Procrastination is one of those things that even the most well-organised and punctual person falls victim to at some point or another. Think about the last time you found yourself watching television when you really should have been doing homework. Most of my young adulthood I always struggled to get tasks completed in advance. At times I wondered if I would ever grow up and be better organised. However, raising a family, working and studying again made me dig deep and try a few strategies to eliminate the added stress of leaving important tasks until the last minute.
So what did I learn that students and other people can try to overcome procrastination and avoid the stress, anxiety and poor performance that stems from completing important tasks the night or even the hour before they are due?
Researchers suggest that developing a schedule, carefully planning academic tasks, and improving time management skills are all effective ways to cope with procrastination. However, I also think we need to reflect and ask…
What am I afraid of?
Fear is one factor that contributes to procrastination. This can involve a fear of failure, a fear of making mistakes, or as some students I work with can suffer – even a fear of success
As an individual we must challenge our fears and unhelpful thinking. We need to clarify our thinking and see reality from assumptions.
If you are afraid of success, it is important to realise at an early point in life that your self-assumptions might be keeping you from achieving your goals. By addressing the fear that is keeping you from getting started, you can begin to overcome your procrastination habit.
Start to win!
You’ll get little to no work started if your headspace and workspace is cluttered. So take the time to clear a workspace. Have all your resources ready. Turn off the phone and social media if you don’t NEED it. It’s hard to get any real work done when your head is not switched on.
Write it down.
Write down all tasks that need to be completed and what you would like to accomplish. Be clear when they are due and write this down next to each item. Be pragmatic about how long this will take and then add another third. Don’t trick yourself and underestimate the time it will take to complete.
Rip it apart
Its important to break the task apart so that you’re not intimidated by the overall size and amount of effort and time the project requires. Look at the task as pieces to a puzzle. Which parts can be put together at different times and what needs to get completed asap.
If the task requires a specific process such as writing an essay then break it down to: Day 1 Complete the research Day 2 Write your introduction. Just remember- it all doesn’t need to be completed on the first attempt. This is where listing can once again help the process. Create an order of actions detailing the steps to take and tick them off as completed.
Take a moment to observe.
As you start to move forward and work on the list; its time to listen to your self talk and pay attention to the unhelpful thoughts that start to creep into your mind. If you start thinking “I don’t feel like doing this now” or “I’ll have time to work on this later,” then you need to recognise that you are already in the early stages of procrastination.
Don’t stop though. Try to work through this for a few more minutes. Take a moment to acknowledge the thoughts and push through and fight the urge.
Importantly, whether your task was large or small it is important to reward yourself for your efforts.
Give yourself the opportunity to indulge in something that you find fun and enjoyable, whether it’s attending a sporting event, playing a video game, watching your favourite TV show, or as always my favourite a coffee and cake.
What I learnt.
Breaking any habit isn’t easy. The choice to give up and procrastinate seems too easy and after all life is full of other distracting events and happenings that easily occupy our time. The urge to leave those ‘to do’ tasks to another time always seems a better choice.
Over the last few years I can’t admit to never procrastinating but I am a lot better at being aware of the cues. I had to take the appropriate time to understand why I procrastinated so often. In each case this reason is individual to each of us. Mine was – fear of failure. If I didn’t do it then I guess I had an excuse already.
While procrastination might not be something you can avoid entirely, becoming aware of the reasons why you procrastinate and how to overcome those tendencies can help. By implementing these strategies, you might find that it is easier to clear the headspace, make a workspace and start.