Procrastination is a huge productivity killer, and it affects everyone. If you’re a student with a full course load or a professional with a large workload, these tips can help you get back on track.
1. Create and maintain a Work-Progress Journal.
A Work-Progress Journal is exactly what it sounds like; a journal to keep track of the work you’re doing and the progress you’re making. You don’t need any fancy notebook for this. Any notebook would be fine.
Every morning grab your journal and jot down what you plan to do for the day. Either as you complete tasks or after the day ends, record how much time you spent on each task. If you want to be really specific you could use a timer, but estimates are fine, also. This will allow you to get an idea of how much time you need to set aside for repetitive tasks. For the tasks you didn’t finish, explain to yourself why they were not completed. This part is actually very important to this process. If you don’t spend the time to reflect you will not be able to identify and solve the problems that need fixing. It keeps you accountable, as well, which is key to establishing discipline. It is equally as important to write down your successes and what you did well so you know what to do in the future.
Enlist some friends to check in on you, or perhaps find someone to share journals with once a week if you have trouble motivating yourself. Either way, just imagine how discouraging it would be to open up a book full of unfinished tasks. And let’s be honest with ourselves; sometimes those reasonings for not finishing a task are just excuses. Things do happen and you shouldn’t worry about being perfect, but don’t sabotage yourself, either.
- “It took 3 hours to complete this assignment.”
- “I completed all my work for today, plus a little extra. It was a productive day. I used [this strategy] and it was a real game changer. I will definitely try to work that into my routine.”
- “I couldn’t finish this piece of reading because it took much longer than expected. But I intend on waking up early tomorrow to finish up before class.”
2. Keep the machine running with healthy, energizing foods.
- Drink water constantly (at least every 45 minutes).
- Watch your caffeine intake; keep it down to only one beverage per hour.
- Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast.
- Always have snacks on hand!
- Remember that food is an important energy source to keep your brain cells running
- Be sure to eat your veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, peanuts, granola bars, etc.
- Avoid refined carbs at all cost (sugar, white flour), as these will spike your blood sugar level only to crash later; eat low glycemic index foods instead.
3. Make an event out of your most avoided tasks.
There’s inevitably some tasks you find yourself dreading to do and seriously procrastinate on. All. The. Time. You know, that boring history research paper or that crazy amount of stats practice problems on queue. You could counter this by studying somewhere an inconvenient distance away from your dorm room (or any place you might see your friends) such as a remote spot in the library or in the corner at a quiet cafe down the street. Since it’s such as hassle to go back home and you have little distractions (assuming your phone is off), you will feel obligated to get your work done. If you have apps or programs that can block distracting websites (e.g., Self Control), make sure you turn those on, too. Avoid browser extensions since those can be disabled, while something like Self Control cannot.
4. Include repeating weekly “protected” time into your schedule.
Morning is the best time for this because as the day progresses your mind will become bogged down by more and more distractions. Schedule it before your first class if you have a late morning class or right after if it’s early, and get it done at that time consistently. Of course you can choose to schedule this protected time at other times of the day, but try to protect the “dead time” you spend waiting for a class to start or spending too much time at lunch. You can text and hang out with your friends later; get your work done first. Believe it or not, that dead time really adds up and you will be glad you protected it by reviewing or getting work done then.
e.g. MWF always do Biology reading at 10am, TuTh always work on Physics problems, W review the procedure and relevant background information before the lab begins.
5. Choose your “hard days” and plan them in advance.
Everyone experiences those days where you feel blocked in, having such a large workload to complete whether it’s a result of procrastination or some important task that just came up (such as your research mentor asking you to write a proposal the night before it’s due). No one wants to experience this level of stress and exhaustion on a regular basis. But if you can plan out days like this in advance before you actually need them, you will not only feel accomplished but you will also be surprised to find out how productive this can make you.
With work there comes much-needed rest, so be sure to plan head for some relaxation days or some fun activities to do before and after your hard days. Those days can take a lot out of you, so make sure you’ll taking care of the rest of you, not just your grades. Let your friends in on your plan so they can avoid distracting you and help keep you accountable.
- “If I work hard all day Saturday I can turn up during the night and relax on Sunday.”
6. Just do it.
“Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
I love this quote because it sums up the true core of how to eliminate procrastination: just doing it. It’s a simple concept, right? A strategy that all of us know about. But for whatever reason, we oftentimes don’t follow our own advice, so it’s usually helpful to hear it from someone else.
Maybe this quote seems harsh to you. I suppose it is, but to truly defeat procrastination you really just have to force yourself. There are loads of strategies out there to help you get there, such as those above, but ultimately it’s up to you. You might consider taking it upon yourself to stop procrastinating for a whole month. Habits can form in as little as 30 days, so if you’re serious it’s definitely worth a try.
7. Realize that this is all normal.
Procrastination is normal! It’s horrible for productivity, but the inevitable truth is that even straight A students have to battle with it. No one is perfect and everyone procrastinates at least a little bit in some part of their lives. The key is learning how to manage it so you can stay productive.