Overcome procrastination!

“There’s not enough time!” Deadlines loom, and students are freaking out.School Finals are here, and teachers are giving big tests and assigning projects. “There’s just too much to do!” Why don’t students have enough time?

It’s not that there isn’t enough time; it’s that the time isn’t being used efficiently. Many people, especially students, suffer from procrastination. There are many reasons why people procrastinate. Many psychologists believe it is because humans naturally want to delay unpleasant tasks, such as writing a paper or working on a presentation, for more fun tasks, such as playing video games or hanging out with friends. While there are lots ofpossible reasons for procrastination, this makes sense, doesn’t it? “Of course I prefer hanging out with my friends to writing a paper!”

Unfortunately, procrastination results in lower productivity. This means less work gets done or the work is done poorly. Cramming for the test doesn’t put the information into long-term memory–that’s why students tend to “forget everything” right after a test! Staying up all night to write that paper doesn’t result in a well-polished paper. So how can students (and everyone) overcome procrastination and become more productive?

1) Define the “Top 3” tasks for the day, as suggested in this greatarticleof tips on improving overall productivity.What are the three most important things that need to be done that day? Prioritize them and commit to getting them done before going to bed. In the beginning, let the “Top 3” tasks be simple ones; that way, they’re sure to get done.

2) Properly estimate how much time that studying or doing a project will take. Even though people know how important a task is, most people still underestimate the time to do that task. An engineer friend advises: estimate how much time that project will take…then DOUBLE it. Then plan the day or week accordingly.

3) Space out the deadlines for the above estimates evenly. This is about time management. Calculate backwards from the end deadline to figure out when to start. This will also help with forming the “Top 3” list for the day. Once the deadlines are figured out…

4) Just start. Yes, that’s easier said than done. After all, if people could just start working, procrastination wouldn’t be a problem! However, as a student, just open up the textbook or just start typing. Getting started is the hardest part. (That’s where most writers get “writer’s block.”) Even if the task is dropped after 5 minutes, concentrate during those 5 minutes!

5) Plan rewards. Give an incentive to complete the less-than-fun tasks, even if it’s just a small reward (an ice cream cone is a great treat!). A reward makes completing the task more fun and encourages starting the task.

Overall, be patient. Apply these new habits to everything, not just school or work, to overcome procrastination more effectively. Becoming (and staying) productive is a process, just like changing any habit–like exercising more or eating healthier. As an education consultant, I help my students develop better habits, to become healthier students, and the hardest thing for students to remember is to be patient. Take it one step at a time, and changes will come.

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