Another cup of coffee before you start work? Tempting, but no!
If you regularly check your to-do list or emails instead of actually working on your tasks or put social media before housework or exercising, then you might be… a procrastinator.
It’s normal to leave daily tasks for later in order to help your colleague, or to have a break from cleaning your bathroom and play a favourite track with a big glass of wine in hand instead. However, if you do this too often, or even over and over again, you might need to recognise the fact that procrastination is becoming a problem.
Procrastination, to put it simply, is the avoidance of doing a task. Everyone puts things off, but when that affects our long-term plans and future, then we should think how to beat procrastination. Why would you cancel your doctor’s appointment to play your favourite computer game? Procrastination reflects our lack of self-control. Imagine that your most important exam is in two months, but instead of doing research and studying you look for distracters: another song on YouTube, another episode of your favourite show, a chat with friends, another minute on Facebook, and so. Sounds familiar, right? Especially in our society, where distraction and consumption are more than overwhelming.
The good news is that everyone can overcome procrastination. Easy to say, but how, one might ask. The key is to understand how it works. Everyone wants to accomplish goals and predict their own future. Why are you doing this university course? Exactly! You see yourself as a future professional in your chosen field. But the devil in our heads makes us addicted to pleasure and instant gratification.
You don’t want to wait for a few years to be happy – you want it now. Okay, let’s put it this way: your exam is in a week, and there you are with a big book in your hands. Your hand starts itching though: it’s the voice of your small demon, “Just one more video on YouTube, these kittens are so cute!” There’s nothing you can do: you want to swallow the full pleasure of this cuteness, and in the end this video leads to another one, and then another one, till you’re too tired and you go to bed.
However, this pleasure is not pure. It’s marked by shame and guilt, “Did I really leave the letter my boss asked me to send for tomorrow? I’m such a mess!” And somehow these feelings grow into panic. There are only 20 hours till the deadline. ‘There’s no time!’, the only thought in the procrastinator’s mind. And if they’re lucky, they somehow use their last resources to complete their tasks before the important event, appointment, meeting, or exam. 100 pages of a thesis somehow appear in the morning, but without any of the usual satisfaction that embraces creativity. However, if they’re not so lucky – they fail. Sounds scary, doesn’t it?
So, how to defeat procrastination?
First of all, repeat to yourself that everything is an internal choice. It’s you who chooses to try a new colour on your nails or to have another cigarette, or maybe a piece of cake, instead of finishing your blog post. There’s no actual devil in your head.
Also, be honest. Realise that you say ‘Yes’ to unimportant tasks way too often. Do you really have to make sushi the night before your dissertation? It is way more exotic and fun, but try to say ‘No’ for a change.
Structure your work to avoid procrastination, and structure it right. Make a plan full of small and manageable tasks, and, please, don’t include another video that will teach you origami techniques on it. If you want to become a great dancer, small steps, such as practicing only for 30 minutes every day, will help you reach great goals. This plan should be realistic as well. Don’t put any pressure on yourself if you don’t become a ballet dancer from the Balshoi Theatre. To sum it up, plan! Have an exam? Plan your research, structure your thesis, write and revise, and practice your presentation.
And the trickiest part: start actually doing what you’ve planned. To accomplish this, don’t be scared to use social support, have someone that will take your phone away from you or someone who’ll bombard you with harsh words that might bring some rationality back to your life. Also, stay away from distractions. Turn the music off, for example. With time, you’ll see that the urge of staring at the birds outside or checking your notifications will decrease, and you’ll find pleasure in real things. The fact that you’ve almost finished with your essay, for instance, will make you more confident and radiant, and will make you motivated to do more from your list.
Last but not least, don’t forget to celebrate your success with friends. Now when you’ve beaten your habits and procrastination and you have everything done days before THE deadline, you can enjoy your time and relax.