It’s 3am, you’re drinking your fifth coffee of the night, your eyelids are heavy, and you’re only halfway through an assignment that’s due in just a few hours. You told yourself you would start sooner but, as usual, you left the assignment till the night before it’s due. Every student knows how frustrating a procrastination habit can be, especially when it begins to impact both your grades and your sleep schedule! Breaking the procrastination cycle will help you decrease stress, improve academic performance, and work steadily towards achieving your goals.
Follow these steps to beat procrastination once and for all, and reach your full potential.
Procrastination has nothing to do with being lazy or unambitious, and forgiving yourself is the first step to beating the habit for good. Avoidance is predominantly caused by negative thought patterns, including anxiety and perfectionism. Essentially, we often procrastinate because we are afraid of the task at hand, and fear that our work won’t be good enough. The longer you put off tasks, the more anxiety you will experience, leading you further into a procrastination spiral. Practising self-compassion is the first step towards breaking this cycle and reducing any shame and guilt holding you back. Forgive yourself, acknowledge that you are doing your best and keep moving forward!
Face your personal habits
If you want to change your behaviour, you need to understand it. Are there any tasks you consistently avoid? If so, can you identify why? Noticing how you feel about your goals and the ways you avoid completing them will help you personalise your approach to productivity. When you feel yourself procrastinating, write down the task you’re avoiding, what you are feeling and how you are distracting yourself. Take notice of any patterns emerging, including certain distractions, your most productive times of day, and whether you work best with others or alone. As you track your behaviour, make sure to adjust your work habits based on what you find.
Break down your goal into subtasks
When facing a big task, it can be difficult to know where to start. If you are feeling overwhelmed by a goal, increase your productivity by breaking it into subtasks. Completing smaller parts of a goal will give you regular feelings of accomplishment, improving self-esteem, and breaking the cycle of negativity that creates procrastination. When setting your subtasks, make a timeline with achievable deadlines and adequate breaks. If you are still struggling to maintain focus, make the tasks even smaller until they are manageable enough for you to finish without losing concentration.
How many times have you started studying only to find yourself scrolling through social media minutes later? If you want to beat procrastination for good, you will have to distance yourself from any distractions. Commit to staying away from phones, video games, television, music (unless it helps you focus), and anything else that can take your attention away from the task at hand. An excellent way to remove distractions is by creating a personal study space at home, or committing to working in a communal workspace such as a library or shared office.
Follow the 80/20 rule
The 80/20 rule states that 80 percent of success, or input, comes from 20 percent of efforts, or output. Using this idea can help you overcome perfectionism, improve time management, and beat procrastination. Focus on a few important tasks and complete them at 80 per cent quality, as quickly as you can. Taking away the pressure to reach a standard of 100 per cent may actually improve the quality of your work. Similarly, if 80 percent of your to-do list is achieved in 20 percent of the day, notice what time of day you can maintain this level of productivity and prioritise tasks accordingly.
Make yourself accountable to someone
Let’s face it, working alone isn’t easy! Finding a study partner, group, or mentor (whether virtually or in-person) to check in with can help you monitor your progress whilst making work fun and social. Knowing you are accountable to someone will also help you feel supported in beating your procrastination habit. Just make sure you work with someone who is equally invested in the task and won’t create any further distractions.
Celebrating the completion of each task will help you feel great about your achievements and build momentum moving forward. Make sure to reward yourself for smaller subtasks as well, to maintain positivity and change your focus from the finished goal to enjoying the process of each task. Your reward doesn’t have to be big to shift your mindset; something as simple as a relaxation break is energising and will improve your efficiency as you move onto your next goal!