8 Ways To Break Your Procrastination Habits
Posted on February 24, 2016 by Matrix Education
Have you ever found yourself spending hours on YouTube, when you need to finish (or start) that essay due tomorrow? Or trawling through BuzzFeed instead of completing that chore you were supposed to do a week ago? Rather than working on an undesirable task, procrastinators tend to avoid or delay it, by engaging in other, more enjoyable activities instead. The most common reasons for procrastination include: feeling overwhelmed due to a lack of skills or the size of the task, dislike of the task, perfectionism, poor concentration and being bored with the activity. To help you with this pesky (and common) problem, we’ve compiled some techniques that should help you maximise your productivity.
1. Try structured procrastination
This involves creating a list of tasks to do, ordering it by importance and urgency, and then completing the tasks that give you the least resistance first (the ones lower down on the list).
Why it works:
This assists with productivity, as instead of turning immediately to time-wasting activities, you are completing items on your list that require your attention. However, it is crucial that you arrange your tasks in the correct manner; otherwise you may never complete the important tasks. You need to pick the right projects for the top of the list and work your way up to them gradually, as you gain greater confidence in your productivity.
However, if there’s a task that you find particularly hard and unpleasant, it can help to do that task first. That way, all the other ones will seem a breeze in comparison. This is particularly true for big assignments or assessments, which can seem very overwhelming at first. Alternatively, do a task you like and then switch to one you dislike, so that you can use the momentum from the first task to help complete the more difficult task.
2. Test the Pomodoro Technique
This technique has the following step-by-step process:
- Pick a task to complete and spend 25 minutes working on it;
- Take a 5-minute break. This 30 minute session is known as one Pomodoro.
- Every 2 hours, which is made up of four Pomodoros, give yourself a longer break after working on your task – one that is long enough to help you recharge!
- Start the process again.
Why it works:
This technique can help you churn through your work faster, as you are required to stick to a strict schedule. It develops your self-discipline and you may even grow to like it, as you begin to see results. The constant timing involved in the process can also help you to streamline your work process, as you become mindful of how long certain tasks take to complete. This technique works most effectively if you plan beforehand what you would like to cover in these Pomodoro sessions. To help with the planning (and scheduling), you may wish to create a Pomodoro calendar and record your progress with this technique. By planning ahead, you will also be able to inform others around you, when the best times are to distract you.
3. Use productivity programs
Why it works:
These programs help to limit procrastination by blocking distracting websites such as Facebook and YouTube, on all browsers of your devices. Once the timer has been set, it is very hard to disable or uninstall the program before the study block is over.
4. Set regular, small goals with deadlines
If your goal is too big and/or you don’t know how to start, break the task down into smaller parts and focus on just one section at a time. If you find yourself still procrastinating, break down each section into even smaller goals. Set deadlines for each of the goals you make, but try to keep these time-limits realistic and flexible.
Why it works:
These small wins will make your goal feel more manageable and will help you gain a sense of progress and confidence, encouraging you to tackle larger tasks.
To do this,
- Make a monthly to-do list;
- Prioritise the list from the most important/urgent tasks to the least;
- Break down each task into smaller steps required to achieve your larger goal;
- Schedule them into your daily to-do lists;
- Remember to set deadlines for these small goals – this strategy helps to keep you on track and decreases the chance of you rushing to finish the task at the last minute.
5. Study with others who share your goal
Complete the task with someone else present. You ideally want someone that shares your goal, or is as equally motivated as you to complete their own goal. It’s important to pick the right companion to help you stay on track. You don’t need someone with you who will just be another distraction!
Why it works:
Having someone with you will make the task less daunting, and may even allow you to learn from each other. In addition, telling others that you are working towards certain goals keeps you accountable to your plans, adds significance to your commitment, and allows you to receive extra support from others.
6. Try the ‘5-minutes’ rule
Pick a task and vow to spend 5 minutes on the task. Then, see if you can tolerate spending another 5 minutes on the task, and so on. After which, you can choose to make the chunks larger (for example, 10 minute chunks).
Why it works:
This strategy may not sound as if it would work, because there isn’t a lot you can do in five minutes. However, for some people, it is often a highly effective technique, as starting a task is often the hardest part for procrastinators to face. By committing to working on a task for just a few minutes, you are building your momentum and the motivation to complete it. You may find you don’t even want to stop. Even if you find you don’t want to do another 5 minute chunk consecutively, at least you will have a clearer sense of what the task entails, so you will be more likely to come back to it later.
7. Try temptation bundling
Combine items that you don’t want to do, with activities that you do enjoy. For example, if you want to listen to new music as well as reading your notes, you could try to find the best music to get you in a productive mood.
Why it works:
In 2013, Milkman and colleagues conducted a study where they recruited several hundred university students and examined whether combining gratifying “want” activities such as checking Facebook, with “should” activities, such as studying or exercising, would increase “should” behaviours. They found that those who received gym-only access to audio books and those who were encouraged to only listen to audiobooks at the gym were much more likely to go to the gym than the control group, who had no activity guidelines given to them.
This technique encourages productivity as it reduces the time given over to temptations and increases the likelihood of engaging in productive behaviours. If you enjoy going to a certain café and having a certain coffee, try to only allow yourself to go there, if you agree to study or work on an assignment there for a certain period of time. If you enjoy walking, try to do this while listening to recorded study notes.
8. Know Yourself
Being honest with yourself about your productivity habits is your first step to beating procrastination. Reflect honestly on the times of the day in which you are most efficient and what your effective motivators are, so that you can create a work plan that is realistic and uses the productivity tips that will work for you.
Why it works:
It is essential to find out when you tend to concentrate the best. For example, you are probably less likely to want to start a hard assignment when you are tired after school or work. It may be better to leave this time for easier tasks and to set more difficult tasks on the weekend. It’s important to schedule appropriately to maximise productivity. Again, it can be helpful to know that you often take a certain amount of time to get yourself motivated enough to start, so you can factor this in when you are scheduling other activities.
Another strategy is to talk yourself into starting an unwanted task. When you procrastinate, you tend to talk yourself out of doing things. Instead you should try to talk yourself into working, by thinking about things that motivate you. You might say “If I start now, I won’t be stressed out about it later” or “If I finish, I can enjoy my evening and watch a movie.” It may help to write down your goals and think about how the task will help you achieve these goals.
Lastly, be persistent. There’s no easy fix for procrastination, it takes time and effort. Keep practising the strategies that work most effectively for you, and reward yourself when you achieve difficult goals. Even if you experiences lapses in productivity, don’t be disheartened or lose track of your goal. Instead, try to start again with an easier task first to get yourself back into the swing of things.
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