If you’re anything like me, you feel the need to take a 30-minute break scrolling through Twitter, Tumblr or treat yo-self with an old episode of Friends just because you completed entering your MLA header on what is supposed to be a 2000 word research report. We’ve all been there, done that, no shame at all, and no matter how relentless our internal nagging mom voice is in our heads, we continue to avoid the inevitable task and continue procrastinating. But why do all of us partake in the same negative habitual actions when we know deep down that we are prolonging our suffering and the task at hand?
Procrastination is a hard behavior to explain. I personally regard it as a coping behavior that gives us joy and oblivion at the time but in reality actually leads to stress, additional anxiety, feelings of doubts, failure, etc.
Though it is recognized that there are many types of procrastinators, according to Kevin Kruse of Forbes, he asserts that one of the main driving factors on why we procrastinate is because we “underestimate the power of present emotions versus future emotions when [we] set your goals or make [our] task list.” As humans, it’s a common fact that we often think about the present and neglect to think about long-term consequences or goals, even if we are goal-oriented people. Kruse argues that “procrastination can be overcome by finding a way to connect to your future self, now.” If we realize and iterate to ourselves that our procrastinating actions will only hurt us in the long-run, we will be less prone to perform mundane tasks and to perform the real job that needs to done. It will take time and practice to develop this skill but deadlines and jobs do not stop so we’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice this mindset in the future to come.
Besides developing a healthy mindset that will reduce procrastination in the future, I would like to share some of my routine tips that have helped me not procrastinate. So here are 4 tips that you might want to utilize as well to get started:
1. Turn off your phone. I know, I had to start off with the hardest step. But turning off your phone will help you become less distracted and your mutual friends’ posts on Instagram do not need to be liked at that very moment. It can wait. If however you need your phone to research or to listen to your favorite Spotify study playlist, I recommend putting your phone on the “Do Not Disturb” setting, if it has one. Just remember that you’re trying to hold yourself accountable and to not regard it as a punishment because you’ll gain more joy knowing you were able to finish a project that needed to be done and get a good grade from it then watching the latest BuzzFeedYellow video. (Guilty as charged here!)
2. Have someone else hold you accountable. This someone can be your mom, dad, sibling friend, neighbor, etc. Have someone check up on how you are doing every 30 minutes or so to make sure you’re making progress and make sure that someone is encouraging or will motivate you to finish. From personal experience, I was more likely to stay focused to show this person that I wasn’t slacking off and so I could experience my own pride for finishing and theirs. It’s a good feeling, 10/10 recommend.
3. Keep a planner/calendar/schedule. Mapping out my life in a day to day planner allows me to physically see what needs to get done, in what order it needs to done and what I have accomplished so far. It is a nice feeling to check things off when you accomplish them and seeing what else needs to be done is a nice reminder to keep you in check.
4. Utilize punishments/positive short-term reinforcements. Use this step at your own risk and do not employ drastic punishments to not having a task done. For example, for a negative reinforcement, if I realized I had wasted an hour on Tumblr or something irrelevant, I would subject myself to eating broccoli instead of a delicious study snack like Animal Crackers. Likewise, you can reward yourself for completing your essay/project/assignment. Positive reinforcements make “the behavior more likely to happen in the future.” The long-term positive reinforcement would obviously be the good grade or such but some examples of positive reinforcements can be allowing you a phone break at the halfway mark, a break to play with your pets, etc. Have fun with it and discover what works for you personally.
And as a final note, I want to say that if you have read up to this point, to get on with what needs to be done because you might be procrastinating by reading an article on how not to procrastinate! I believe in each and every one of you guys out there and I believe once you set your mind to it, you can create a beautiful product. So here’s to a new year filled with less missed deadlines, a new mindset and more joy that YOU DID THAT!