I’ve recently been playing video games on the PlayStation 3 for long stretches of time. It’s fun because I love to play video games. But on the other hand, it’s also dangerous. Indulgence is a threat to those especially who work for themselves—entrepreneurs and self-learners primarily.
Video games are just an example. Any recreational activity can be harmful to people who don’t work under anyone. But let’s say I’m a clerk in a bookstore. Let’s also assume that that is my primary, full-time job. I don’t do anything else, nor am I looking for any kind of career. That’s fine. In this case, I am free to do whatever I want as long as it doesn’t interfere with my 9–5 job. And when I go back home, I am free to do whatever I want, for as long as I want, as long as I can drag myself work the next day. The job is my duty, and if I want to keep it, I must satisfy their requirements. Obvious, right?
But in the case of self-employed workers and students who are responsible for their own progress, it’s tougher because the boundaries of duty are less strict. There’s a lot of freedom. Too much of it actually. That’s because you are in charge. You are responsible for creating your own schedule, tasks, and goals. You have all the freedom in the world to do whatever you like. You can even choose to take a 12-year holiday if you want, if you’re willing to sacrifice your other pursuits. That’s because you don’t have any duties, unlike people with 9–5 jobs or school syllabi.
Sometimes it just happens that we get so wrapped up in something that we forget about everything else. Even the important stuff. We tell ourselves that it’ll be okay. I’ll continue from where I left off, say… next Monday. That’s fine too. As long as you’re able to fulfill what you’ve decided to do. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who are well-disciplined and are in near-complete control of themselves. But we’re all emotional beings, and tend to drift toward calm waters. Floating is easy and effortless—until you run out of rum.
So how do we get out of a rut like that? If you wanted to get an instant cure to drag yourself out of a black hole (that didn’t kill you), you would look for some killer technology. Anti-gravity tractor beams. The Force. Any piece of technology that would seem like magic to any 21st century physicist. But since we’re dealing the human mind, and since medicine hasn’t provided us the right meds to organically deal with ailments such as procrastination and indecision, the only way is to vaccinate our minds beforehand.
Your thoughts serve as the vaccine that will prevent you from falling into a rut of unproductivity. In other words, you need to condition your mind to deal with over-indulgence before it happens.
Here are some of the things that you can do to prevent it from happening.
- Don’t shut out your work completely. When you’re keeping your mind off your studies or work, keep in mind that your tasks aren’t going to take care of themselves. Don’t forget your personal duties. If you neglect your duties, you’re only making your life harder in the long run.
- Set a timelimit for your pastimes. Prefer not to watch a marathon of The Simpsons in one go. You can always continue later.
- Wake up early. If you take care of your work or studies early in the morning, and develop a habit out of it, you will have the rest of the day off. (My favorite strategy. It just simply works.)
- Leave something delicious for next time. Concerning your work or studies, have something to look forward to. Make it exciting to return to your project.
- Focus on working with things you’re passionate about. Don’t let your work become a daily grind. As I said, keep it interesting and exciting.
- Work on your projects every day. When you spend time on your work every day, you are able to maintain momentum. If you take a break completely (for several days), you’ll need a lot of acceleration to get back on orbit.
- Complete your work before the deadline. If you want to go skiing in the Alps, take care of your work beforehand. Work on completing your task earlier little-by-little. In other words, reward yourself with a vacation. But don’t exhaust yourself.
Remember to stay focused at all times. And always remember that there are no bosses or teachers coming to you with a stick asking for results. Fulfill your duties responsibly, and don’t cheat yourself.
I would be happy to hear your advice on this topic, so please share your tips down there where it talks about comments. Thanks!