5 steps to avoiding procrastination
Procrastination is the action of delaying a task until a later time, and unfortunately, the majority of us have been or will be guilty of it at some point in our lifetimes. A recent survey found that the average Briton loses 55 days a year due to procrastination, with some 4 hours of every day spent delaying tasks that they really should be doing.
Students in particular are vulnerable to procrastination, especially with the increased freedom and flexibility that comes with transitioning from school to college. Our use of the internet and social media both have an impact too. Luckily, there are a number of steps students and individuals at all stages of life can take to stop procrastination in its tracks. Here we reveal just five of them.
Recognise the warning signs
Being able to identify when exactly you are procrastinating is a great place to begin. Many people slip into a cycle of procrastination, not realising that they have been deprioritising their work until it’s too late. Every individual is different, but pinpointing the warning signs that you are procrastinating will ensure you can take the necessary steps to alter your ways.
Common signs of procrastination include filling your day with low priority or easy tasks, leaving items on your to-do list for a long period of time, reading emails a number of times before acting on them and starting a high priority task only to distract yourself with something else. Waiting for the ‘right time’ or to be in the ‘right mood’ are also common excuses.
Mindfulness is something that we’ve blogged about before, with the benefits of practicing mindfulness well-publicised by our team. Mindfulness unlocks a number of positives for students, cultivating the self-awareness that is beneficial in all areas of our lives, not just in our academic progression. We’re not the only ones to see the advantages of mindfulness. Professor Tim Pychyl, psychologist and member of the Procrastination Research Group, recently discussed the use of mindfulness and meditation to reduce procrastination:
“Using mindfulness techniques, we can acknowledge that we do not feel like doing something without making a judgement on this feeling, then remind ourselves why the task is important, and commit to making a start… And when we make progress on a task, we feel better about ourselves and this makes it much easier to carry on.”
Many universities and workplaces have embraced mindfulness as part of their cultures to ensure their students and workers can embrace its procrastination quashing benefits. The University of Buckingham has recently introduced mindfulness sessions to its staff and students.
Commit yourself to a task
Starting a task isn’t the only challenge you face as a procrastinator. Continuing your work and finishing a project are two other hurdles that must be overcome, but remember it’s all about commitment and focus. Instead of focusing on avoiding the task, focus on doing it, being specific about task details, milestones and timeframes. With this amount of detail, you can take steps to proactively tackle a task, whether it’s writing an assignment, revising for an exam or decluttering your study space.
Reward yourself at every milestone
For master procrastinators, rewarding yourself when a task is complete will provide the motivation you need to keep on going. Your rewards don’t have to be anything spectacular. A simple coffee, slice of cake or well-timed break will all help to keep you on track, even in the midst of the toughest challenges.
Find yourself a study buddy
Partnering up with a friend or study buddy is another good idea when taking on academic tasks. If you’re both self-confessed procrastinators you can help one another out by checking up on each other’s progress. Peer pressure definitely works, and if you don’t want to ask someone to check on you, why not let technology take the reins? The Procraster app comes highly recommended.
Want more top tips to help you concentrate and beat procrastination for good? Read our essential guide for further advice.
Where to look next:
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