Charles Dickens once famously remarked: “My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.”; pertinent advice for all that are listening, one must agree. The reasonable person within us tends to agree with this sentiment, it is after all only logical to not postpone important work until tomorrow when it can just as easily be finished today. Alas, if only life was as easy as following the reasonable voices within us. Instead, although we instinctively agree with the aforementioned quote, often we tend to act in agreement with another quote.
This time uttered by Mark Twain, who quipped: “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well”. A lighthearted joke, I am sure. Unfortunately, from experience I think we can both agree, seeing as you´re currently reading this, that this lighthearted quote has defined much of our existence.
Enough is enough! In this guide, we will discuss how to overcome procrastination and offer a few possible solutions to slay that dragon once and for all. That being said, before we proceed, it might be prudent to shed some light on some of the possible reasons for procrastination.
Common Reasons for Procrastinating
There are various reasons for which people begin procrastinating. Below, you’ll find some of the more common ones. The best way to begin treating this problem of yours is to first acknowledge it, then understand it and finally face it.
The task seems too big.
I need not remind you that all great things started out simple. If the task is very large, instead of putting it off into the future (and thus make it ‘bigger’); deal with it today by breaking it up into smaller, more manageable tasks.
The lack of motivation
If you’re putting of the work because your lacking motivation, then you’re in deep waters. You need to remind yourself of the importance of this endeavor, not the importance of the task itself which may be small in magnitude but rather the importance of the mission itself. This brings me back to the old tale of the two construction workers. Once upon a time, as the tale goes, these two workers were standing side by side constructing what to the naked eye seemed like a wall. A passer-by asked one of the gentlemen what he was doing to which he responded: “I am building a wall”. The onlooker then turned to this colleague who choose to give the answer “I am building a hospital”. Now, even though the men were working on the same project, the construction of a new hospital, only one of these two individuals had his mind set on the greater goal. Although the task might have been putting up a few bricks, the overall endeavor was much greater than that.
Likewise, you will need to understand and properly value the greater picture. Do not let whimsical desires obfuscate your vision and make you loose sight on the things that are truly important.
How common is it?
The short answer: too common. According to a study by Steel (2007), a staggering 80-95 percent of college students procrastinate, particularly when it comes to writing assignments and other forms of course work. In an earlier study published in 1997 by Green et al, procrastination was identified as the main culprit responsible for failed PhD studies. One would figure that academics who have pursued this line of work would be better apt to combat procrastination but reality says otherwise. This gives us even more reason to avoid procrastinating.
Like most complex problems, you won’t find any quick fixes to procrastination. However, there are many potential solutions that can be tried.
- Establish a routine
- Develop the urgency of now
This is in my opinion, the best way to combat procrastination. Learn to create positive habits and sustain these habits until they become so intricate in your life, that you do not think about performing those tasks, you merely perform them. This is similar to how you visit the bathroom every morning when you wake up regardless of anything else. It has become an unshakable habit. If you can manage to turn those tasks which make you procrastinate and learn to deal with them the same way you deal with all your other habits, you will no longer procrastinate. And the way to accomplish this is through sheer force.
Let us say for example that you need to finish writing a report. From the very get-go when this assignment or job task is announced, you need to get on top of it. This will undoubtedly feel contrived initially, much akin to the swallowing of bitter medicine with the hope of improved long term health. Do not let the laziness of today rob you from the successes of tomorrow.
Once you’ve forced yourself to start working on this project of yours, it will immediately start to get easier. The real obstacle, you see, is actually inside your head. No matter the size of the task at hand, if you simply begin working on it, you will notice that as you start to get more things done, the “O, I really don’t want to do this” feeling will start to dissipate like a biscuit dipped in hot tea. The biggest part of the battle is forcing yourself to sit down and face your task.
This phrase, popularized by Dr. Martin Luther King in his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech, speaks to those of us who procrastinate. The time for now is never tomorrow. In all of your affairs, understand that if you do not get things done now, these things may never be done at all. Do not overestimate your capabilities in the future whilst denying your present capabilities their right due. The Scottish say that things that can be done at any time will be done at no time. This has a lot of truth to it. To respond to this, make sure that each of your tasks have their respected deadline to which you must strictly adhere.
Finally, I would like to conclude this article by reminding you that if you do not deal with your issues today when they are the most pressing; you will most likely regret it in the future. Imagine all of those times when you had wished that you had started earlier. Well, today you have the chance of a life time. You have the chance to start ‘earlier’ – today – so that tomorrow or next week or next month, you will be able to look back and not feel the slightest regret as a result of procrastination.
Delaying, postponing, deferring—you know what I'm talking about: procrastinating. We've all been there, and we all know how awful it can be to keep pushing something back further and further until it can't be pushed anymore. As a student, you're constantly being bogged down with papers, assignments, tests to study for . . . the list goes on. Things pile up quickly, and before you know it, you're left with just one day (or night) to do it all. Yikes! And while it's easy to fall into the category of a procrastinator, believe it or not, it's just as easy to climb back out and become proactive about your studies. In fact, things seem to become easier when you've got them under control. Your work will seem more manageable (because it will be), which means that you'll have more free time to do the things you like. You'll actually spend less time (or no time!) thinking about all the work you have to do, so it's a total win–win. Score!
So, before you have a chance to start procrastinating and not read this article, I'm going to give you my top 12 tips on how to stop procrastinating. Trust me: it's a whole lot easier than you think!
