How to Stop Procrastinating
We all want to learn how to stop procrastinating! This article will show you some great tips and tricks to do just that!
As you approach your schoolwork, be aware of
your Current Self, which seeks immediate gratification
and your Aspirational Self, which drives the goals you want to attain.
When you set goals for yourself, like acing a final exam this semester or going to an Ivy League School, you are making plans for your Aspirational Self. You envision what you want your life to be like in the future. Researchers have found that it is pretty easy for your brain to see the value in taking actions with long-term benefits when you are accessing your Aspirational Self. The Aspirational Self values long-term goal attainment.
However, while the Aspirational Self can set goals, only your Current Self can take immediate action. When the time comes to make a quick decision, you are no longer choosing from the viewpoint of your Aspirational Self; your Current Self is driving your brain. Studies show that the Current Self likes instant gratification, not long-term goal attainment.
So, the Current Self and the Aspirational Self are often at odds.
- The Aspirational Self wants excellent grades to get into the best colleges.
- The Current Self wants to eat a donut, check out social media, or play a video game.
- The Aspirational Self wants to study several days ahead of a test and dedicate enough time to complete a paper to meet the standards to get into the school of your choice.
- The Current Self can’t see into the future and doesn’t realize that poor choices today will impact your ability to get into the top schools on your list.
Your Current Self rationalizes your choices because it’s far easier to see the value of having a donut or playing a game and not doing the necessary schoolwork, resulting in procrastination. When you’re procrastinating, the Aspirational Self feels guilty for not starting what you know you should be doing, which causes even more stress.
When you need to complete a task, you rely primarily
on your self-discipline to take action.
- Your self-discipline is further supported if your motivations are aligned to get things done as scheduled.
- You may experience distractions like lack of clarity, anxiety, or fear of failure in some instances.
- You sometimes may experience feelings like exhaustion (from only getting 4 hours of sleep) or worry about getting into the right college. Both can interfere with your self-discipline and motivation to do the right thing.
- When your distractions outweigh your self-discipline and immediate motivation, you will justify procrastinating.
- You procrastinate until you have to complete a task: study for tomorrow’s math test or finish a paper due tomorrow. When an assignment is due tomorrow, you force your self-discipline and motivations to align and take action, and you cram to get the job done in the time you have left. See the graphic below:
While this may occasionally work because you’re smart and can use brute force, it is not sustainable and results in subpar work (because you are tired). It also creates further anxiety and stress because you know you could have done better if you had just spent more time planning properly.
To understand why you procrastinate, you need to identify the primary reasons.
Review the list below:
- Anxiety: in light of potential negative feedback from teachers or parents.
- Overwhelming feelings: often while lacking a plan to organize your day to complete the tasks correctly.
- Unclear goals: generally vague about when and how you intend to study or complete your assignment.
- Perfectionism: in the form of expecting that your work must be your best and cannot have any errors.
- Fear of failure: concerns over how failure reflects on your abilities and skills, either for yourself or in the eyes of others.
- Task reluctance: especially in cases where you find an assignment worthless, boring or unpleasant.
- Lack of personal motivation: often due to not caring about academic performance, feeling disconnected from your Aspirational Self, or having goals that are too far in the future.
- Physical or emotional exhaustion: often due to a combination of a high academic workload, sports, and lack of sleep due to distractions and overcommitments.
- Annoyance: generally toward studying or assignments directly, or toward their source, such as a parent pushing you to do well in a subject that doesn’t interest you.
- Thrill-seeking: waiting until just before your deadline to work on the task to make a boring assignment more exciting.
- Poor study environment: generally due to many distractions or temptations present.
- Lack of clarity from teachers: for example, when not having thorough directions and due dates for a specific assignment.
Take a few minutes to reflect and decide which are the top three culprits for you. If you determine it’s something not listed, note it down. By naming the reason, you can now determine specific actions to help manage or eliminate them.
What Specific Actions Can You Take To Stop Procrastinating?
Enough about the reasons for procrastination. Check out some specific actions you can take to help you reduce your procrastination. Please do the following in the order specified:
Make a list of your Top 5 Aspirational Self Goals that you want to accomplish when you are finished with high school:
- Graduate with an X GPA
- Be accepted to Wharton and X other schools
- Get 8 hours of sleep a night–not a week 😉
Make a list of your Top 5 Current Self Activities (aka eating donuts) that you want to enjoy while in high school. For example:
- Posting on TikTok
- Perusing your social media feed
- Reaching level “quadrillion” in your favorite game
You now know your top aspirational goals and those “guilty pleasures” that might currently distract you and cause you to procrastinate. We’re going to help you figure out a simple way to get the grades and sleep you seek while also enjoying a video game or social media along the way!
First, you need to get all your competing priorities down on one piece of paper (or Google Doc) using the Eisenhower Method.
Eisenhower Method helps you stop procrastinating
Eisenhower differentiated all tasks between urgent and important.
- Urgent tasks are those tasks that require immediate attention.
- Important tasks are those tasks that contribute to your long-term success and personal core values.
It is essential to understand that not everything that is urgent is important, and not everything that is important is urgent.
