Excuses, excuses, excuses. It’s time to stop procrastinating, get focused and accomplish something great. If you are reading this, you want to learn how to quit putting off important assignments and manage your time better. Since you may find it difficult focusing on educational texts, I’ll keep my tips short, easy to follow and to the point. I won’t spend too much time on my hilarious anecdotes (funny to me anyway) because I know you want to get started on your homework and other urgent tasks. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you want to spend your time reading this article as a stalling tactic. Well forget it! We are going to start breaking this procrastination habit now. Whether you are in primary school, high school, trade school or university, you have a lot to do!
It is so easy to postpone seemingly minor activities each day: studying for an exam, working on a term paper, doing chores, after school events, the list goes on. However, think of the dangerous pitfall of procrastinating: your day does not reset! What do I mean? You do not start each day over with the same assignments as the previous day. Your to-do list is growing longer, deadlines are approaching and the quality of your tasks will suffer due to waiting until the last minute.
Procrastination pitfalls lead to stress. When you decide to play a game, go on social media or do anything else to delay working on your assigned homework, you are setting yourself for distress and guilt. Why? Because there are negative consequences of procrastinating including:
- Getting a bad reputation with family, friends, and classmates – If you live at home or have a roommate and keep postponing the chores you are delegated such as washing the dishes or cleaning your room, how do you think your parents or roommate will feel? Especially when the chores pile up and things begin to stink. They will be frustrated, which creates a tense atmosphere and eventually leads to a dreaded stern conversation (avoiding lectures is reason enough to stop procrastinating!) Think about your friend’s reactions when you have to cancel on your social plans with them because you have a huge project due the following day. Can you be surprised when they start excluding you from group events? There are only so many broken promises they will tolerate. You can find more tips on how to keep promises on another article I wrote found here. Finally, if you are working on a group project at school and are constantly late in turning in your section of work, what do you think will be the outcome?
- Not accomplishing your goals – It does not matter how many brilliant and creative ideas you have for an assignment of you do not have the time to properly implement them. When you wait until the last minute to start and complete a project, it ends up being rushed and filled with errors. No matter how simple your homework assignment is, it takes time and effort to get the high grade that you want.
- Losing your passion to succeed – Have you ever felt excited to do something new and the longer it takes before you do it, the less motivated you feel? Think about that stimulating and inspiring class you had recently. You have so many ideas running through your mind. Should you start immediately while everything is fresh or wait until later? You probably know what you SHOULD do, but what will you genuinely do? Hopefully by the end of this post, not only will you understand why you procrastinate but you will completely change your outlook and stay motivated until each task is completed.
Let’s Change Your Mind-Set
Your first step is in admitting that you are a procrastinator. Say it with me, I am a procrastinator! Phew, hard part over. Now stop beating yourself up over it and find a way to overcome it. Like anything else, the more you stress over something, the more difficult it will be to accomplish your goals. It’s time to move on and focus on your present for you to have a successful future.
I have read the article, ‘How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the “2-Minute Rule”’ by James Clear which outlines two simple rules. The first is that if a task takes less than two minutes, do it right away. The second is that it takes less than two minutes to start a new habit. I know you may be busy but I am positive that you have two minutes to spare. Sounds easy enough right? Implement your most important task for the day first, doing so for a few minutes. Don’t look at the overall project as this can make you frustrated. Begin your work, take a break for 2-3 minutes and then continue with your assignment.
Breaking down your assignment into manageable sections makes your task less overwhelming. Take writing an essay for example. You do not want to sit down at your computer with the goal of starting and completing it in one session. Instead, sit down at your desk and write or type an outline of what you want to include: introduction, main points and conclusion. Then take a quick break. Maybe you can change the sheets on your bed or load the dishwasher. That’s it. Stop and go back to your desk. Spend another few minutes working on your introduction or doing more research until you are satisfied you can move on. Now take another break. Take out the garbage or add the soap to the dishwasher and press start. Back to your project. Expound on each point you want to make in the body of your essay, cite sources, give examples and ensure you are covering the assignment as per your teachers instructions. Don’t leave anything out. One last short break followed by a compelling summary and conclusion. Don’t forget to proofread for spelling and grammar errors!
