Grandiose ideas tend to come to us at the most inconvenient times. They saunter in mid-shower, when grabbing a pen and paper to write them down is totally out of the question. They grace us with their presence when we're driving to the grocery store for a gallon of milk and pee pads for Fido.
They come a-knocking when we're woozy on laughing gas in the dentist's chair. Sometimes, our grandiose ideas grow into concrete plans. So, we start scheming their execution.
But then, 6 pm rolls around, and the couch beckons us from in front of the TV. Our grandiose ideas melt into vague shadows, lurking somewhere in the backs of our zombified minds. It's a vicious cycle that strikes us all at one time or another.
It leaves us feeling like a useless shell, as we sulk to bed with laser red eyes at midnight, having accomplished exactly nothing. For us procrastinators and Netflix addicts, however, there are strategies we can employ to start making our Nobel-Prize-winning great grandfathers proud(ish):
1. Get yourself Chrome Nanny.
I'm not whipping out mysterious sci-fi terms here, although I can see how you'd think that. Chrome Nanny is a Google Chrome extension that will literally treat you like the highly distractible, grown-ass baby that you are.
It's excruciatingly simple: Chrome Nanny allows you to program the times when the websites of your choosing will be available to you, and the times when those same websites will give you the boot. If you're easily sucked into the black hole of useless status updates from your distant high school acquaintances on Facebook, enter the time-sucking URL into Chrome Nanny, block out the times when you want to be actually productive and voila. When your hand searches for the blocked URL on autopilot, you'll be presented with a charming pop-up, asking you, "Shouldn't you be working?"
I'm sure you're wondering what's stopping someone in the midst of withdrawal from unblocking his or her "drug" of choice. Well, Chrome Nanny has that scenario covered, too. If, at any point after setting block-out times you want to change them or unblock a site, Chrome Nanny will make you manually type in a painfully long string of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
I can't tell you how many times I found myself typing away like a deranged maniac, only to give up a third of the way in. Have a grandiose idea you actually want to follow through with this time? Chrome Nanny is a must-get tool. It will spare you a sizable chunk of post-procrastination guilt.
By the way, if you don't use Google Chrome, there are equivalent extensions created for other browsers, too. So don't be afraid to do a little exploring on your own to find out what works best for you.
2. Let your ideas and goals flutter free, like colorful butterflies.
Yeah, I said, "colorful butterflies." Metaphors and sappiness aside, sitting on your ideas and hiding them away in your box of secrets is a great way to kill them. At least they'll go quickly, free of suffering.
Someone, somewhere, at some point in time, made the mistake of telling someone else that ideas should be kept hidden, so that they won't get stolen away by greedy people. Since then, a vast chunk of humanity has passed that misguided concept down through generations, creating a sizable army of would-be entrepreneurs.
I too used to be one of those people. I hid my ideas away in the cubbyholes of my mind, and they have since splintered into nothingness. Whoever came up with the brilliant strategy of idea-hoarding didn't take into account a couple of important nuances of idea-sharing.
First, telling people about your ideas and goals cultivates a feeling of accountability to these people. They are now expecting to see your ideas manifest into something tangible over time. Feeling accountable gets more and more difficult the older you get, and fewer people care about whether you've done your homework or not.
Being able to foster accountability for yourself will be a better kick in the pants to get sh*t done than 1,000 consecutive alarms entitled "Get sh*t done!" ever will. You'll snooze those anyway.
Second, the percentage of people who will actually go through with stealing and bringing your coveted idea to life is so minuscule that if it were a piece of cheese, a mouse would be offended at the pitiful sight of it. Think about it: Ideas are only worth anything if they're followed through on. If you have an idea for a book, how many people in your circles would actually follow through and spend months writing, editing, pitching and trying to get that book published?
Most likely, that number is zero. So share away, my friend.
3. Don't try to eat the whole cake in one bite.
Of course, you definitely shouldn't try this with an actual cake, either. But, that's not what I'm talking about here.
We, as people, have this lovely tendency to get overexcited and experience brief, sporadic urges to overachieve. For that split second, ideas flood our minds and send us into a euphoric state of "Anything is possible."
Then, like is the case with any high, the shiver-inducing low arrives. We're suddenly petrified of the actual amount of work we're going to have to do to get from point A to point Z. We're petrified because we've focused ourselves on the big picture, instead of dividing that picture into manageable steps and focusing only on the current ones.
Have you ever put together a puzzle? It's the same idea here. Absorb individual pieces of the problem one by one, and find solutions to those. Before you know it, you'll bring your idea to life, and preserve your ever-fragile sanity while doing it.
4. Quit beating yourself up for the less-than-productive days.
Perhaps, by now, you've armed yourself with sufficient amounts of anti-procrastination heavy artillery. You've got your Chrome Nanny set up, you've prioritized problems and you've divided the big picture into bite-sized pieces. You've kept yourself accountable by sharing your goals with friends and family.
But despite all of this, you've spent the last three hours on the couch, playing Goat Simulator on your phone, while the TV blares nonsense you don't even care to pay attention to. Once you "fall off the wagon" once, it gets easier to do it again because every unproductive day tends to take a little piece of your hope into the shadows along with it.
I get it. I've been there. But get your ass up, quit sulking and hear me out: We're all just human.
We're highly distractible creatures in a world full of flashing lights, mesmerizing sounds and new TV shows being shoved down our throats daily. Failure to stand up to distraction is inevitable now and again, but as long as your productive days outweigh the couch potato ones, you're golden.
It's not an unspeakable sin to turn your brain off every once in a while, especially if you've been stuck in one idea and feel like you're getting nowhere. Allow yourself occasional lazy days, forgive yourself for them and resolve to get a running start the next morning.
5. Reel yourself back in.
Even if you've split up your project or goal into manageable pieces, your mind will inevitably wander off now and then, with no parental supervision. While thinking three steps ahead isn't necessarily a bad thing, if you start focusing on the top of the staircase, you might find yourself tripping and face-planting over the step directly in front of you.
How do you spare yourself this unpleasant fate? Daily planning is where it's at. Every day, sit down with your elixir of life — otherwise known as coffee — and make a plan for the day. Outline the day's concrete goals that will place you on the next step come the next day.
It's crucial not to over-plan your days, though. I've found that having more than five tasks on my to-do list is a delicious recipe for procrastination and subsequent guilt. The work isn't going anywhere, and you have more than enough time to accomplish everything in an organized, structured and prioritized manner. One step at a time, people.
At the end of the day, Netflix isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I doubt that a day will come in our media-saturated lifetimes when we're not bombarded with "Jersey Shore" memes and cat videos galore. If we're going to be productive despite the multitude of time-sucking vortexes fighting to engulf our creativity, we're going to have to accept our diminished attention spans and find mind-tricking workarounds.
If those workarounds include self-imposed parental controls, so be it. There is no shame in doing whatever it takes to get sh*t done, but there definitely is some degree of shame in spending five hours you'll never get back wading through mental garbage on DamnYouAutocorrect.com.