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Procrastination: How to Avoid It

Do you find yourself leaving tasks to the last minute? Do you find yourself saying, "I'll feel like doing this tomorrow," or "I work better under pressure," or even "pressure makes me more creative"? If these sound familiar, you are not alone. 20% of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators.

Let's be real. No, you will not feel like it the next day. You will not work better under pressure. You are squandering your resources. When we delay what we need to get done or tell ourselves it isn't important, we reject our best selves. Procrastination stifles our talents. It is destructive to teamwork and relationships.

What is Procrastination?

Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished by a specific deadline. It entails the habitual or intentional delay of starting or finishing a task despite knowing it might negatively affect. Procrastination: "The dread of doing a task uses up more time and energy than doing the task itself." Rita Emmett. Procrastination is not about managing time. Procrastination is about managing ourselves: our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Procrastination is the bane of every student's existence. We know what we should be doing; we just don't want to do it. It's easy to put off undesirable assignments until the very last minute, but then we're forced to pull a stress-induced all-nighter. Seven cups of coffee later, we're exhausted, frustrated, and turning in an assignment that hardly showcases our best work.

Types of Procrastination

All procrastinators seek distractions, but the reasons are different. Digital interruptions like e-mail or social media make it easier than ever to procrastinate. The three types of procrastinators are:

  • arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for an exciting rush;

  • avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or fear of success - both care what others think of them; they would rather others believe they lack effort, not ability; and

  • decisional procrastinators, who cannot make a decision - not making a decision liberates procrastinators of responsibility for the outcome of events.

How to Stop Procrastination

Manipulate your environment. Procrastination is just anxiety. There is something very important in your life, and because it's important, it scares you. Because it scares you, you naturally find other things to do and focus on. Set up your workspace so that your brain doesn't even have a chance to move somewhere else.

Bring the scale down. Ignore the big picture in the short term, and break the task into chunks. That makes it much easier to get the momentum going.

Make a plan to get the work done. Setting a goal to begin and complete the job will help prevent procrastination.

Set a specific time to start the work, write it down on your schedule, and stick to it.

Learn to set priorities in your schedule. If an instructor announces a surprise test for tomorrow, know how to juggle other tasks to make time to study. Do not put off those other tasks indefinitely. Revise your schedule to include the test and make time in the next day's schedule to do the other tasks you set aside.

Keep to your schedule to maintain your motivation. Staying current with your workload is a great motivator!

Increase involvement to diminish anxiety and stress.

Get organized. You can't do any work if you don't know what assignments need to be completed. Invest in a planner, or start using the calendar app on your phone. A planner makes it much easier to keep track of individual assignments and critical due dates. Set simple, achievable goals: Part of the reason we procrastinate is that the task at hand seems too daunting. It's a lot easier to get started on a project when you establish simple, reachable goals rather than a big, vague plan. Instead of telling yourself, "I'll study biology tonight," say, "I'll study chapter six tonight." This mindset makes your goals less intimidating and more attainable.

Time yourself. When loaded with assignments, it's easy to overwork yourself. Plus, our brains can only handle so much information and focus at a time! So, how long should you study? Everyone is different, but most experts agree on a range of 50 to 90 minutes. Set a timer for a block of focused studying or work to prevent yourself from burning out.

Take a break. It's important to take mental breathers from schoolwork now and then. When your timer goes off, take a 10–30-minute break. Listen to music, take a walk, do some laundry, or scream into a pillow—anything that takes your mind off of work and allows you to relax.

Use incentives: Everyone loves being rewarded. It's important to give yourself incentives, no matter how small. It could be something as simple as, "If I work on this assignment for an hour, I'll watch an episode of my favorite TV show tonight." Or it could be a bigger goal like, "If I get an A in math this semester, I'll go to my favorite restaurant." It's easier to pay attention when something is at stake.

Get the hard stuff done first. This may make you want to push everything back farther. It's hard to do something that you don't want to do. But guess what? Once you do it, it's over! It is best to complete your most challenging assignments first. That way, everything after it seems easier and takes a shorter amount of time. If you keep pushing that English essay back, you're never going to get it done. It's best to buckle down and just do it.

Tell someone about your goal. It's easy to forget about assignments or put them off if you're the only person holding yourself accountable. If you really want to get something done, tell a friend or family member who can keep you responsible for your goals. You can't back out or slough it off. As a bonus, you also have someone to celebrate your victories with, no matter how small. Whether it's getting an A on that physics test or just finishing a project a few days in advance, your friend will be there to support you.

Now that you have tips to help you avoid procrastination, get to work!

For more tips and advice for how to carry yourself in the professional world, or personal branding strategies, check out the rest of Power Move Marketing's blogs.

Author: Tamara S.

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