Procrastination: How to deal with it

Procrastination is simply delaying or postponing a task or set of tasks. It’s that ‘force’ that prevents you from following through on what you set out to do. There are two main challenges for people who procrastinate: getting started and keeping up or consistency. The former is the hardest for most people and that is what will be tackled first in this article. After all, the real challenge is not in doing the work itself but in starting it.

Leaving your studies for your mobile phone to have a chat or surf the web

Getting started

  1. Find a motivation for the present action and not just the future reward for taking that action. For example, if you start working out now, you’ll be more healthier and more fit in the next few years. However, that’s not always enough motivation to start your crunches each morning. Try listening to your favourite music while you’re at it.
  2. Find an immediate consequence for procrastinating and not just the future effect. For example, plan your next study sesh with a partner. If your decision to read was made alone, chances are there aren’t any immediate consequences for choosing to take a nap instead. On the other hand, shenking or cancelling on a friend comes with consequences that carry more significance in both the present and future. That’ll keep you in check should you consider skipping study.
  3. Simplify the tasks. One major reason why we tend to delay carrying out certain tasks is because it appears too daunting (which it, infact, might be). What you should do is to break that task into smaller, easily achievable ones. I’ll illustrate this from personal experience. I once had to read a text for one of my courses. It was a poem of 3,182 lines which, of course, seemed tiring just thinking about. Well, the first thing I did was to break down the goal. I tracked my progress with each ten lines I covered. So, each time I resumed, the mission was not to read 3,182 lines, which would have been scary and tempting to procrastinate on. Rather, it was to get through the next ten lines, then the next 100 and so on. The result? In three sittings and less than 24 hours, I’d finished the whole thing. The sense of completing smaller tasks which eventually build up to the big whole makes it less scary to get started on and renews your motivation as you go on. Remember: the key to tricking your brain is reward.
  4. Deadlines! Some people claim that deadlines help with that sense of urgency needed to propel them to get the job done. However, it also gives the sense of ‘I still have time’ right down to the last minute rush. Then, stress levels build up, along with anxiety and oftentimes, depression which compounds the situation even more. This is what plagues students the few weeks before exams. Sometimes, the frantic rush also results in a hastily and poorly-done job. Do yourself a favour – break down your goals and create a deadline for each stage.
  5. Perfectionism is a preamble to procrastination. So, you feel before you can start working towards goal Z, items O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X and Y all need to be perfectly in place? Well done! I’d be surprised if you actually end up getting anything done in the next six months. Start working with what you have. If truly, the other items are so essential, you can acquire them along the way.

Now you know how to quit dallying around and get down to business, here’s a couple of tips to help you keep at it each day and not dwindle in your motivation.

Consistency

  1. Tell others about it. This will keep you accountable to your plans. On your own, you might not feel the drive to work on that project everyday but when others are aware of your goals, they are bound to ask about your progress, remind and push you. Whereas, if you’re the only one left to keep yourself in check, it’ll be very easy to procrastinate with nothing and no one to check up you when you start slacking.
  2. Identify the time you work most effectively and tackle the hardest tasks then. Perhaps, you’ve noticed you’re more alert and receptive early in the morning. Good! Work on the easier courses through the evening and night, leaving the hardest for last, then get up early in the morning and work on the harder ones. You’ll get more done, more conveniently that way.

These aren’t just textbook quotes, they’re tried and trusted methods which have worked (and are still working for many) over time. I hope you find them as useful as I have.

Stay connected to IOI for more articles to help you on your journey to becoming a more productive individual.

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