We’ve all looked at an assignment and thought: “eh, I’ll do it tomorrow.” Then tomorrow comes around and we say, “eh, I’ll do it tomorrow” and the cycle persists until the last, final moment.
Procrastination is so common, and everyone’s done it at some point in their lives. The thing is, pushing off your work for too long can cause a lot of stress as that deadline looms over. Getting started early can save you a lot of trouble in the long term.
Trust us, we know it’s super hard to get started on something that’s not due for a while. But you’ll feel so much better when you no longer need to worry. So don’t wait any longer: here are some simple ways to pummel your procrastination.
Why Do We Procrastinate?
Even though older generations like to say that technology and video games have made people worse workers, procrastination has been around for as long as civilization. With that said, new research studies are shedding some light on why exactly we engage in this consciously harmful practice.
There’s a difference between procrastinating and being a chronic procrastinator. And it has nothing to do with laziness or self-control, despite what your teachers might have told you in the classroom.
In fact, it’s believed that procrastination stems from the inability to manage negative moods surrounding a given task. It’s an emotion regulation problem: not a time management one.
This type of aversion is definitely dependent on the situation itself, but it actually makes a bit of sense. You wouldn’t procrastinate a project that you’re excited about — you’d want to get to work right away. But that term paper due next week? You know that won’t bring you happiness or joy, so you choose to avoid it in favor of a more cognitively rewarding task.
However, this is also what makes procrastination such a sneaky menace to our psyche. When you put off an undesirable task, you feel good in the immediate present. This can make it feel like you’ve rewarded yourself for procrastinating. Keeping this cycle going to trick your brain into believing that putting things off is a good thing, which can make you want to repeat this unhealthy habit.
Negative Effects of Procrastination
Sure, you feel good now. That project isn’t due until the end of the month. But when you need to cram 30 days worth of work into a single night, there’s a good chance you’ll be feeling pretty remorseful.
We live in a procrastination nation. It’s estimated that 80-95% of college students engage in procrastination, and 75% call themselves procrastinators. Not only that, but almost 50% admitted that they procrastinate consistently and problematically.
Procrastination has measurably destructive effects on heart health because of how much stress it can cause. Continual procrastination can have even worse side effects and put you at a riskier predisposition for cardiovascular injury.
Stress can even cause digestive issues, weaken your immune system, and give you headaches. Stress and procrastination go hand in hand, but neither are very favorable.
It’s also got productivity problems too. While many people claim that they do their best work under pressure, it’s possible that the time crunch will be so inundating that your performance becomes much less than stellar. On top of that, there’s a chance you might not finish the assignment on time.
Ways To Fight Procrastination
Managing your time or organizing your workspace won’t do anything to get rid of your procrastination. Instead, you need to focus on the cognitive factors that influence your choice to push things off.
Cut Out Catastrophizing
When you look ahead at your assignments and their due dates, you probably make a mountain out of a molehill. Your thought is that the task will be unbearable, boring, painful, and stressful to complete. Making a huge deal out of very little is called catastrophizing, and it’s what causes procrastination for many.
The reality is that hard work and boring tasks won’t kill you. However, procrastinating can lead to stress which very well may cause you to have some physiological problems.
Keep a positive perspective. Sure, your homework isn’t going to be the most exciting thing in the world. But you’ll get through it and you’ll feel great once you get it all done.
One of the best ways to stay motivated to do hard work is if you know something good will come out of it. Watching TV, scrolling through TikTok, or grabbing a bite with friends are all really fun, but they won’t let you finish your work.
Let yourself engage in those awesome activities only after you’ve finished every assignment you need to get done for the day. This will give you something to actively work towards, and you’ll feel a really cool sense of pride and accomplishment after.
Try Workflow Techniques
Long bouts of work without a break can be both exhausting and daunting. Instead of approaching a project with the goal of completing it in one fell swoop, try breaking it up into manageable chunks with a workflow technique.
One of the most popular ones is called the Pomodoro Technique, where you get a five minute break after 25 minutes of work. This lets you break up the monotony of your task while allowing you to do good chunks of continuous, uninterrupted work. And after four uninterrupted sessions, you can reward yourself with a longer break of 10 to 15 minutes.
You’ll be surprised at how this can completely change your perspective. Doing two hours of work seems like a lot, but when you break it up over four half-hour sessions, it starts to feel much more easily manageable.
Grab a Friend
Holding yourself accountable is tough, but finding someone else who is willing to keep you focused can make things much easier. Go to a cafe, library, or even just text each other throughout the day. Having someone to check up on your progress can give you necessary motivation to get working.
Not to mention, it can make your work sessions feel less lonely. During breaks you can have someone to talk to, and you can even ask for tips and advice if any issues arise. If it can make your assignments feel more fun, you’ll have a more balanced mood which can make you less prone to putting things off.
Block Out Distractions
When you’re completing a task that you don’t want to be doing, anything seems more exciting than the assignment at hand. This is when social media, emails, or online shopping become even more enticing than normal.
When you’re working, try turning your phone over, disabling notifications, and close your email to limit your exposure to distraction. This can help you focus on only the task at hand. You’ll be done before you even know it!
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Focus on the Benefits
When you have to write a paper or clean out the house, you’re not going to get any gratification from the task itself. This is because you compare the short term gains with the long term results. However, shift the perspective and ask yourself “What are the benefits of completing this task?”
If you’re cleaning the house, think about how good and decluttered your home will look the next time you have some friends and family over for dinner. If you’re trying to wrap up a huge project for work, think about how relieving it’ll be to finally have it done with!
Procrastination is really all about perspective. And when you have a good one, you’ll be excited to chip away at your overwhelming assignments.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Hey, it happens. Don’t punish yourself with regret for not starting sooner. This will only make matters worse, as a weakened mood can inhibit your productivity.
Move past it and use this circumstance as even more reason to get ahead on your next assignment.
Procrastination affects everyone, and there are more chronic procrastinators than you may think. Although most people think that procrastination is an effect of poor time management, it’s actually caused by a negative mood associated with unfavorable tasks.
Frequent procrastination can cause a lot of stress, which is bad for your body and mind. It’s important to try to overcome procrastination to help counter everyday stress and lift your mood.
You can help procrastination by honing in on your cognitive efforts rather than time management or organization. Try working with a friend, rewarding yourself for hard work, or using a workflow technique to break long tasks into easy, manageable chunks.
Controlling procrastination habits is easy, so why wait? Get started on these techniques right away!
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