Make a list of everything you need to do in the next month for school, chores, relationships–everything! Don’t overthink it, just list it on a piece of paper. This will become your Master List of Activities. Next, write 1, 2, 3, or 4 next to each item according to the following:
1- Do First: Most important and urgent tasks to be completed today or tomorrow
2- Schedule: Important but not as urgent. Should be scheduled for a specific time on a calendar
3- Delegate/Get Help: Urgent but not important. Find someone else to do it for you.
4- Don’t Do: Neither important nor urgent. Don’t do it at all.
After everything is listed with a number next to it, go back and rank the priority of the 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s. You don’t need to rank order the 4’s.
Now that you have identified all your tasks for the month, use the Ivy Lee Method to help you manage your daily priorities.
The Ivy Lee Method
- Review your Eisenhower list at the end of each day and write down the three most important tasks you need to accomplish tomorrow. The key is not to write down more than three tasks.
- Rank those three items in order of their importance.
- When you begin your tasks tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until you finish the first task before moving on to the next task.
- Address the rest of your list in the same way. Move any unfinished tasks to a new list of three tasks for the following day.
- Repeat this process every day.
As you get comfortable with three tasks per day, add one more task each day until you address up to six essential tasks a day.
The Gary Keller “One Thing” Question
As you set your priorities with the Ivy Lee Method above, use Gary Keller’s “One Thing” question to guide you:
What is the one thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?
(Go ahead and read that sentence again to let it sink in. It’s a very compelling question!)
How will this sequence effectively help you stop procrastinating?
- It’s simple enough to actually work!
- It forces you to make tough decisions.
- It eliminates excuses for getting started. Stopping your favorite activity in order to start a paper can be challenging. If you spend just 5-10 minutes (without distractions) outlining what you want to write, it will become easier to progress with your work in the next scheduled time.
- It requires you to single-task! Contrary to popular belief, multitasking doesn’t work. Many people think that multitasking drives better productivity, but the science shows this not to be the case. The exact opposite is true. Having fewer priorities leads to better work.
(If you face an emergency, you need to deal with it and then return to your top 3 items.)
Reward Bundling Method
So you may ask, “When do I get to reward myself for doing my school work? When can I eat a donut or play a video game?”
Reward bundling is when a sufficient amount of time is spent doing the necessary tasks to reach your goals like schoolwork (something you should do but don’t really want to do), followed by a scheduled amount of time for nonproductive activities like social media or video games (something you want to do but really shouldn’t because you have school work to do.)
Procrastination is the resistance to starting a task. Prioritizing will help eliminate this problem. Once you schedule and begin a task, it’s easier to keep working. With the bundling method, you can “reward” yourself with a donut or video game after you have completed your task(s) for the day. This satisfies both desires. Knowing that you are taking care of both what you need to do and what you want to do reduces procrastination, stress, and anxiety while enabling you to perform better!
Using Visual Cues to Show Progress to Stop Procrastinating
- Find two small containers and three marbles (or paper clips if you don’t have marbles.)
- Place all the marbles in one container.
- Each day as you complete each task mentioned in the Ivy Lee Method above, take a marble and place it in the second container.
- This visual reference will provide clear evidence that you are making progress!
- As you complete the tasks and place all three marbles in the second container, you can “reward” your accomplishments with a “guilty pleasure.”
- Keep the container with the marbles where you and your parents or accountability partner (more on that later) can see it to show that you are making progress.
- Start each day with all the marbles/paperclips in the left basket.
Four steps for using the Pomodoro Technique
You might want to use this method to gain traction and reduce your procrastination. When dealing with a specific task to be completed, pick a place free of distractions (phone, texts, TV, games, noise, etc.)
- Set a timer to 25 minutes.
- Work on the task for 25 minutes.
- Take a 5-minute break to rest and renew your motivation to continue, then start another 25-minute session.
- After completing four 25-minute sessions, take a 20-30 minute break to play a game or check your phone.
It is essential to respect each time allotment. Avoid telling yourself that if you play the game for an hour instead of 30 minutes, you’ll make it up later. You’re just kidding yourself and not changing behaviors.
Select an Accountability Partner to stop procrastinating
- Research shows that if you say you will start a new habit (like no more procrastinating), the likelihood of completion is less than 10%.
- If you share with those who care about you (friends and family), the likelihood increases to 65% that you will embrace the habit.
- If you select an accountability partner, the completion rate increases to 95%.
Pick someone who cares about you and who you respect to hold you accountable. This should be someone you will actively listen to when they make suggestions and not consider it nagging when they share constructive criticism. Remember, their only motivation is to help you be your best YOU!
Procrastinating is a tough habit to break, but you can do it! Remember: you’re looking for progress, not perfection.
The hardest part is getting started.
If you employ the strategies in this article, you will see tremendous improvement. Start with one of the tools and add more as you experience progress. As you stop procrastinating, you will get better grades, which results in getting into a better college. Your college quest benefits from understanding what makes you tick–your personal core values, strengths, weaknesses, and what you are passionate about. Combining this knowledge with your efforts to stop procrastinating will significantly increase your chances of getting into the top colleges on your list. To get a head start on your competition, click here to learn more about our Self-Discovery Course. Check out the 3-minute video about what you will gain from your self-discovery.
If you found this helpful or have other ways to help you deal with procrastination, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.