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How to beat procrastination

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Do you find yourself alphabetising your CD collection or scrubbing the floor when you’ve an essay due first thing tomorrow? These tips could help you crack on instead of getting sidetracked

Why do it today what you can put it off until tomorrow?

It’s an age-old battle that everyone faces at one point or another, and can seem impossible to overcome at times. As a nursing student, it can be especially frustrating when you are trying to get down to work, but just can’t shake that procrastination itch.

Next time you feel overwhelmed with the desire to put things off, keep a few of these tips in mind.

Avoidance procrastination

This is textbook procrastination. You have work you should be doing, but instead you’re on Facebook, watching television or chatting with friends. You insist to yourself that you’ll get started eventually. That you have plenty of time. “Five more minutes. Then I’ll get to it.” The problem is, you never do get to it. Or you get to it after wasting four hours of work time so your attention span is waning because you are tired.

How to beat it: Try setting up a reward system for yourself. Commit to one hour of studying and then take a 20 minute break to do something fun or relaxing. This will make the idea of the work ahead a bit less daunting because you’ll have something to look forward to. Just remember to stick to a time limit for your break, otherwise you could wind up procrastinating all over again.

‘Productive’ procrastination

The only time cleaning your room seems like a fun idea is when you are trying to avoid doing something else. Often we try and put off the work we need to do by convincing ourselves that there are other things that need to be done first.  This type of procrastination is dangerous because it’s easy to convince yourself that you aren’t procrastinating, you’re just too busy with other things to get to work.  

How to beat it:  Make a list of everything you need to do and rank it in order of importance. Once it’s written out in front of you, it’s much harder to convince yourself that organising your sock drawer is a more pressing matter than revising for tomorrow morning’s exam.

Working procrastination

This type of procrastination may be the most difficult to overcome because it may seem like you’re not procrastinating. You tell yourself: “I really need to do a bit more research before I can begin writing” or “My notes are all cluttered. Organising them will make it easier for me later on.” But really, this is just another form of avoiding knuckling down and really getting to work.

How to beat it: Map out a schedule for your work, allotting a certain amount of time to spend on each task. Something may wind up taking longer than you originally anticipated, but this way you’ll be tracking your work time so that you don’t spend three hours mulling over the exact wording for a thesis introduction.

Other tips for battling procrastination

  • Make a list – Break down everything you need to accomplish into small tasks and tick them off as you get them done. It makes the work a little less daunting and you will be able to see you’re making progress.
  • Start early – It’s inevitable that a task is going to take longer than you originally expected. Starting earlier allows you to deal with any unforeseen difficulties and also provides extra time for final reviews.
  • Work with a friend – It’s easy to tell yourself that you’re going to begin work at a specific time, and then continue procrastinating once that time comes. By scheduling a work time with another person, you will feel obliged to stick to your commitment.
  • Designate a work space – Curling up with your book on the living room couch can seem like a comfy way to study, but you may be putting yourself in an environment where it’s difficult to resist distractions. Don’t try to work in the same place that you play. Setting aside a specific area for work will remove all temptations and signal to your brain that, once there, it’s time to get down to business.
  • Keep track of your breaks – Productivity happens when you’re focused on your task. After hours and hours of studying, it’s easy to get burned out and distracted. Taking breaks will give you something to look forward to, and allow you to come back with a fresh set of eyes. Just remember to set a time limit for how long your break will last. Otherwise, three hours could go by before you realise it.

Ultimately, don’t become too frustrated. The urge to procrastinate has hit us all at one point or another and the key is to keep focused on the tasks at hand and know that those fun distractions will still be there when the work is finished.  

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Adam Roxby

    It can be hard to break out of that habits that we create to put off doing what we need to do. However, getting into the mindset of being productive will certainly help.

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