Friday, 15 November 2013

10 Tips to Prevent the Perils of Procrastination

Do you have an essay or assignment that you should be working on RIGHT NOW? Do you recognize the irony in you watching the above Spongebob clip about procrastination while you yourself procrastinate? If you do, then you are just like me. 

The first time that I watched the episode it was 6:00pm the evening before one of my major research papers was due. I had four words typed on my screen and instead of adding to those four words, I watched a Spongebob episode about procrastination (and it wasn’t sped up like the above clip). When the episode finished I headed to the kitchen to rummage for a snack. Then I ate. Then I headed back to my laptop and decided to colour code my research notes with a highlighter. Then I checked my email. Then I checked my other email account. Then I stared at my screen… my screen which still only displayed four words. Then I deleted two of those words, and long story short, I didn’t’ really get writing until about 2 o’clock in the morning and didn’t finish until 6 AM. I procrastinated. It was a stressful and tiring experience and I would like to offer you a few tips to help you avoid my mistake. (And yes, I do see the continued irony in my suggesting that you read this quick list to avoid procrastination while you are likely procrastinating… but short study breaks are important, so reading this is really for your own good.)

So, here are 10 tips to help you get things done:

1 Start early!

Early bird gets the worm
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This might seem obvious but you should make an active effort to do it anyway. If you know about an assignment 4 weeks in advance then there is no excuse for waiting to start it the night before.

2 Set a fake due date

Fake Deadline

If you know that you are driven by deadlines, make up a fake one. Set a due date for yourself a week before the actual due date. Make sure that all of your calendars and agendas display the fake date so that you’ll have a constant reminder for yourself. Even if you procrastinate with your fake date, you should still have your assignment completed early, which will give you extra time to review your final product and to move on to the next assignment… in advance!

3 Plan a reward system

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Writing essays or completing mathematical assignments outside of class might not be your favourite past time, but if you can promise yourself that you’ll be able to see that movie you’ve been waiting for just as soon as you complete your assignment, then you’ll have something to look forward to when you’re done. You’ll also know that it is okay to put off the fun things that you want to do because you know that you’ll do them… after you’ve completed your homework. You’ll also be able to enjoy your rewards without the guilt of knowing that you’re procrastinating.

4 Prioritize 

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Sit down and make a list of all the things you NEED to do. Not the things you WANT to do, just the things you have to do. Look at the due dates for each of those “need to do” items and map out the ideal times to complete each task. 

5 Set small goals

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Once you’ve created your “need to do list” set small goals for each item. Be sure to assign due dates for each task and make sure that you’re breaking each item down into its smaller, but necessary parts. For example, if you are preparing to write a research paper then create a timeline that includes picking your topic, finding the research materials for that topic, actually collecting the research materials, reviewing the research materials, writing the paper, reviewing/editing the paper, etc. 

6 Disconnect from social media

Typing up an essay on a computer means that you will likely have access to the internet… and having access to the internet means that Facebook and Twitter and every other social media site is just a click away. Leave them there. Don’t look. Fight the temptation. FB and Twitter can be rewards for you to reach towards AFTER you’ve completed your homework. All of the updates that your friends are posting will STILL BE THERE after you’ve handed in your assignment. Besides, most of their posts are likely to be about THEIR homework, and you have enough of your own to worry about.

7 Turn off your phone

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If you’re like me, then your phone likely doubles as your watch. Keeping it on for the purpose of seeing what time it is or for safety reasons if you’re working late in the library is still okay. But don’t spend your time texting with your friends. Don’t snap chat your room mate photos of you looking at your text book. Pretend that it’s the late ‘90s and that your phone is only capable of two things: 1) phoning people (they do still have that ability) and 2) displaying the time. 

8 Have everything at hand

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Make sure that you have all of your text books, all of your notes, a few snacks, plenty of water, a pencil/pen, highlighter, laptop, laptop charger, etc. all with you and set out where you can easily access them before you begin your assignment. Having everything with you will prevent you from having the desire to wander around looking for that one item you “forgot.”

9 Tell  others what you’re doing

Let your friends/family/roommate know that you are working on your assignment. They should either leave you alone or they’ll help to remind you of your need to focus. 

10 Recognize your pattern

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Stop for a moment and reflect on all of your recent attempts to complete your homework. What time do you usually start to work on it? How much time do you usually spend on it? Etc. You will likely find that you’ve established a pattern for yourself and may have even convinced yourself that you HAVE to procrastinate because you get better grades when you do… but if you ALWAYS procrastinate then you owe it to yourself to see what would happen if you were to start your work in advance. You’ll likely find that you’ll be less stressed, will have more coherent assignments to submit, and more sleep to enjoy.

So, before you bid farewell to your procrastinating ways, here is one last random distraction:

Now get to work.


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