By Chhum Chanrachana,
“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.” – Christopher Parker
A short break to reward ourselves always turns into a long one. The work we are supposed to do today moves to tomorrow. The deadline comes. Anxiety hits. The result is a careless piece of work with lots of mistakes that we could have easily avoided in the first place. We regret it but later find ourselves following the same pattern all over again.
Once we start university, most of the time, we develop the perfect to-do-list for the upcoming semester only to throw it out the window afterwards. The work for each and every subject is usually completed in one night. We all know it’s called procrastination, the chronic problem everyone faces.
But could we ever stop procrastinating?
What Kind of Procrastinator Are You?
There seems to be no such thing as last-minute productivity. Tim Pychyl, a psychology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, has done a number of researches on the connection between procrastination and people’s personal well-being. He said procrastinators who claim that they work better under pressure are just fooling themselves. They can submit the work on time, but they cannot guarantee the quality of the work they’ve submitted.
Interestingly, experts have identified three types of procrastinators: the thrill-seekers who actually like the last-minute rush; the avoiders who are afraid of failure, so they make themselves look like they lack effort rather than ability; and decisional procrastinators who just cannot make decisions on time.
There are several reasons for procrastinating, including ineffective time management, laziness, bad habit or self-discipline, lack of ambition, or even the fear of failure.
Everyone procrastinates but it isn’t something we should proudly use as an excuse for not completing our work. A continued habit of procrastinating could be harmful to our lives in many aspects such as time and financial resources, academic performance, health or even worse, our relationships with other people.
No one wants to deal with procrastinators. But getting rid of procrastination, especially the long-term one, is easier said than done. Most procrastinators often fail halfways.
A Few Tips to Snap Out of It
However, it doesn’t mean that succeeding is impossible. Here are a few tips that might help you beat procrastination once and for all.
- Connect your current self with the future
We can do this by manipulating the time unit that we use. A recent study published in Psychological Science journal found out that if people thought about the deadline in terms of days rather than months or years, they’ll start taking action more quickly. For example, there are 730 days (rather than 2 years) before the graduation exam. Or, there are only 7 days left (rather than 1 week) before the deadline. It somehow makes a difference.
- Set a clear boundary between your workplace and playground
We can easily be distracted by almost everything around us. So, finding a proper place to concentrate might be a bit challenging. To stop procrastinating, you first need to get rid of the thing that makes you procrastinate. A quiet environment without distracting devices like TV, or especially smart phones, might be a good start.
- Have a clear goal in mind
We should be clear about what we want to achieve for the day. An overly-ambitious schedule should be replaced by a short, achievable, and realistic to-do list. The time we spend on each task should be divided into small units of around 15 to 30 minutes with five-minute breaks in-between, rather than a long hour of non-stop working or studying.
4. Give more value to your work and yourself
Sometimes, we procrastinate because we don’t know why we should do the work or whether it is worth our effort. But ask yourself: Is it the right time for you to doubt yourself or the worthiness of the work after you have already accepted the request? Think about the consequences, like what problems you will face or who is going to suffer if you don’t submit your work on time. Submitting your work on time means holding up your end of the deal and shows respect to the one who assigned the work to you. One thing we should remember is that our time is precious, and others’ is, too.
5. Strengthen your willpower
Willpower helps us resist many unwanted temptations. Unfortunately, it is a limited resource, and like a muscle, it’ll become weaker when we don’t train it. Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help us strengthen our willpower. A study found that physical exercise helps to develop a stronger willpower in many other areas of our lives. It helps us improve our self-discipline and self-control. Making our lives to be more organized or achieving a few small things might motivate us to move onto achieving the next goal.
6. Work on one goal at a time
However, we shouldn’t overwhelm ourselves with trying to reach different goals at the same time. It’s healthier to complete the goals we set one by one. Once completing a goal becomes our habit, we won’t need to draw out much from our willpower and we will not exhaust ourselves. Be patient. Remember that good things take time.
I hope these few tips can help you deal with your procrastination. Today starts now not tomorrow!
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.