How To Avoid Procrastination – Time Management (Part 2)
“If there was a land called procrastination, I would be their queen.” This was my motto for most of my life. I was really big on procrastinating things no matter how serious their consequences. I refused to study until the night before the exams, started working on assignments as LATE as possible and did everything other than starting things on time. At first it was manageable. But as time passed by and I enrolled myself for a Masters course in Psychology, I soon realised that my usual way of procrastinating is going to be the end of me. Not only did I have more study load but being the Class Representative added to the stress. I was always running around behind 5 different teachers, answering students queries, keeping a check on submission and test dates, finding notes and the list goes on. There was no way I could procrastinate any more. I was always forgetting something or the other and it was detrimental not only for me but also for my fellow classmates. I knew I need to change my ways but I had no clue how. So after a series of self-talks and reflections I realised I needed to first find the root cause of my issue. My issue of procrastination. And that was just the first step. So this is exactly what I did:
WHY DO PEOPLE PROCRASTINATE?
Mind on procrastination is exactly like mind on sleep. Think of deadlines as your daily alarm and your procrastination as the snooze button. When we’re half asleep, it’s amusing how our mind tricks us into thinking that we can manage to get our tasks done if we wake up late. But when you finally wake up, you know it’s not true! It is the same with procrastination. The deadline is far away so we think we have time and we keep delaying it.
With advent of internet, it is so easy to procrastinate! Hours can be wiled away with different streams of social media. With rise of traffic on social media and fall in impulse control on our part, the perfect recipe for procrastination is brewed. Although this is just one of the reasons why people procrastinate, it is one of the major distraction. Other reasons (excuses) why people procrastinate include: “It is SOOO boring!”, “Maybe I can’t do it”, “What if I FAIL!”, “I would do it if I knew HOW to do it” and again, the list goes on. Whatever the reason may be, what I’ve come to realise is, unless you don’t know why YOU procrastinate, you cannot handle it.
HOW TO BEAT PROCRASTINATION?
- Start the task
The key to overcome procrastination is to just start! I know it is easier said than done but taking the first step of starting the task is all you need to do initially. We, humans, inherently have the tendency (most of the time) to finish what we’ve started. Even if it just writing a title for your assignment/ reports or solving one sum from quants or reading one page of a book! The best way to get something done is to begin.
- Minimise Distractions
Like I said, usage of social media has turned us all into big fat procrastinators. You need to find a way to monitor the number of hours you spend in this area. Allot specific hours of the day to social media sites and restrict yourselves to those times only. Use extensions and plug ins that help you block the distracting sites temporarily when you are working. If you’re prone to using your phone every 2 minutes, use apps that restrict you from doing so. Some extensions which can help you with this are: Block Site, StayFocusd, Nanny, etc. An app which I swear by to keep me focused by restricting my phone usage is, Forest: Stay Focused.
- Break your tasks into smaller sub tasks.
We usually procrastinate or avoid working when we are overwhelmed by the amount of work we have to do. If we break the task into smaller chunks and finish one task at a time, we are less likely to be anxious or stressed about it. So start little and start easy. Layout a timeline to determine when the task will be finished and accordingly manage your subtasks. If you think breaking the tasks into smaller tasks is too tedious then devote small chunks of time for the task. This method is called the Swiss-Cheese task. This helps to build momentum.
- Work in Productive Environments
For me, I could never study at home as it is my comfort zone. Even if I had an exam the next day, I just couldn’t bring myself to study. The comfort of my home and the ease with which I could get distracted proved to be an unproductive environment for me. So choose where you work or who you work with wisely. It helps by decreasing the distractions and when you see others in your surrounding working, you too feel motivated to work.
- Self-Talk Positively
Notice how you speak to yourself when you are procrastinating. Try to replace your ‘mind on procrastination’ with ‘a rational and logical’ one. Make sure you’re aware of all the consequences if you delay the work. Prepare a positive self-talk dialogue which you can play when you are procrastinating. This will help you to be motivated on days when you just don’t feel like doing anything.
- Reward yourself
Rewarding yourself with a little treat each time you avoid procrastination and finish your work is a good way to not only keep a track of your progress but also to reinforce the new behaviour. Rewarding yourself is a form of positive reinforcement which is a powerful tool to modify and change your behaviour. Rewards can be in the form of chocolates, a new dress you wanted since a while, a new tie, using social media sites/apps or whatever it is that suits your fancy!
- 365 Days of Productivity
To keep a check on your progress, start a blog of any kind, or a journal where in your record your 365 days of productivity. To control your procrastination, it is essential that you amount to something productive each day, even if it means folding the pile of clothes which have been lying around for weeks. You can also follow accounts on Instagram and tumblr which are solely on motivation to keep you on your toes every day. In fact you can start one yourself to document your journey as a recovering procrastinator.
These are some of the things which really helped me overcome my constant struggle with procrastination. It helped me not only when I was a student but it helped me even in my personal life. Try these and let me know if they work for you or comment below if you have any other tips for our readers!
“If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives”
About the Author
Nidhi Malkan has studied psychology for 7 years with a specialisation in Industrial Psychology. She has conducted various training programs on Soft Skills and Grooming for students across all streams. She is currently working as a Product Manager – Content Strategist at InsideIIM.com. When she’s not working she is reading.
You can read Why You Should Manage Your Time – Time Management (Part 1) here.
You can read How To Manage Time Effectively – Time Management (Part 3) here.