Procrastination; “to put off doing something; delay or postpone an action” is a phenomenon that affects over 20% of the population, and it’s on the rise. As much as 87 percent of high school and college students say they procrastinate on their schoolwork. Falling victim to this habit can really debilitate an individual and prevent them from reaching their full potential. Luckily, there are many ways in which you can tackle the problem and take control of your productivity.
So, why do we procrastinate?
Various things cause us to delay getting work done, but there is a task awaiting you, and it requires completion.
Below are a few ideas to help you to stop stalling and start that assignment!
1. Reason: Anxiety about all that needs to be done before you start your assignment.
- Make a list of everything you need to do.
- Number each item in the list from 1 – 10 (1 being most important and urgent).
- Ask yourself the following questions about the items on your list:
- Can this wait for the next few hours?
- How long will the most urgent task take?
- Be completely honest with yourself. Watching your favorite show on Netflix can wait, but preparing for that important test tomorrow cannot.
- Create a new list with the top priority items.
2. Reason: Time management difficulties.
Now that you have your ‘to do’ list full of the most urgent tasks, you will be able to see the process clearly. Set a time-limit for each of the tasks you need to complete by working out how long it will take for each section. Planning ahead will do wonders for your time management. Try and plan your course of action on the day or night before. This way, you will have a structured plan and won’t get overwhelmed by your time constraint.
For example, if your assignment is 10 pages long for 5 different topics, then break your total down into installments of 2 pages per topic.
There are numerous resources and applications to help you manage your time. Trello is a great management tool for projects that features an online ‘whiteboard’ to help with scheduling your time and tasks. If timing is the problem, download a Pomodoro timer to help you stay focused and take breaks as needed.
3. Reason: Fear of failure and no accountability.
Identify someone who is your best ‘cheerleader’ who can also hold you accountable. Tutors fit this role perfectly. Your tutor may think you are amazing but will also see right through any excuse for procrastination!
Practice your communication skills with your accountability partner by informing them about your time management schedule. Let them know how and when you decide to take breaks and ask them to check in to assess if you are sticking to your session plans. You could also ask them to send a message at random to help you stay aware of your performance and progress.
Go as far as setting an alarm clock that has a really loud ringer, so that everyone around you knows that it’s time for you to get back to work!
Finally – when you have completed your assignment, give it to your chosen accountability partner/tutor to assess. Accept their praise for your determination to be successful and trust their confidence in you. Honest feedback and joint celebration go a long way to avoid the “what if I fail” trap.
4. Reason: Lack of interest in the assignment/ topic.
Procrastination in this event is guaranteed, however, there is a solution! Set up a reward system. You have already set short-term goals in the way of breaking your assignment into smaller ‘chunks’ (i.e. 2-page sections). Now choose a worthy reward for each one. Remember to ‘grade’ your rewards – short-term goals require smaller rewards than completing your entire assignment!
We all have activities we enjoy in short bursts (e.g. skateboarding in the backyard for 15 minutes, painting your nails, having 15 minutes to catch up with friends online). Keep to your schedule at all costs, though – keep your rewards for short-term goals to 15 minutes only (and listen to your accountability partner)!
Once you have completed three short-term goals, reward yourself with a 30-minute fun activity, since you are just more than half way, therefore, a slightly longer break is in order.
Make your final reward something really special, something that will truly motivate you to complete your assignment according to your schedule (e.g. pizza night, skateboard park for the afternoon, the latest movie release). Choose wisely in order to keep yourself focused throughout your assignment. The ideal reward is something that you really want, but not so much that it distracts you from the work at hand.
We all procrastinate; we all put things off, but it is not a healthy habit when it gets in the way of your work and goals. You have the power to take control of the outcomes of your assignments by finding ways in which you can do your best work.
“Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.” – Mason Cooley