Being a college student means I always complain about having so much to do (I actually have so much to do) but when it comes to actually doing college work I end up doing other unimportant things instead. The behavior I’m explaining is good old procrastination. This is definitely a familiar thing for many people in today’s society. The thing about procrastination is that it’s a vicious circle in which you keep finding more useless things to do and your actual task seems to be so far away from you, even when it’s laying right next to you. How do you escape the vicious circle? Here are five steps that helped me.
1. Recognize your procrastination behavior
In other words, treat procrastination as an addiction. So just like an addiction, your first step will have to be to accept the fact that you’re addicted, or in this case recognize that your procrastinating. This in turn will make the next steps you have to take a bit easier. On top of this, it might also make sure you don’t fall back to procrastination and make you feel even unproductive than you did before.
2. Write down all the important tasks you have to do
Grab a notebook or an agenda and write down what you have to do for that day. After you’re done with one task then cross it off your list. This will give you a sense of achievement and will motivate you to move on to the next task. What also helps is if you put the tasks in order of difficulty, from easy to difficult. First, because we get more frustrated when doing difficult tasks which can cause us to start procrastinating, which is not the desired outcome we’re looking for. Second, doing the easier tasks first means that you’ll have fewer tasks left to do. This tip can work the other way around for other people, doing the more difficult task first. Of course this will be different if all your tasks are difficult. In that case, I’m sorry, good luck and maybe look at the following step.
3. Divide the difficult/big tasks
This step is a logical one. Dividing tasks will make them more simple and it will feel more like an achievement when you finish the little tasks. On top of this, if the task you’re doing is study related then dividing what you’re studying can help you with your memory. In other words, try not overloading your brain with a lot of information all at once but this also means you have to make more time for studying. That’s another problem you’ll have to overcome. Regardless of that, dividing tasks is also the perfect study technique.
4. Find out what is distracting you from doing your task
We’re living in a world of distractions. It is no secret that our attention span has declined the last few decades. This step is difficult because most of the things that distract us are also things we might be slightly addicted to. Think about your phone, laptop, the internet as a whole. When you find out what is distracting you then keep those things away from you as you’re doing your task. Something that I personally find useful is to put my smartphone on silence and make sure it is not at arms reach from me.
5. Make your tasks more entertaining
On this step you can let your creativity decide on how you want to make your tasks more fun to do. There are many ways. For example, you can reward yourself after completing a task with food, a few minutes on social media, texting your friends, going on Reddit, a nap etc. The difficulty of this task is to make sure that you don’t spend too much time enjoying your reward because this in turn will cause you to procrastinate, which again is not the desired outcome. The bigger the task you complete the bigger the reward. For example, it is past twelve and I’m still writing this so my big reward will be a cup of tea and sleeping for a full 8 hours, as you can see I’m an interesting person (at least my parents can be proud that I’m getting enough sleep).
Stopping procrastination is mostly about self-control. Some people have more self-control than others. This means that going through these steps will be easier for some than for others. Procrastination also varies in age, the older you become the less you’re allowed the privilege of procrastination because this may cause somewhat serious consequences in your life as an employee or a college student that is about to get his/her degree. It also depends on whether you want to deal with the consequences or not but that’s a personality thing that I will talk about another day.