See what you have now accomplished: your assignment is comprehensive and complete (ready for the A?!) and so are a few of your chores. Once your most difficult tasks are done, you will feel more free to do the easier items on your to-do list.
Weapons Of Mass Distractions
If you are trying to implement the above plan but are surrounded by distractions, you will not be effective. As a student, your distractions may in various shapes and forms. Let’s consider a few of them:
- Study Groups – Be honest with yourself. If your study groups turn into social groups, they are not for you! This may take trial and error but choose groups that take place someplace quiet and restrictive like a library. There will be fewer chances of turning a good method of study into an impromptu party. Also, choose friends to study with who come prepared to work. You want to motivate each other to succeed, not to find excuses to give up. Use each others strengths and knowledge to stay on schedule and get the important items marked off your calender.
- Work Space – Most persons do their homework in their room but look around you. Go ahead, I’ll wait… good. Now ask yourself if it is the best environment to get work done. You may feel more comfortable in your room but if most of your distractions take place there, you may need to find another work space. Ideally, to fight against procrastination you need a place that is clean, quiet and peaceful. In other words, if your game console is in your bedroom and entices you to play instead of study, either remove the games or remove yourself from the game room.
- Technology – Speaking of video game consoles, there are other electronics that can sidetrack you. Like what? Look in you hand. I know it’s there. Or maybe you are using it to read this post. Yup, it’s your phone. For some, it’s the most tempting distraction of them all. Like the video games, if you need to, place your cell phone out of reach. In another room if you have to. This list includes anything that can be used to access social media including your tablet, kindle, laptop or any item that you do not need for your homework assignments.
- Music – You may decide that your “too quiet” work space is distracting you from getting things done. Many persons in school turn on the radio for background noise but note these two tips: keep the music at a low volume and beware of music with lyrics. The lyrics in a popular song can also distract your thoughts from what you want to write. Instead use a white noise machine or listen to classical music to help with studying and concentration. It works!
- Pets – I’m sorry, but in order to completely focus on your schoolwork, you will have to kick your cute pets out (not literally of course.) Please do not deceive yourself into thinking you can study with your darling puppy in the room doing adorable, postable things. It will not work and I’ll prove it.
Did you look at the photos of cute animals above? Did you go “awww?” That’s why you shouldn’t try to study or do homework around pets. They are designed to distract us weak humans with their captivating charm and delightful antics. Don’t fall for it! At least not until your project is done. Then you can reward yourself with someone one on one time with your furry best friend.
I want to share two additional avenues to help you stop procrastinating. Take a look at this short video by Watch WellCast along with a one-page stop procrastination worksheet to help you stay focused.
Short, sweet and to the point! The benefit to quitting procrastinating now is that it will make it easier to quit doing so in the long term.
Avoid Procrastination Today For Future Benefits
To recap, you want to create your lists of goals you want to achieve. As you tackle and complete each one, feel the satisfaction of crossing it off your list. Not only are you incorporating healthy routines that will help you in school now, but they will also help you in the future. When you are finished with school, you can take the anti-procrastinating tools you have learned now and apply them in the work place. Tasks do not end after school. You will always have short term and long term goals that you need to accomplish.
Continue to prioritize your objectives and set completion deadlines. Focus on one goal at a time and complete each one quickly and effectively. As we discussed earlier, when you pay full attention to one task and put forth the needed time and effort, you will prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed and stressed. You will also feel happy that you are not letting anyone down by completing your assignment well and on time, whether that person is your teacher, professor, employer, parents or yourself.
Let’s Get To It!
As promised, I have kept this post brief and specific. I know that this is a major problem for persons, not just in school but in all environments. If you need further help, look out for my next post on battling your procrastination problem and succeeding. It’s now time to put away your phone or computer and start crossing items off your to-do list. What is your biggest distraction? What helps you to stay focus? Leave your tips in the comments below!
Remember, quitting isn’t always a bad thing!