How to Deal with Procrastination
By Ashley Pannell
With the return to school/university/college/whatever-you’re-doing-this-year, many people have transitioned to online classes, also known as working from home. For some people, this change hasn’t been very smooth and may have had difficulties motivating themselves to work, myself very much included in this.
And there is a lot of reason for procrastination: the task can be very daunting and so you put it off until tomorrow, you have a lot of work to do for an assignment and no idea where to start, you’re a perfectionist that is determined to do well on your essay, but you don’t know how to get that, etc.
So, in order to help those of my fellow procrastinators, I’ve done some research into ways to power through your procrastination, so you start actually doing work.
- Put your phone away!
One of the most common things for people to procrastinate with is by being on social media. You tell yourself it'll be ‘just 5 minutes.’ Then you look up and realise 2 hours have passed. Take the temptation away. Turn your phone off and don't look at it until you’ve done some work. This should help motivate you get some work done, as you’ll want to see what's going on as soon as possible.
- Reward yourself
Feeding into the previous idea, it might be easier for to work if you give yourself some rewards. Set out a list of goals for your day and if you’ve completed your goals, give yourself a reward. This could be watching an episode of your favourite show for example. Or you could break it up into smaller rewards, like eating a biscuit or getting a cup of tea after half an hour of work. Anything that gives you incentive to get some work done.
- Break it up
You might find it easier to work if you break up what you’re doing into smaller pieces. Set yourself a schedule for working, such as doing 25 minutes of work and then having 5-minute break. Keep doing this. It will help give you some sense of structure or a schedule to adhere that will make it easier to get started.
- 5 minutes
Not to be confused with the ‘5-minute break’ method. If you’re having trouble starting, this method might be for you. Rather than continuing to commiserate about the amount of work you have to do for an assignment, give yourself 5 minutes of completely uninterrupted work. Just for 5 minutes, write you introduction or do some research – anything that helps you get started. If it gets you motived and you want to keep working beyond the 5 minutes, great! If it doesn’t, then at least you have a start and that will make it so much easier to keep writing.
- Let yourself write badly
Part of the problem with procrastination is that it is very heavily linked to perfectionism. You don’t want to start this or that assignment because you know it’s important and you have to do a lot for it so you want it to be perfect. You want to get it right on your first go. But here’s the thing: that’s probably never going to happen. In fact, I personally think half of writing is actually the editing. You’re probably going to end up editing your assignment over and over again, in big and small ways, because that’s just part of the process. So, when you first start the assignment, let yourself write badly. Don’t worry about finding the perfect words or looking up synonyms for a word you’ve used too much, just write You can worry about the editing and proof reading later.
Note: in regards to using the same words, when you’re ready to start editing. Use the ‘Ctrl + f’ keys which will allow you to look through your document and search up how many times you’ve used a word. You can also use ‘Ctrl + h’ to find and replace words simultaneously, but might be best to not do this if you’re looking for a variety of the same word.
- Make a list
To-do lists may be a little cliché but they are effective. Give yourself a number of manageable tasks to complete each day. This will help you get started but also motivate you to keep to a routine and allow the creativity to keep flowing. The emphasis here though is that they are manageable tasks. Don’t write ‘do research’ or ‘finish essay’ on your list, because these are big tasks that will only serve to make you not want to do them. Instead, break them down into smaller parts like ‘research sources for paragraph 4’ or ‘write conclusion for paragraph 1’. Try to be as specific as possible so you know what you need to complete for the day. Another important part of this is ticking off the taks that you’ve completed. This will give you a sense of progress and help you feel like you’ve accomplished some of the assignment.
You might have trouble writing your assignment because you’re not doing at the time that best suits your productivity. This is generally personal but it can be applicable to other people. You need to find out when you are most productive and set yourself a schedule so you can do your work at that time. For example, I find I am more productive in the mornings rather than the evenings, so I make sure I’m up and ready to do work before 9am. This might be the case for you or might not be. But the important thing here is establishing a schedule and sticking to it, because once you have, you know you will have that time to do work each week. Obviously, they might be a little difficult if you have other commitments that aren’t quite so rigidly scheduled. You can allow yourself a bit of flexibility so long as you set aside some time somewhere in the week.
Most people generally don’t like being told what to do, so when you’re making these tasks for yourself, make sure you’re using the rig words to get yourself motivated for the day. Instead of saying ‘I need to’ or ‘I have to’, says ‘I choose to’ and then write down whatever task you’re doing. This will give you a sense of empowerment and help you feel in control of what you’re doing (And yes, I’m fully aware of irony of this statement, considering I’m telling you what to do. Just don’t look into it too much, okay?).
- Peer Pressure
Just so we’re clear, I’m not encouraging peer pressure in the sense that your friends are making you do things you don’t want to do. In this, I’m referring something else. Another thing you can do is tell your friends, family members, or whoever that you’re going to be working on this assignment or that project today and you want them to ask about your progress. That will give you incentive to work so you have something to talk about and in turn will make you feel good as you accomplished something that day.
- Just get it done
In every assignment, project, essay, etc. There is always that one task we have to complete for it that we really do not want to do. If we know we have to do it, it might make it difficult to get started and so, the best way to overcome this is by getting it done first. Whatever it is, however awful or boring or mind-numbing it might be, get it out of the way first. This will make it so much easier to continue with the rest of the project and in the moments when you’re struggling with the rest of the tasks, you can comfort yourself by saying ‘at least that one is out of the way.’
So, there you have it. 10 methods that you can try to work through your procrastination and accomplish your goals. Just remember not to be too hard on yourself if you’re still struggling with getting work done. Yes, work, uni, school, etc., is important but so is your mental health, so make sure that you’re taking care of yourself as well. Sometimes, these methods will work and your day will be super productive. Other days, you may only succeed in writing your essay question in your Word document. And that’s okay. It’s okay to take your time with things and to not know where to start. In this, I’d advise you to reach out to your lecturers, teachers, tutors, etc., as I’m sure they’d be more than happy to help.
Another important thing to remember is don’t compare yourself to your classmates. It may be that one of your friends is already halfway through their essay and you haven’t even decided what question you’re doing. Don’t stress about it. Everybody has their own way of doing things. Focus on your way.
1. 'Top 10 Ways to Avoid Procrastination' by Regan Collins (CollegeXpress, 2017). <https://www.collegexpress.com/articles-and-advice/majors-and-academics/blog/top-10-ways-avoid-procrastination/>
- ‘How to Stop Procrastinating’ (MindTools) <https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_96.htm>