How To Stop Procrastinating

The school year has begun and if there’s one topic we urge every student to address head on, it’s PROCRASTINATION.  In the many years we have worked with high school students we have yet to see a new piece of software, fancy iPhone app, or novel remote device that helps with the fine art of putting off what needs to be done. And let’s face it; we’ve all felt the effects of procrastination at one time or another.

At the end of the day, procrastination is really about self-control and self-realization. Understanding how to manage your emotions, thoughts and ultimately actions and realizing that you’re making excuses for not doing something rather than just doing it, all lead to the fine art of procrastinating… OR NOT. Read on to learn a bit more about the various ways to recognize and ultimately defeat those nasty procrastination habits.

BREAKING UP WITH PROCRASTINATION

Nike said it best: JUST DO IT.  But, as we all know, grabbing a snack, answering a few emails, one more text, washing our hair, walking the dog, grabbing a quick nap all seem to come before the Nike mantra. But let us remember, we can all do hard things.

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
― Abraham Lincoln

On the BBC recently, productivity expert Moyra Scott noted: “We need to recognize when we are procrastinating and have ‘tricks’ we can employ to get us doing something.”

Her top tips are:

  • If you don’t have an external deadline, use a timer to focus for set periods – for example, 25 minutes at a time with 5 minute breaks and a longer break every 90 minutes.
  • Write a list of tasks but break it down into smaller, more specific ones.This makes them easier to action and complete.
  • Try to minimize interruptions like email notifications. Putting your phone on airplane mode or going somewhere to work where you won’t be disturbed will also help.
  • Being “busy” is easier than doing the thing we are avoiding. Instead of doing the task at hand, we do other stuff instead and kid ourselves that we don’t have the time. You do have the time. You just need to make it.

THE “FIVE MINUTE MIRACLE”

And, we love the Forbes article that came out a few years ago where Vanessa Loder wrote about the “5 Minute Miracle.

 “This is one of the best techniques for people who struggle with procrastination. The Five Minute Miracle involves asking yourself; “Hmm, what action can I take in less than five minutes TODAY that moves this forward even the tiniest bit?”

Once you’ve identified a small action, set a timer for five minutes and spend five minutes working on the task. Research shows that once you start something, you’re much more likely to finish it. This is due to a psychological phenomenon called the Zeigarnik effect, which says that unfinished tasks are more likely to get stuck in your memory. (This is also why our mind gets stuck in a loop thinking about all the things we haven’t yet completed.)

Remember: Small action is still action. Five minutes can make all the difference.”

THE EISENHOWER MATRIX

Another great resource to help weed out tasks that aren’t important enough or those you can delegate or simply not do is called the Eisenhower Matrix or sometimes the Urgent-Important Matrix. It’s pretty simply really. This matrix helps you prioritize tasks by urgency and importance as the name implies; freeing you up to delegate less important tasks or to scrap them altogether.

Stop Procrastinating with Eisenhower Box, Urgent-Important Matrix

STUDENTS –TAKE ACTION NOW!

Take action now, no matter what grade you are in, as by the time you reach fall of your senior year you will wish you had not put off things like Subject Tests, ACT/SAT prep, impressing teachers with your innovative and out of the box thinking, or civic activism.

Our private counseling students have met with us this fall to review their action items, standardized testing plan, high impact activities, contests to pursue, etc. Take the time now to plan your school year and break it up into bite size chunks. Study Sunday evenings from 5-6 p.m. EVERY week for standardized tests so when they come around you aren’t caught short and unprepared. Pick a song to get you fired up at 4:55 p.m., tuck away a favorite treat to eat after the hour is up, book a tutor for once a month during that time, put it on your calendar for the entire year. You get the picture. Consistency is key.

TOPS TIPS FROM OUR SENIOR PRIVATE COUNSELORS

We thought we’d check in with our senior staff regarding their top tips on how they power through bouts of procrastination.

Mimi says:

“If I need to switch gears and really dig into a new project with a time line and want to clear the decks I brush my teeth. Or, I declutter my desk so it’s a virtual blank slate. And, my other trick is to write the task into my planner (I STILL use an old fashioned paper planner) so it’s an appointment I’m keeping with myself. I don’t schedule calls during that time so I can focus.”

Michele says:

“I read a good book!”

Maria says:

“I get up early and start right away — making it the first thing I tackle.”

Eliza says:

“I tend to procrastinate on tasks that don’t appeal to me or that aren’t due right away. It’s easy for work with an immediate deadline to overshadow longer-term projects! I counter this by breaking these overwhelming tasks down into bite-sized chunks and giving myself a reward (a break, a snack, a few pages of a good book, etc.) for tackling each of them. So long as I get through a few pieces of the project each day, I can get everything completed on time.”

Kristen says:

“I handwrite a list sorted by category and ensure one of the categories is called “Most Important” and another is called “Undesirables.”  The former are those I tackle first, and the latter are those where they are smaller tasks that maybe are not at the forefront of my thinking, but still need to get done.”

We’d love to hear from you! What are your top tips for ‘taking the bull by the horns’ and overcoming procrastination? Leave your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below to get the idea-sharing started!

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