser to block sites that I’m prone to waste time on, like Facebook or thispeanutlookslikeaduck.com. Extensions such as LeechBlock (Firefox) and StayFocusd (Chrome) both block sites designated by the user, and make bypassing the blocks difficult for weak people like me.

Second, I found a bare bones word processor that fills my screen with only the words I type and a small status bar. This prevents me from convincing myself I can multitask writing and making a playlist to listen to while I write at the same time.

Normally my calendar is used for scheduling deadlines and fun things. I’m going to start scheduling creative work time and giving myself small task-related deadlines. Any calendar app or program will do, the main goal will be sticking to it.

I’m not as inspired by panic as much as it is the grand motivator for me to focus and begin working. Up until that final moment, there are no consequences if I put off working for 10 minutes to 15 days. I need real consequences for not completing my work early as guilt alone has proven to be an ineffective punisher. The service Aherk! (Aherk.com) will help manufacture consequences for me. First I set a goal and deadline (for example, complete my article two days earlier than the due date), then upload a compromising photo. Once the set deadline comes, my friends on Facebook vote on if I have completed the job or not.

My success won’t be guaranteed by these tools alone. I will still have to put in some effort and some good old fashioned willpower. Recognizing my weaknesses and shutting them down before they happen may be the ounce of prevention I need.

Published in Volume 68, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 8, 2014)

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