How to Stop Procrastinating
Procrastination is the act of putting things off, delaying, or avoiding important tasks by choosing to do something else less important. On this week’s secondary school assembly, we shared some thoughts on taking explicit steps to avoid procrastination. The following advice is something parents can use to discuss strategies with your daughters if they find themselves avoiding their studies.
If you want to learn how to stop procrastinating, the first step is to recognise that you’re doing it. The more overwhelmed and stressed out you are, the harder it is to stop. It is a habit that can become a consistent pattern of behaviour if left unchecked. We sometimes choose to do something we know we shouldn’t be doing. We also do it when tasks seem too daunting or when we don’t believe we have the capabilities to take on the work. Importantly, procrastination is different from laziness which is an unwillingness to do anything. Constant procrastination can cause you to be late with assessment or perhaps even not completing it at all. It can make you feel stressed and unmotivated.
There are several ways to help.
1. Accept that we all procrastinate sometimes
Accepting procrastination as a normal human behaviour reduces feelings of guilt. If you want to stop procrastinating, ditch the guilt, and understand why you’re doing it in the first place.
2. Recognise you’re procrastinating
An important step to overcoming procrastination is to recognise that you’re doing it. In turn, this helps you identify the reasons behind it. It often happens when you create an impossible vision of a future you want to create, or you feel overwhelmed with everything you must do. To learn how to stop, recognise why you’re procrastinating so you can stop the cycle. Eliminate the causes one by one.
3. Set your goals
We can procrastinate because our to-do list seems too daunting or overwhelming. The way to stop is to set measurable, achievable goals to work towards. When we don’t have a destination to work towards, we can feel confused, stuck, and powerless. Set smaller but achievable goals that include your objectives and some concrete action steps to reach them.
Procrastination causes inaction. To stop procrastinating, it’s important to take that first step. When you have big goals, the goal may feel scary and out of reach. If you feel this way, get clear on the outcome you want and lay out the first step you can take, however small. Then commit to acting.
5. Get organised
The effect of finding work overwhelming is a feeling of loss of control. You can get organised to start a task by breaking it down into smaller steps you can take right now. Learn how to break goals down into bite size chunks with clear measurements and deadlines. Planning your week in advance will help.
6. Cut your to-do list
We sometimes procrastinate when we have too much on our minds and too many things to do. Cut back your to-do list so you have a smaller number of activities to do each day. A long to-do list without clear priorities can cause problems. By simplifying your to-do list to three or four key tasks, you can free up your mind. If left unchecked, a long to-do list will constantly distract you from reaching your goals.
7. Create accountability
Accountability can come from different sources including coaching, peer groups, friends, accountability partners or mentors. Having someone to help you get clear on your goals, understand the obstacles you face and help you build strategies to overcome them will help you get into action. If you want to learn how to stop wasting time, identify a task, find an accountability partner to work with and take that first step on starting that task now.
You can learn to stop procrastinating. You can get clear on your goals, prioritise your most important work and get started. Use these tips to learn how to stop procrastinating and be more productive. When you stop procrastinating, you can manage your time, energy and focus better. You can use this newfound focus to start taking action to help you reach your goals quicker and with less stress.
Dr John Fry
Deputy Principal - Studies