The Chambers Dictionary defines procrastination as “to put off till some future time, to defer”. There are many reasons why people tend to put off essential tasks. They could range from the assignment being unpleasant and they’d rather be doing something else or they don’t know how to go about it. Perfectionists often put things off as they aren’t sure they have the time or capacity to do the task perfectly.
To get going, the first step is to decide that you need to do something, and it’s important to rid yourself of all potential disruptions before you begin working so you don’t get needlessly sidetracked halfway through your task.
Here are some more ideas that could be useful.
Do it first and then reward yourself with something you’d do. Everyone loves being rewarded. It’s important to give yourself incentives, no matter how small. It could be something as simple as, “If I work on this assignment for an hour, I’ll watch an episode of my favourite TV show tonight.” Or it could be a bigger goal like, “If I get an A in math this semester, I’ll go to my favourite restaurant.” It’s easier to pay attention when something is at stake.
It can also be helpful to do unpleasant things first thing in the morning, when you’re fresh and energetic and also when you can’t think of a really good excuse.
Do it more often. If you find yourself struggling with a task that you feel you ought to do once a week, try doing it every day. That way, it will be harder to put off, and you will feel worse if you don’t get it done that day.
Part of the reason we procrastinate is because the task at hand seems too daunting. It’s a lot easier to get started on a project when you establish simple, reachable goals rather than a big, vague plan.
Write it down. It sounds odd, but it’s much harder to ignore a task once you have written it on your to-do list, especially if it’s a list of things to do on that day. Invest in a planner or start using the calendar app on your phone. This makes it much easier to keep track of individual assignments and important due dates.
Arrange to do it with someone else. If you struggle to motivate yourself to go to exercise, for example, go with a friend. First of all, you’ve arranged to meet at a particular time, and you will feel bad if you let your friend down. Secondly, we enjoy things more if we do them with someone else.
Ask ‘will this really be better if I put it off?’ This is a great way of persuading yourself to do small but unpleasant tasks like cleaning the house or having a difficult conversation with someone you don’t like. If it won’t get any better for being put off, then just get on and do it.