1. Make a to-do list and put it somewhere you can see.
Every day or every week (or both), make a to-do list of all the things you want to accomplish. This includes making certain notes, doing research for a paper, writing an essay . . . whatever tasks you have coming up. Then, set deadlines for these tasks. Not only will this organization be important for planning out your tasks, but seeing them written down on paper next to their due dates will make them less abstract and more real—which will make you that much more determined to complete them on time.
2. Eat your veggies first (metaphorically speaking).
When it comes to eating dinner, you want to save the best for last, right? The best is usually dessert, so what does that mean you should eat first? Your veggies, of course! Get those veggies out of the way, and you're one step closer to the best part of your meal—dessert! Just like eating your veggies first, finishing your most dreaded tasks first will make the rest of your tasks feel much less stressful. Once the worst part is over, you can focus on things that are easier or more enjoyable . . . and you may even have more fun along the way!
3. Break stuff.
And by "break stuff," I mean break larger tasks down into smaller tasks to make them more digestible and easier to do. When you have what seems like one huge project hovering over you, of course you'll do anything to avoid even starting it. But when you break this big, bad task up into smaller tasks, you'll feel less overwhelmed and realize that these smaller tasks aren't nearly as daunting as the larger one at hand.
4. Be reliable and responsible—stick to your word.
Make yourself accountable to a trusted friend or family member. It's pretty easy to let things slide when the only person you have to report to is yourself, so inform others of your goals or plans. This way, if you let yourself down, you'll be letting others down, too . . . and that's just not the kind of person you want to be.
5. Make space.
Eliminate distractions and clear your work area. Whether it's your dorm room bed or a cubicle at the library, clear your space of distractions (or set a specific time for them), and make room for the important stuff. Do you have your books, notes, and favorite pen? Great! Now put the things that aren't as important (such as your phone and that magazine you've been wanting to read) away for the time being. This will make it easier for you to hunker down and work on what you need to. In addition, if you know you get distracted by your phone or browsing the Internet while trying to study, set a time (and a time limit) to do these things after you've accomplished some of your tasks. You can even do it on your break—just make sure to stick to your schedule.
6. Finish X so you can do Y.
Tell yourself that if you finish X now, you can do Y later. For example, if you finish your report now, you can go see a movie with your friends later. This will give you incentive and help motivate you to complete your work as soon as possible.
7. Don't go it alone!
"No man is an island," so if you can ask someone for help, by all means, do so! Even if it just means asking for advice or for an opinion, you'd be surprised at how happy others will be to help you.
8. Be Little Ms. (or Mr.) Organized.
Use a planner or an agenda to keep track of your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, projects, and goals. Give yourself realistic timelines and stick to your schedule and due dates. Bonus: There's nothing quite like that feeling of accomplishment that comes with checking things off your to-do list. Check!
We often spend so much time planning and plodding that it ends up taking forever to actually start doing our work! While it's important to plan and organize, you don't want to spend all of your time planning. It's the doing that actually matters, so as long as you've got a plan of what you've got to do, go on to the next step and do it! That's where the magic really happens.
10. Face your fear . . . of success.
Sounds strange, right? But you'd be surprised at how many of us are afraid of success! You see, procrastinating is easier and more comfortable than facing the fear of the responsibility that comes with success. But it's time to get out of your comfort zone. Or your comfy bed. You'll never be able to achieve great things if you're afraid of growing. It can be scary at first, but you'll feel so much better and more accomplished once you've faced your fears. Seeing you do this will inspire others to do the same, which means that your actions could have a positive ripple effect. How awesome is that?
11. Take a risk to make a change.
Fear leads to excuses, and excuses lead to procrastination . . . which means zero change. Change can be scary, so to avoid change, we procrastinate. Simple. However, the longer you avoid change, the longer it will take for things to change for the better. Without risk, there can never be a reward, so take that step to make the change that will make things better!
12. Even if you start slow, just start somewhere.
The act of starting anything is often the hardest part of all, but once you begin, you'll see that things start to get easier as you go. It doesn't matter where you start, as long as you start somewhere. Once you begin, you'll be putting yourself on the path to success. No more procrastinating for you! Even if it’s a slow go, it's still something, and it's still a start! Remember: baby steps!
So folks, there you have it. See how easy it is to stop procrastinating—and maybe even avoid procrastinating altogether? Okay, so maybe that last bit was a long shot, but trust me: once you become less of a procrastinator and more of a proactive person, tasks won't seem so daunting. You'll feel more in control, you'll have more free time, and you'll inspire others along the way. Procrastination is full of pitfalls, but once you get the procrastination under control, you'll notice that:
- Your life will be much less stressful, and you'll be less stressed out knowing that things are under control.
- You'll appear less lazy to others. Yep, I hate to say it, but being a procrastinator makes you seem lazy. BUT, by not procrastinating, you'll show others that you're truly not the lazy person they think you are.
- You'll have more time (including free time), and you'll be more capable of making informed decisions.
Oh, and one more thing: To assist with your procrastination problem, why not enlist the help of the editors at Scribendi? Surely you're doing lots of writing, and with their knowledge and expertise, these editors will be able to take a load off your shoulders and edit your work for you . . . even while you sleep! There's no better way to "kill two birds with one stone" than by getting your beauty sleep and having your paper edited at the same time. Or, if editing's not what you need, check out the other advice and articles on the Scribendi.com website. The resources are there for you, so make the most of them. Now get to it!
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