We’ve all been there. The deadline is looming and you know it’s finally time to sit down and complete the task or project you have been putting off. Instead, it dawns on you that you haven’t watered the plants this week, you’re behind on laundry, and you haven’t checked your email today. The satisfaction of getting that project or task done just doesn’t have the same immediate reward of spending time in nature or catching up on the news.
Procrastination is an easy habit to fall into, particularly if you are feeling overwhelmed or down and out. When you’re feeling this way, it is easy to justify putting it off until tomorrow. Nearly 50% of college students report they procrastinate on specific academic tasks, and up to 20% of adults say they are chronic procrastinators.
What is procrastination and why do I do it? It is commonly defined as a voluntary delay of an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay. Research points towards procrastinators engaging in a constant tug of war between their emotionally-driven pleasure-seeking ‘current self’ (who would rather watch TV than go to bed), and the rational, reasoning ‘future self’ (who is tired the next day). People who procrastinate have a tendency to choose short-term gratification over long-term more-worthwhile goals. Procrastination can bring temporary relief and often involves putting off unpleasant tasks.
5 Tips To Beat Procrastination:
1. Create a To-Do List — One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to get organized. Make lists, prioritize projects and put deadlines on your calendar. If the projects are complicated, break them into tasks or phases but keep it simple. If your organization system is too complicated, it will become just another task to avoid. When you have accomplished a task, mark it out on your list with a pen. It gives you visual confirmation that you are getting somewhere.
2. Build Momentum — If you have several small items to do which are directly related to the project at hand, do these first. Even though you have large tasks left, it feels as if you have less to do. It gives you a feeling that you have accomplished something. Just remember, they must be tasks that are relevant to accomplishing a bigger goal.
3. Do It Now — Next time you catch yourself saying, "I can do this later," do it now. Push on through the feelings and just do it. This ability to resist temptation and stick to our goals is often referred to as willpower or self-control, and delaying gratification is often seen as a central part of this behavior. The feeling you get when you finish will be so much better than any relief you get from putting it off.
4. Create Margin In Your Schedule — Remember, if something can go wrong, it will. Allow yourself more than adequate time to finish each task. If you do not need all the time you've allowed, you will be able to progress ahead of schedule. This will be a psychological boost. At the very least, you won't be left rushing to finish.
5. Reward Yourself — As you go work through your tasks, you may find your mind drifting off to all the activities you'd rather be doing. You will find it much easier to concentrate on your work if you know that you have scheduled time for reward activities.
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