How to stop procrastinating is a perfect topic right now. It’s dreary beyond belief out of the window, set to rain all day and a Star Wars marathon on the couch is extremely tempting.
Now, I know deep down, despite appearances, what I’m really doing is procrastinating and lacking motivation for the tasks in front of me. (Even though I love what I do : )
What is procrastination?
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines procrastination as:
‘to keep delaying something that must be done, often because it is unpleasant or boring.’
This is entirely true.
When it came to studying, I put off revision countless times on subjects, like maths, because I hated them. But, what it leaves out is fear.
Part of my loathing for maths was that I found it incredibly hard. I thought I would get it wrong, be humiliated, and ultimately fail all my tests. So, fear is a major source of procrastination and for many, its intensity goes beyond ‘unpleasant.’
Fear will cause us to never start writing that dissertation in case its rubbish, not bother doing that assignment or turning up to that exam because you won’t pass anyway. All of these are forms of self-sabotage wrapped up with a procrastination bow.
In terms of motivation, when we procrastinate it zaps all of our energy. The emotion, intensity and guilt you put into procrastinating over studying often far outweigh doing the unpleasant or boring task or facing your fears. But, I’m thinking like me, you know the theory and what would really help are some practical tips. Am I right? Well, here goes.
6 Top Tips on How to Stop Procrastinating
One – Don’t break off for anything (and I mean anything)
Get rid of distractions – switch your phone notifications off, close your tabs and go to full screen. Then, use the time you have to full effect. You can set a timer or try the Pomodoro Study Technique to give you a structure. Unless it’s a major emergency, do not leave your chair or your keyboard and do not let your mind wander into other tasks. Naturally, when we procrastinate, you will tell yourself something else is more important. Take a breath. Acknowledge it isn’t true and keep going right through to completion. If you can, fully complete the task you are procrastinating about otherwise it will be waiting for you next time and you’ll start the process again.
Two – Create the right environment
For reasons I do not understand I cannot work on a Saturday. I procrastinate, have zero creative ideas, my words don’t flow and I even clunk my way around the keyboard more than usual. So, unless urgent I don’t bother. I also don’t bother around 3:00 pm, I can’t work in slouchy clothes or without make-up on and I’ve never been an all-nighter student. Being a classic introvert, I can’t work around lots of people (a busy coffee shop – seriously!) or noise. But, chances are a) you think I’m a bit weird and b) you’ve got your own set of quirks. Analyse the environment you’re currently trying to study in. Assess it under noise, distractions, light, hot/cold, time of day, location, desk set-up and personal comfort. Is your environment helping you or hindering you?
Three – Start small and do the thing you fear the most first
Just a little nudge can start the ball rolling when we procrastinate. Don’t think, I’ve got to write twenty pages today maybe start with completing a paragraph (never the opening one) on a part you find easier. Another great tip is to start a mind map – pick up a pen and just get ideas going away from your computer screen.
And, do the thing you fear the most first. If it’s mind-numbingly boring stick some music on and set a deadline, if it’s unpleasant there’s a comfort to be found on the side of resolution or if it’s scary then I believe you can’t have exhilaration without pushing through fear.
Four – Know when you’re hiding
Recognise procrastination when it’s in front of you. For me, it was, and still is, research (and making cups of tea).
Research can be never-ending therefore it is the perfect place to hide when something’s a bit scary or feels out of reach. Use the ‘just in time’ method. What do I need to know or do right now so I can start and what, if I’m truly honest can wait until later?
Five – Ask for help
Sometimes the best antidote to procrastination is to be open about it. Don’t suffer in silence and end up wasting a lot of time. If you’re procrastinating because you find a study task hard ask for help, join a study group, talk to someone or get involved in an online forum for a cathartic rant and tips.
Six – Use the best memorising techniques for you
If you’re finding revising your notes difficult and nothing seems to be going in there is every chance you will get disheartened, put it in the ‘it’s really hard’ box in your mind and give yourself a one-way ticket to procrastination. Remember, everyone, learns and memorises information differently. Don’t force yourself into a style of revision that doesn’t suit you or come naturally.
As always, I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below or drop me an email.