Overcoming procrastination

By: Cristina Kerluke, Academic Support Program Specialist

This week’s article is adapted from our Procrastination web page.

Procrastination is completely understandable. Simply put, procrastination means avoiding or delaying something that we do not want to do. We ALL have times in our lives when we put something off. Procrastination itself can lead to increased stress, feeling badly about oneself, and poorer performance. Here’s the bright side: anyone can overcome procrastination! Just like with learning, it takes work, at least at first. Overcoming procrastination involves changing a practiced, automatic habit of avoidance. As with any change, being consistent with strategy eventually creates a habit, making it your “new normal” and requiring far less effort.

11 Tips for Overcoming Procrastination:

  • Stop catastrophizing. People sometimes make a huge deal out of something, when often it’s more of a minor inconvenience or discomfort. Remind yourself that you can and will get through the task successfully.
  • Focus on your “why.” Instead of focusing on the short-term distress, consider the reason why you want or need to complete the task. Connect it to a goal that is important to you.
  • Ask for help. There are going to be times when you don’t understand how to approach a task at hand. Instead of delaying the task, ask someone for clarification and/or guidance.
  • Drop the perfectionism. Someone with a perfectionist perspective has an “all-or-nothing” mentality. Perfectionism can add to procrastination, as the person may think, “If I can’t do it perfectly, I’m not going to do it at all.” Focus on doing the best possible in the situation, and strive for ongoing growth in the future.
  • Schedule a time for the task. Instead of telling yourself, “I’ll do it eventually,” choose a specific day and time, like scheduling an appointment that you cannot miss. Consider using Google Calendar to schedule your tasks to specific time blocks in your day.
  • Chunk it. Break the task into smaller pieces, which can help you feel less overwhelmed, and more motivated once you have accomplished a portion of the task. This makes the larger task more achievable.
  • Challenge your own excuses. If you hear yourself thinking, “I need to be in the mood,” or “I work better under pressure,” dismiss it as an excuse, and get moving!
  • Put reminders in your path. Instead of trying to forget the task, try to remember. Put sticky notes announcing the task in places you will find them throughout the day. Use your phone to set reminders to keep you in check.
  • Optimize your environment. When completing a task, remove any distractions that could easily get in the way. Just like putting “Do Not Disturb” on a hotel room door, keep interruptions away.
  • Find a partner. Tell someone about the task, and by when you will have it completed. This builds in some positive, external accountability, and increases follow through. For example, you are far more likely to go to the gym at 6AM if you tell a friend or family member about it. Have that person check in with you as a reminder.
  • Reward yourself. Our brains respond positively to reward. After completing one piece of the task, treat yourself to something you enjoy. Even better, make that treat contingent upon finishing the task. For example, instead of binge-watching Netflix or going for a run as an avoidance behavior, make that the reward for staying on task and following through. Also, tell your partner about your success, and be open to the congratulations you receive!

Be aware of the reasons, habits, and thoughts that lead to your procrastinating. Start the “overcoming” process by incorporating the above tips, in addition to effectively managing your time throughout the week. Believe that you are capable of change!

What are your tips for overcoming procrastination? Visit usm.maine.edu/agile to take this month’s poll for a chance to win AGILE swag!

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