Nearly everyone is guilty of procrastinating at some time in their life. Humans don’t like feeling uncomfortable, and we all have things that cause discomfort in our lives. Sometimes we’re good about facing our fears and handling whatever it is that’s upsetting us like true pros. Other times – well . . . .
If you are prone to procrastination, the University of Albany in New York has some helpful suggestions for limiting avoidance and tackling those uncomfortable tasks.
The first, and most important step, is to face your challenge head on and identify what it is that’s making you anxious and making you want to avoid it. If you’re coming up on a test that you don’t feel prepared for, your anxiety makes sense and makes procrastinating seem like a logical choice (but it’s not. More on that coming up). However, if you’ve studied and you feel anxious over the test itself, you may be suffering from test anxiety. To learn more about that, check out this blog.
If you are feeling under-prepared, try to manage your emotions and your expectations by managing your studying. Don’t try to cram all the information in one night. Cramming can actually make anxiety worse and create a greater desire to put off what needs to be done. When you sit down to study, look for the bigger concepts. Don’t try to memorize all the small details; instead, focus on broad ideas that are the foundation of the subject. Look back at your texts, notes, or other reference materials that can help direct you to the most important material.
Attitude is also important and can have a significant impact on your success. If you find yourself procrastinating, adjust your attitude. Instead of thinking, “I’m just going to fail so why bother studying,” try turning it around to focus on the positive. For example, “I’ve overcome some big obstacles to get here, and I’m going to overcome this one as well.” If you need to break it down into easier pieces, consider these: “I’ve got an hour before work that I can use to work on understanding this subject,” or, “If I focus on the vocabulary, I can apply that to other concepts I’ve been studying.”
Making a plan of action can also help prevent procrastination. Schedule time for studying, even if you can only find 15 or 20 minutes at a time. Small bites add up, even if all you have is a few days before testing. Focus on the quality and not the quantity by identifying the most important topics first. You can also use a reward system. For example, for every hour you study, you can reward yourself with 20 minutes of video games or your favorite show. Just remember – rewards come AFTER you complete the task.
According to an article in Good Housekeeping, 95% of Americans admit to procrastinating. It’s comforting to know that you’re in good company. Taking some of the pressure off yourself can be a great way to reduce the risk of delaying what needs to get done. When there is a big task that feels unpleasant and gives you a sense of looming dread, we are often tempted to substitute tasks – taking on less meaningful jobs to help us feel like we’re accomplishing something when we are really avoiding the thing making us uncomfortable. If you find yourself organizing your sock drawer instead of reading your study materials, don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, take a step back and ask yourself when you can start over. Set a new starting point and show up ready to succeed.
Another easy tip to try is focusing on the task for a ridiculously short amount of time. It’s called “running a dash” and it ensures that you meet your goal of focusing on a specific task. Pick the task you want to commit to, set your timer for 5 minutes, and go. Taking bite-sized chunks out of the task will make it easier to swallow. You might even find you can work beyond your five minutes and build greater momentum.
The most important part of dealing with procrastination is to identify the task that’s making you feel overwhelmed, breaking it down into manageable components, and facing the challenge head-on to find your way to your goal.