Fall can be hard. Classes and extracurriculars are fully underway, and it feels like you need to take advantage of the last hours of sun before cold, dark winter sets in. It’s easy to find reasons not to get started on looming tasks, so we’ve gathered some tips to help you better understand and master your procrastinating tendencies.
Before you can beat procrastination, you need to understand it. So, why exactly do people procrastinate? Consider the following possibilities:
- Perceived Low Task Value—Some things just don’t feel important even when you intellectually understand that they need to get done—or have heard your parents and teachers say so a zillion times. College can feel far enough away that doing your ACT homework this week doesn’t feel necessary.
- Expectations—When you know things are important, they might still feel overwhelming, time-consuming, or otherwise painful to do. Someone may know it’s important for their family to eat, but that doesn’t make me them grocery shopping.
- Fear of Failure—Trying can be scary, especially when effort doesn’t guarantee success. If studying for hours doesn’t promise you the grade you want, it’s easy to justify not studying at all.
- Personality—It’s the cold, hard truth: some folks are just more likely to procrastinate, or get distracted, than others. Shifting to a new task or focusing for an extended period of time on the job at hand are learned skills that come more or less easily depending on your brain chemistry and development.
Great. Now you know why you’re procrastinating! So, what should you do about i? Try out a combination of some of the tips below.
- Make the task fun (or as fun as possible)—Study at your favorite coffee shop. Fill out college applications with a friend. Make an awesome “organize my papers” music playlist.
- Increase the value of the task—Define a reward for when you finish. Take 5 minutes and brainstorm the ways that you will benefit from completing the task. Talk with your parents about how they might be willing to support your efforts.
- Track the extent to which reality matches your expectations—If you shy away from tasks that you think take a long time, write down how long you expect them to take & how long they actually take. Often things aren’t as bad as you expect and having data to back that up is powerful.
- Chunk it up—Consider breaking big tasks into smaller ones or surrounding unpleasant ones with things you like to do. A marathon session of anything is tough, but 15 or 20 minutes of anything feels doable. Set a timer to make commitment even more concrete and appealing to your brain.
- Keep Track of Successes—Taking 5 minutes at the end of the day to jot down your daily wins has been shown to increase motivation and self-confidence. It’s true that no single task promises to make you valedictorian, but the steps you take can add up and move you toward your goals.
- Limit distractions—If you’re distractible, own it, and set yourself up for success. Define a place to work where it’s quiet. Put your phone in the closet (or the bottom of a well, if necessary) for 2 hours so that you can get things done. Build-in 5 minutes of meditation to transition from after-school hang out time to work time.
You’ll never be able to banish procrastination entirely, and that’s ok! Your goal shouldn’t be unattainable perfection; it should be to strengthen your ability to approach tasks in a way that feels efficient but not grueling. If your struggles with time management are really getting to you, contact us and one of our executive functioning coaches can help.