Procrastination is both a natural and an unhelpful activity. We all wish we could just stop doing it. Alas, it’s not as easy at it sounds. Sometimes, it’s really tempting to push off that assignment you don’t want to do until it’s too late. Other times, you’re waiting for motivation to strike and holding back until it does. Push off or wait no longer: here are ten tips on how to stop procrastinating and actually do you work!
1. If you don’t need your electronics, don’t use them
While they help us with research and staying connected, our devices are a constant source of distraction. The internet in particular is a bother. When you’re not watching a seemingly endless amount of YouTube videos in succession, you’re checking your Instagram feed. Or your Twitter timeline. Or your Tumblr dashboard. And so on. Unless it’s essential, try and skip the tech for whatever you’re trying to get done.
Note that if you do need to do research, there are other ways to do it. Head to your local library and check out the books, magazines and newspapers available. Your sources won’t be as plentiful but it’s a good way to break out of your dependence on the Internet for information.
2. If you must use electronics, invest in a site blocker
These are free add-ons that can be installed right into your browser that help block websites for you. If you can’t learn how to stop procrastinating, you just have to be forced to. Hey, you can’t be distracted by Facebook if you can’t access it! Choose a blocker that allows for temporary blocking during hours when you need to focus. One I’d highly recommend is “Stay Focused” which is available for Chrome, Firefox and Opera. It has an option which prevents access to every website (including its own options page!) that’s not on a special whitelist for however long you want. Now you’ll definitely work on that project and procrastination will be far, far away.
3. Go to your favorite study spot
Chances are that you’ll work much harder when you’re in a place synonymous with work. If you don’t have a favorite spot then think about how you study best. Do you need something cozy like a couch or something stiffer like a desk chair? Do you like laying down or sitting upright? Should it be quiet or do you need background noise? Find the best place that fits all of your preferences and set up shop there.
4. Get organized
One of the worst side-effects of the procrastinator mindset is that, in the act of putting off activities, we tend to become disorganized. We don’t plan things out, nor do we think things through carefully like we do when we want to do the work. Try to fix this by getting organized the next time you’re slacking off on something and you’ll soon find yourself more at ease (and, hopefully, in the mood to get productive).
5. Set some time to the side specifically for work
Unless your deadline is fast-approaching, you probably don’t need to do your work in one sitting, especially if it’s something long like an essay. But setting aside a specific time slot for being productive helps you and your mental and emotional state to prepare for the upcoming task. It also ensures that you’ll be able to fit it into your daily schedule. This can be a pleasant reassurance compared to going in blind and not knowing how long it will take.
6. Be sure you got enough sleep beforehand
Sleep deprivation is the knell of any hard-worker. A lack of sleep prevents focus and memory storage from working properly, creating a situation where it is almost impossible to do arduous tasks. This inevitably leads to more procrastination. On top of that, sleep deprivation is distracting and will lead to more attention placed on your bed than on using your head! Get some rest if you need it. It’ll be much harder to work without it.
7. Do the easiest parts first
Sometimes procrastination is rooted in dread of the difficult. If that’s the case, then try easing yourself into working by tackling the less challenging stuff first. For example, if you’re writing an essay and you have enough for the body paragraphs but not the introduction, write some stuff down and come back to that part later. Or if you’ve got some homework due later, finish off the parts you’re most confident about before getting to the ones you’re not as comfortable with. It will be less about how to stop procrastinating and more about how to solve the work you’re already involved in. Think of it as a form of gradual exposure, like when you dip your toes into a cold pool before entering it. By the time you’re done, you’ll be wondering how you even did it so fast!
8. Eat something high in energy
Don’t worry if you’re on a diet; these extra calories are going to be put to good use. Food revitalizes us in a way that no other stimulant can. In particular, healthy but fatty aand sugary foods tend to give us a calorie boost that the body needs in order to keep moving. With a small snack in your system such as a cup of trail mix or a banana, your metabolism will be put to work and, hopefully, you will too.
9. Or caffeine. That also gives you energy
Although it’s less healthy and, in some cases, less fulfilling than a short snack, caffeinated beverages such as soft drinks, coffee and tea do make for good pick-me-ups in case you need a more immediate fuel before you work. Try to stick to blends that won’t surprise or overwhelm you so you can focus better on what you need to do. Choose teas that will relax and calm you down so you can settle into working better. The last you need to be is jittery when you’re still learning how to stop procrastinating.
10. Don’t panic
Procrastination is as motivated by fear and dread as it is laziness. Don’t worry. You can definitely make it through whatever it is you need to do. Just stay healthy, hygienic and energized and you can do it just fine. It’s only one assignment. All you have to do is get started on it.
What do you think of these tips? Anything you can add to the list of how to stop procrastinating? Leave it in the comments section below!
Hi! I'm Tyler and I'm a sophomore student at the University of Vermont. I'm an English major and I'm minoring in French and Linguistics. I'm particularly interested in reading, writing, philosophy and the natural world (although the Internet is somewhere I hang out often too).