Procrastination can be rather a disabling behavior that can affect your future in the long term. It is very important to nip in the bud before it becomes a long-term issue that can affect your academic career.
Use the following techniques to reduce/ eliminate procrastination from your life. The 4-Step Procrastination Eliminator-System will help you stay on course being productive for the rest of the semester.
1) Determine why you study
Before you start studying, you must explain to yourself why you are engaging in the act of studying. You probably have noticed that your brain is reluctant to engage in certain behaviors if the rewards for doing the tasks are not readily explicitly identified.
Therefore, it is important for you to understand that you may be procrastinating because you cannot explicitly see the rewards associated with studying. To get you started with building your list of reasons why you should study, here are some reasons that I used to motivate myself to study and get higher grades:
• Better job prospects – Yes, I know many people will argue with me on this. However, all I can say is I was able to join a leading tech and, also, investment management Company after graduating even though I majored in Psychology.
• Be able to attend prestigious graduate schools.
• Develop valuable skills in, writing, communication, analysis, creativity and public speaking
• Learn to set challenging goals and accomplish them.
• Being a knowledgeable individual.
• Making the most out of the tens of thousands of dollars I am paying to educate myself.
• Respect from friends and peers.
One of the key aspects to do well in university is having an explicit understanding of why you should be studying.
• Try it out: Write a short list of reasons why you think it is important for you to do well in university. Use my guide to getting started. Once you create the list, post it on your wall so that you can see the end result of your efforts every day.
2) Clean up your study environment
If you have a messy room, or a messy desk, clean that stuff up right away because having a messy environment can perpetuate your procrastination.
This is because having too many things lying around can negatively impact your ability to focus and process information. It makes it distracting and difficult for us to study when there is too much stuff on the desk or in the room.
Researchers from Princeton University found that physical clutter in your environment often competes for your attention, resulting in increased stress and diminished performance.
• Try it out: Take 10 minutes and clear your surroundings very quickly before you start studying. Only set 10 minutes to do this task. Do not go on a rampage and clean your whole house. Feel free to clean during study breaks for about 10 minutes.
3) Forget about being a perfectionist
Being a recovering perfectionist myself, I realized that it often holds me back from delivering results. I am not saying you shouldn’t produce high-quality work. What I am saying is that trying to produce perfect work all the time can cause you to be stressed out. This stress can interfere with our performance and the enjoyment you receive from studying, hence, leading you to put studying off until some future date.
• Try it out: Rather than trying to get a perfect grade on an assignment, focus on stretching yourself to create your best work. Understand it is completely OK to make some mistakes. Allowing yourself to make a few mistakes, reduces stress and will give the opportunity to be more creative.
4) Create a Top 3 Must Do’s
This would be one of the most important tactics I used to get higher grades in university. I always set three tasks for the next day before I go to sleep. Remember to include the fun stuff too. This is very important. The key here is to develop the habit of creating the list and following through with it, every day. For example, I used to set tasks similar to these:
1) Power review Week 7 lectures for Bio for 2 rounds
2) Go to the mall with friends and buy 2 shirts
3) Prepare for a Stats quiz by doing 20 problems
• Try it out: Before going to sleep, write down three tasks you MUST do for tomorrow. Make sure that each task is objective and quantifiable. Try not to use time as a measure for your tasks because you can use up time without getting things done.
5) Use procrastination signals
One tactic that I used to beat procrastination was using procrastination signals to get started on my work. What are these procrastination signals you ask? They are any thoughts that emerge in your head that you tell yourself to put off until some future date. Here are some examples:
• “I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow”
• “I work better under pressure”
• “I have lots of time to do this…”
• “I can do this in a few hours tonight”’
• “I have so much work to do, and I have no idea where to start”
• “I will just do it tomorrow”
• “I will start on it after watching a TV show/ movie on Netflix”
Those are some thoughts we come up with to convince ourselves to procrastinate.
• Try it out: If you have any thoughts similar to those mentioned above, understand that you are heading down a road you don’t want to be in. Use those signals for you to get started on studying. Preferably, something easy that you can complete in 5 minutes. Use the next suggestion to help you get started.
6) 5 Minute Power Start
This technique can be very powerful if used in combination with procrastination signals. The idea behind this technique is to practice on “getting started” on your study tasks. When you have a habit of getting started right away, you will notice that you often build momentum. You will notice that you continue to work on the tasks for much longer than previously anticipated, resulting in accomplishing goals that you never thought possible.
Therefore, use all your focus and willpower to just get started on a single task regardless of how much time you have, or how much work you still have to do.
I was able to get rid of many procrastinating habits through this technique. For example, every time I would think of starting to study “tomorrow”, I would immediately start to work on a very easy study task. I usually focus on studying for about 5 minutes. It could be as easy as opening the assignment outline and seeing what topics I needed to cover for the assignment. Here are easy 5-minute tasks you can utilize to use as a guideline:
• Studying for an exam: Opening up the lecture slides and looking through the first 5 slides.
• Working on the Assignment: Google the topic and find 2 links that are relevant to your assignment and put the information in a word document.
• Quantitative problems: Search Youtube for the topic and watch a 4-minute video.
Think about an easy task that you can get started right away.
• Try it out: The key is to just get started. Start with a simple task that wouldn’t require much time to complete. We often get overwhelmed because we imagine the amount of work we need to get done. Focusing on a very easy task for 5 minutes can help build momentum.
7) Make strong decisions
We are reluctant to make decisions that benefit our future because we have too many decisions to make. We often run into this problem because of information overload. When we have too much information, it is rather challenging for us to sort through the information and decide on what actions to take.
Having too many decisions can cause a tremendous amount of stress. When this happens, we usually default to choices that bring the most amount of pleasure in the short term. Since studying behaviors do not bring conceivable short-term rewards or pleasures, we are reluctant to make decisions that support our studying styles. We often put off studying as we would rather engage in other activities such as watching movies, shopping, going on Facebook.
• Try it out: Focus on making strong decisions. For example, if you have an assignment due in a week, finish your assignment within the next 5 days no matter what. Leave the last two days to edit it. If your friends ask you to go to the movies with them, tell them you would be able to come after the 5th day. You need to practice and develop the skill of making decisions and following through with them. This is very important.
8) Understand that your moods often lie.
One of the primary reasons why we procrastinate is because we just “don’t feel like doing it”. We often rely on our feelings to give us information on whether we engage in a certain behavior or not. In other words, we rely on our emotions to guide our behavior.
This is one of those evolutionary traits that was extremely useful when we were surrounded by dangers that could harm us. We had to consistently rely on our emotions and feelings to guide our behavior to avoid the dangers presented by predators and the environment.
The same traits do not, however, translate well to modern times. This is because, in this day and age, our biggest accomplishments heavily rely on our ability to delay gratification for a very long time. Hence, withstanding negative emotions and feelings to see through our goals.
Understand that if you are utilizing emotions to guide your day-to-day behaviors, they may not bring the best results in the future. I am not saying you should ignore all feelings and emotions. What I am saying is that you should use feelings as signals. Understand that some signals are not always accurate or useful. Use goals and objectives to guide behaviors.
• Try it out: Understand that your emotions are temporary. Even if you don’t feel like starting on your assignment, just start and do something for 5 minutes. You will notice that you probably do not feel the same way after you start. Remember, your emotions are temporary, but your grades affect you in the long run.