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Personal skills, Support & Motivation, University

3 Steps To Finally Ending Procrastination For Good

If procrastination was an Olympic sport I would absolutely have a gold medal.

We all are guilty of procrastinating over something, despite how important it is or looming deadlines! Procrastination levels are pretty much at an all-time high right now thanks to winter & lockdown 3.0.

But did you know there are 2 types of procrastination & which one can actually damage your health?

Typically people think of procrastination as putting off writing your assignment & instead making TikTok videos, scrolling Facebook, or binge watching Netflix. This is passive procrastination. But if you’re the type of person who tells yourself you can’t start your work until you’ve cleaned your room, walked the dog, or spent hours first drawing up a schedule of how you plan to write your essay then you’re an active procrastinator. Active procrastinators tend to also be perfectionists….they can’t sit down to write their assignments until their working conditions are perfect. In fact they actually prefer to work under the pressure of an impending deadline & need that adrenaline rush to fire them up…..even if it means staying up all night to get it done.

Studies have shown that active procrastinators actually perform better academically when compared to passive procrastinators.

Both types of procrastination can damage your health if left unchecked. If you are an active procrastinator you are more likely to feel guilty or ashamed about not doing your work. These emotions can then lead to further demotivation which fuels procrastination even more leaving you stuck in the negative cycle. In extreme cases this can cause further stress, anxiety & depression.

For some people persistent procrastination could be a sign of an underlying health issue such as OCD or ADHD.

If you are seriously struggling with procrastination or suspect you may have ADHD or OCD then please speak to your university or GP for further help and support. It is possible to overcome procrastination before it seriously starts to interfere with your well-being.

The 3 simple steps to finally end procrastination for good:

1. Admit you’re procrastinating.

Sometimes you don’t even realise you are procrastinating especially if you’re an active procrastinator. You might be making excuses to yourself as to why you can’t start your assignment yet. Things like having to wait till the kids are in bed so you can focus on your work, or agreeing to help other people when they ask you for a favour. These feel like valid reasons but really they are excuses. You can still do some work even if you’re interrupted 100 times by the kids. You can tell people no because you’ve got to do your uni work. Making excuses & not prioritising your work is a form of procrastination! Waiting to feel in the right mood or waiting for the right time to do your work is procrastinating. Once you start to become aware of it & noticing the patterns, it will be easy to break the habit of it.

2. Identify why you’re procrastinating.

There are a few main reasons why people procrastinate. The most common are thinking the works not urgent & can wait for now, you’re not interested in the subject of the work, feeling bored or tired or stressed. These are usually associated with passive procrastination.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed & don’t know where to start, fear of failing, not being ready or having the skills you need to do the work etc. then you are more likely an active procrastinator. By admitting & pinning down the main reasons why you are procrastinating you can work out the best solution for you to beat it. If you realise you deliberately procrastinate because you can only work under the pressure of a tight deadline & are still producing your best work, then a solution could be setting your deadlines 2 weeks before the actual deadline. When you are initially given work to complete tell yourself & record your deadline as 2 weeks before the submission date. That way you still have a safety net if anything happens & you also have time to submit your work for review & make any changes beforehand.

3. Apply all the following strategies to stop procrastinating.  

You might find some of the strategies to stop procrastinating are more effective than others. If you are aware of when & why you are procrastinating, it might be easier to see which strategy would be more effective. Procrastination is a habit you have gotten into over a long time, so don’t expect an overnight transformation. It will take time to rewire your brain from your old patterns & to form new habits. If you are struggling a lot then apply all the strategies. It’s always best to just throw everything at it to really overcome it for good.

  • Start with giving yourself a pep talk. Forgive yourself if you feel guilty for putting the work off or ashamed for not starting sooner. That doesn’t matter now. Remind yourself you are only human & doing the best you can, with what you have available to you right now. Remember it is about making progress with the work not perfection. You can do this.
  • Visualise your success in completing the work. Think back to the last assignment you finished & submitted & how good that felt. Remind yourself you’re capable of repeating that success. Look at the bigger picture, why you are doing this work, why you started this course & why you want to be a nurse. Keep a visual reminder or symbol of this near your workspace if you can, to help keep you motivated.
  • Write a list of all the work you have to do. Now prioritise it & put in order what is due in first. Even though it may be tempting to do other work that is easier or more interesting, you must focus on the work that is due in first. Once you know what is top of the list, put the list away so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Keep your focus on one piece of work at a time. Break down the work into smaller steps you need to take to complete it. Don’t spend too long on this, it doesn’t have to be a perfect action plan or schedule, 15 minutes mapping this out is plenty of time. If you still feel overwhelmed or don’t know where to start, ask for help from your personal tutor. You might just need a better explanation of the work or clarification on something to feel more confident in tackling it.
  • Find a study budy. Ask your uni friends or a family member to hold you accountable for your work. Ideally this needs to be someone you really respect & would be embarrassed if you had to admit to them you hadn’t done the work. This strategy can also work really well in a group setting as peer pressure is a great motivator. But be careful. This method won’t work if it’s a family member nagging you every second of the day, which could result in arguments & more resistance to the work.
  • Eliminate all temptations/distractions. This one gets me every time! Even if I tell everyone not to disturb me, lock my bedroom door, put my phone on silent, leave the radio off….basically do all the things, I guarantee I still end up getting side tracked. Usually I go to get a drink & think “oh I’ll just check my phone quickly.” 2 hours later I’m still messaging people & scrolling on facebook arghhh! I’ve learnt the only way is to now leave my phone locked in my car all day to stop the temptation to check it & getting side tracked in the process.
  • Set small incentives & rewards. These don’t have to be big rewards you can only have once you’ve submitted the work. Decide on a small incentive each day. It doesn’t matter how much work you’ve done or how good it is, or even how long you’ve spent on it. If you at least sat down & focused on the work & made some attempt to tackle it, then you should reward yourself. Remember progress not perfection. These incentives can just be small things you enjoy like watching 1 episode of a series you’re currently into, a short walk outside, a glass of wine at the end of the day. Just be honest with yourself. If you know that short walk will turn into a 2 hour hike, or that 1 episode is going to turn into binge watching an entire season for the afternoon, then leave it for the end of the day.
  • Just start by writing a sentence & build momentum. Even when you’ve done all of the above & still can’t face sitting down to your computer, or even worse you’re just staring back at a blank word document here’s what to do. Tell yourself you are just going to spend 2 minutes writing something. It doesn’t matter what you write, whether it’s the assignment title page or complete rubbish, just take 2 minutes to write a few sentences. You can even set a timer for the 2 minutes. This method always works as it tricks your brain. 2 minutes is a short enough time that feels achievable & not overwhelming. It is also just a long enough time for your mind to engage in the work & overcome that initial barrier of starting. You will find that 2 minute timer has gone off but you are still writing because you have gained just enough momentum to carry on with the work. Once you start just keep going, even if you think what you are writing is utter waffle!
  • Final tip. Once you start writing never ever stop & edit what you’ve written. Trust me you will waste all day writing & rewriting the same paragraph. Just keep going, get everything you can think of typed out, even if you think it’s not good enough, or you’ve got big gaps between sections. Only once you have a very rough first draft down, should you go back & start editing & re writing.

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