How To Avoid Procrastination
It is commonly believed that procrastination is born out of laziness, but this is generally not the case. Some people feel that they work better under pressure, while others may be dreading the work they have to do so much that they spend hours avoiding it. Still more people procrastinate because they feel overwhelmed by the amount of things they have to get done and have no idea where to start. People procrastinate for different reasons but the end result is the same: they spend an hour or two completing a project or researching a potential client for a meeting the next day; that they have known about for weeks and should have been working toward all along.
Before you can successfully overcome procrastination, you should figure out why you are procrastinating in the first place. You may be dreading the work that needs to be done or feel like you are not capable of completing it. According to research at the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning at Princeton University, awareness of the fact that you are procrastinating and the reasons why goes a long way toward stopping the behavior.
Focus on Time Management
Learning to manage your time effectively is another way to avoid procrastinating. One technique is to make small goals for yourself and set deadlines for those goals. You can even reward yourself when you meet your goals so that you have an incentive to avoid putting off what you need to accomplish. It is essential that you keep your goals small and achievable so that your small goals don’t become as overwhelming as the large goal that you’re trying to break down. Making an inflexible schedule where every minute of your day is accounted for is likely to backfire and make you feel more overwhelmed, so a basic timeline for your day is a much better idea.
Piers Steel, a professor at the University of Calgary, found that people who regularly procrastinate tend to be less happy, wealthy and healthy as those who avoid procrastination. Even if your goals are small, achieving them is likely to change your attitude and help you feel like you are capable of completing the entire project.
A big project or career-changing test is bound to cause anxiety, but focusing on the importance of the task just leads to anxiety and procrastination. You may not be able to complete the entire task in one day, but it is much more productive to do something that leads you closer to your goals than to waste hours worrying about how it will turn out. If you’re goal is to write a 400 page book, the first step may be to decide what the subject of the book will be. You may feel like you should write three chapters the first week, but forcing yourself to do too much will set you up for failure.
Start With the Toughest Task
It’s easy to let fear control what you do, but most people find that the anticipating of doing something out of their comfort zone is worse than actually doing it. Starting your day with the toughest task you have to do is a great way to avoid procrastination because it ensures that you get it done. You may not get it exactly right, but doing something is better than doing nothing. Another benefit is that getting your hardest task completed first thing in the morning makes everything else you have to do that day seem easy. It also motivates you to get other things done that you are not dreading as much as the task you just completed. It’s the idea that if you can do that, you can do anything.
Stop Believing that Procrastination Helps
One of the biggest reasons that people keep procrastinating is because they genuinely believe that they work better under pressure. Sadly, this is rarely the case. According to research by Bruce Tuckman, a professor at Ohio State University, students who procrastinate the most almost always get the worst grades. He studied 116 students who took a study skills class that he taught at the university. Shortly after the course began, Professor Tuckman asked students to complete a questionnaire related to their own level of procrastination. He found that the students who rated themselves as high procrastinators achieved lower grades in his classes than those who classified themselves as moderate or low procrastinators. He also found that the lowest procrastinators scored the highest grades.
Communicate Your Goals
If you want to accomplish a big personal goal like running a marathon, it’s a good idea to talk to other people for support. Tell your friends and family about your goals. It is easy to break a goal if you are the only one who knows about it, but telling your friends and family ensures that there will be at least a few people who will check your progress periodically and make sure that you are taking steps to achieve your goal. You may even want to ask someone to call or text you daily to ask if you have worked out yet. This will motivate you to get off the couch and stop procrastinating.
If you don’t have any friends who have run marathons or are interested in running, try to find a local group of runners. Try out several groups and join the one that makes you feel the most comfortable. There will probably be people who have run several marathons in the group as well as people who are just starting out with running, just like you. Sitting down for coffee with someone who has recently completed a marathon is a great way to gain motivation. They will probably be happy to tell you about their experiences and how long it took them to get from sitting on the couch to running for over 26 miles straight.
Change Your Habits and Environment
If you’re a chronic procrastinator, drastically changing the way you do things or the place you do them may be the only way to break the cycle. The first step is to recognize where your procrastination usually takes place. If you normally study in your bedroom and find yourself procrastinating, try moving to another room such as the kitchen or living room. The change in environment may be enough to help you get back on track. If you find yourself procrastinating when you’re supposed to be getting work done on the computer, try disconnecting your Internet access accept when you need it to get your task accomplished. These changes are small but often effective in helping you stay on track and get your task completed without procrastinating.
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