The early weeks of November may seem like a great time to procrastinate. After all, you’ve got midterms behind you and finals still a couple weeks away. However, being successful during your college years and into your career means nixing procrastination altogether. Waiting until the last minute to do something like start a term paper or read your textbook will only complicate your life and add stress and anxiety no one needs. Procrastination is simply a bad habit and the following are a few ways you can train yourself out of it:
Steps to Train Yourself Out of Procrastination
- First, Recognize When You’re Procrastinating. It’s important to be honest and aware of what you’re doing as people often make excuses for their procrastination. For example, maybe you have a big project but as soon as you sit down for it, you decide you need a coffee break and then once you have your coffee, you decide you need a bagel. Or maybe instead of tackling that big project, you go with low priority ones and ‘save’ the big thing for another day.
- Consider Why You’re Procrastinating. Once you recognize that you’re avoiding something, it’s time to stop, ask yourself why, and tackle that reason. For example, if you’re avoiding a task because you feel overwhelmed, plan out a way to do the project piece by piece. Don’t think of the whole scope of the project. Instead, focus on the beginning and move forward only once that’s done. For instance, when writing a report, just get those first introductory lines on the page. Even if it’s clunky or uses inappropriate language for the class, it’s more important to get going. Smooth it out and get it perfect after the first draft.
- Adopt Anti- Procrastination Strategies That Work for You. Procrastination, like all habits, is generally a deeply ingrained pattern of behavior. This means, the more you do it, the harder it is to stop doing it. The best way to stop procrastinating is to adopt other behaviors that change how you approach tasks. Because we are talking about behaviors, be kind with yourself and know you won’t break such habits overnight. But you can do it! A few popular strategies for overcoming procrastination include:
- Give yourself rewards. Train yourself to associate completing projects with good things. Finish that term paper a week early? Treat yourself with a new video game or dinner out.
- Call in for outside work. Peer pressure can be a good thing! Ask your friends or classmates to hold you accountable to getting things done on time and offer to do the same for them.
- Rephrase your thoughts. Instead of telling yourself that you ‘need to’ or ‘have to’ do something, adopt phrases like ‘I choose to’. It may seem silly, but this change of dialogue can give you more agency and make you feel more in control of projects, workloads, and outcomes.
- Start early (or find your sweet time). For many, the best method to avoid procrastination is to not even give it the opportunity to start. This means starting the day with the hardest or more frustrating tasks and enjoying the rest of the day without anxiety.
Think Big, Not Small
Freshman year of college is a key time to develop lifelong habits and behaviors. Don’t wait (procrastinate) to the new year to start making lists and changing how you approach tasks. Start today and make this last month of the semester an outstanding success!