Imagine this: it’s Thursday afternoon and you’re sitting down at your desk with every intention to work. You have an essay due at midnight tonight but you are barely three words in. Then, three hours later, you find yourself at a YouTube video titled, “How giraffes pee,” with no idea how you got there. Not only did you put off starting your essay until the day it is due, but you also just wasted three hours laughing at YouTube videos instead of starting your essay. Sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. You are just another victim of a terrible monster. A monster that rudely intrudes upon our lives no matter how unwelcome it is. A monster that is most commonly known by the name ‘procrastination.’
Procrastination is a trap that many of us fall into almost everyday. Some people mistake procrastination with laziness and think that it is an insignificant issue that can be easily solved. However, to those of us that have to deal with procrastination, we know that it is more than just being lazy. Laziness suggests a sense of apathy and an unwillingness to work. On the other hand, people that procrastinate have a desire to complete the task, yet put it off in favor of other, more enjoyable tasks. In addition, while laziness suggests a sense of choice and choosing not to work, most procrastinators do not even realize that they are procrastinating until it is too late.
Personally, I have always been a large procrastinator, not starting assignments until the night that it is due and ending up in tears, having to beg my professor for an extension. While there are many reasons for procrastination, I have found that I procrastinate starting due to the fear and anxiety that I would not be able to complete the assignment well. However, when I do procrastinate, I find that I end up with even more anxiety about how my teacher is going to react, whether he/she would call my parents in and how this could impact my family life. Therefore, procrastination for me is a vicious cycle that starts with anxiety and ends with even more anxiety. That said, over the years, I have become much better at managing my procrastination and here are some tips that I have found to be quite helpful:
- Recognize that you’re procrastinating.
The first step to overcoming your procrastination is to realize and admit to yourself that you are procrastinating. Only then will you be able to take measures to stop yourself from doing it.
- Figure out why you’re procrastinating.
Next, figure out exactly why you’re procrastinating. There can be many reasons for procrastination including: feeling overwhelmed, anxiety, perfectionism, fear of failure, etc. When you figure out why you’re procrastinating, you can work towards solving that underlying problem.
- Break up your assignment into small tasks.
Sometimes, we procrastinate because the assignment seems too big and overwhelming. Therefore, it could be helpful to break up your assignment into small parts, so that you have shorter and simpler tasks to complete rather than a big, confusing project. For example, if you are writing a research paper, you could break it up into smaller tasks such as writing your research question, coming up with focus questions, researching each focus question, and so on. In addition, set a deadline for each small task and have a specific date and time of when you want to finish each part of the assignment.
- Let yourself take breaks.
It’s important to take breaks so as to not overwhelm yourself. Taking short breaks will let you work for longer as you will be giving your brain a rest and won’t feel as mentally drained. However, during these breaks, make sure you are not using your phone or watching YouTube, which could get you distracted. Instead, you should walk around or get some snacks and water. I recommended the Pomodoro method which breaks down your work time into 25 minute intervals with short 5-10 minute breaks in between.
- Reward yourself.
Everyone loves being rewarded and promising yourself rewards can be very motivating. For example, you could tell yourself something as small as, “If I work on this assignment for two hour, I’ll let myself watch Netflix for an hour,” or something as big as, “If I get perfect grades this semester, I will buy myself a new phone.”
- Get rid of distractions.
It’s important to get rid of all potential distractions before you start: turn off your phone or close that Netflix tab. Make sure that you get rid of anything that could get you side-tracked while you are trying to work.
- Have someone hold you accountable.
You are more likely to give up and stop working if you are the only one who knows about your goals. Therefore, telling a friend or a family member about what assignment you want to finish or how long you want to study and making them hold you accountable would motivate you to keep working. In addition, if you start getting lazy and wanting to stop, they can be there to remind you of your goals and help you keep working.
Procrastination can be very hard to overcome and for most people it takes weeks, months, and maybe even years to do so. However, no matter where you are on your journey to beat it, I am so proud of you and I just want to let you know that I am in this with you. I have every trust that you can and will overcome this, and even reading this article and trying to stop your procrastination is a huge step in the right direction.
Have a great day!
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers worldwide with an online platform to share their own experiences to be able to help, inform and educate others on a variety of different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all young people. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.