Procrastination is a slippery slope. We tell ourselves, “I’ll do it later”, “Now isn’t the right time”, or “It will take too long.” In reality, the time we spend thinking about or dreading tasks takes up more mental and physical energy than actually doing most tasks in the first place. Here are some ideas to help you kick the bad habit of waiting until the last minute.
Choose the first, small step.
Oftentimes a large task starts with a small one. If you are writing a paper, you need to open a document, title it, save it, and write an outline or start with some pre-writing. Simply completing these seemingly small tasks will start you on the road to completing the whole task and will make the process seem a lot less intimidating.
Map out a plan and stick to it.
Set yourself up for success by choosing a specific time for a task and then stick to it. Help yourself out further by setting a finishing or break time for when your task will end. If you decided to do your laundry on Saturday at 2:00pm, then begin laundry at 2:00 pm and stop doing laundry at 5:00 pm.
Giving your brain a time frame will help you to stay focused and to get excited about finishing the task. Oftentimes we don’t start a task simply because we are already tired and don’t know how long it will be before our next break. Alleviate this need for the next break by planning it on your schedule and then sticking to the plan.
Envision the end.
Instead of thinking about how unenjoyable your task will be, visualize the feelings you will have when it’s completed. Will you feel relieved, free, excited or accomplished? Envision yourself being done and you’ll work with more urgency and excitement towards the finish.
Reward yourself for small wins.
If you stuck to your plan and did your best to accomplish the task at hand, reward yourself with some time off, a cup of coffee, or your favorite movie with friends. Celebrate finishing a large assignment or completing a busy week of activities with something you enjoy.
Allow yourself to feel accomplished for doing your best work, even if it turns out differently than you thought or doesn’t go quite according to plan.
Organize key areas.
No, this doesn’t mean putting off homework while you color-code your sock drawer. Organizing a few key areas of your life can set you up to be productive and calm as you work your way through syllabi and to-do lists. Organize your assignments by writing their due dates or project deadlines on specific days on a paper calendar—or, if you look at your device’s calendar, use that one.
Also, organizing specific class-related areas like your workspace or desk and backpack means that you will have everything you need to study and work when the time arrives.
Lastly, plan some downtime.
Planning to do something you really enjoy at the end of an intense or stressful period can make the current season you’re in more bearable. If you love hanging out with your family, plan a day or two over Thanksgiving or the semester break to just relax and be spontaneous with them.
If hanging out with friends or enjoying some alone time is more your speed, plan now to reward yourself later and then enjoy your well-deserved break when the time arrives.