From time to time we're all good friends with procrastination. So, put on the war paint and get out your best equipment!
Think of all the things you could do right now. Going for a walk maybe? Or call that one friend that you haven’t heard of in months. Write a Whatsapp to your sibling or clean up under your bed.
You could search for the vacation home of your dreams online or see if you find that meme from yesterday again. You also haven’t scrolled through Pinterest in a while and when is the next game of your favourite sports team?
That’s quite a range of interesting activities but let’s be honest: Before doing any of this, there is something way more important. Something that you really should do but just can’t motivate yourself to. I guess from time to time we’re all good friends with procrastination. Doing everything but the important task. Especially to students, battling procrastination often is a real boss fight and TikTok, Instagram and co are their evil minions – definitely not making it easy for us. So, put on the war paint and get out your best equipment!
First things first:
Procrastination is not to be translated to laziness. Delaying important tasks over and over again can be caused by a wrong perception of time, which makes us think we have more time than there actually is. But in most cases, it is not an issue of time or how we perceive it. Procrastination is mostly fuelled by negative emotions, that we fear to experience when tending to the given task. No matter if it’s anxiety before calling somewhere, boredom while cleaning up or being overwhelmed by the complex theme of a certain homework.
In the end
…none of those feelings will actually hurt us. In fact, procrastinating is what causes us more stress in the long term, when we fail to complete an important task in time or start beating ourselves up for not doing something earlier. And let me state one thing: Don’t let self-criticism take over. You might have done something too late or haven’t done it at all – but that’s in the past. You can do better next time. Instead, focus on why you need (or want) to accomplish the task that you’re putting off. Make a list, either mentally or physically, of all the benefits you will gain from finishing the assignment. (What mostly leads my list is “not feeling pressured to do it anymore” – quite motivating.) Focus on the relive of completing your task instead of worrying about what could go wrong. Stop yourself from catastrophising, because things barely ever get as bad as we expect them to be, if we’re stressed.
…is grounded on negative emotions it still is an issue of scheduling. Sometimes things work out just fine doing them whenever you feel like it but in the long term, a timetable comes in quite handy. You don’t need a flawlessly structured plan. But a simple calendar or a to-do list can help keep track of the tasks at hand and the time we have to finish them. And a personal tip: Always plan a little more time than you think you will need. That helps reduce stress while working on your project and saves you if something unexpected happens. Or you’re finished early. But in that case, no one says no to a coffee break with a friend or the streaming platform of your choice.
If you find it hard to stay within the time panels of your schedule you could try working with self-set deadlines. You can keep these timestamps to yourself, or you communicate them to someone else to create more pressure. Working under a certain level of stress is helpful for some people and a nightmare for others – use whatever technique works best for you!
Tips for the mindset, tips for the planning. What is missing? Tips for the actual working process. Especially if you are working on a presentation, a paper or something similar setting up the right working space plays a big role in keeping up concentration. Choose a calm place, reduce distractions and keep a good room climate. (If you want a few more tips on how to create the perfect working atmosphere maybe take a look at this article.
Did you know
…that you can create a feeling of productivity even when you are not actually that motivated? That’s the power of habits! Play a certain type of music, brew tea, write with a dedicated pencil or get a bowl of your favourite snack every time you start working. You can tie a habit to the feeling of concentration or calmness. If you have an indicator to get started it is going to be much easier to dive into a period of productive working. That not only works with sitting at your desk. Why not have a cleaning outfit? A working out playlist or a calling-mom-pair-of-socks? (Okay the socks might be too much, but you get the point.)
And if you’ve done some work, don’t forget to take a break! Allow yourself to be unproductive, maybe just for fifteen minutes, maybe for the rest of the day. Fighting procrastination only works if we take the time to be proud of our progress. If want to, you could also work with rewards like: “I need to make my dentist appointment before watching the last episode of… well, whatever you are currently watching.”
And despite all tips: A day may come when the courage of students fails when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of productivity! But – oops, there I stole words from Lord of the Rings…
What I wanted to say is that some days it might be hard to overcome procrastination, but you have a lot of tools now and I’m sure you’ve got it. 🙂
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