Procrastination is a problem. We all do it, whether by leaving that paper until tomorrow or not studying until the night before. Luckily it is fairly easy to reverse the habit by starting to practice good time management techniques. See the Thirteen Steps below and keep your goals in mind!
1. Examine your "shoulds."
This applies to "oughts," "musts," and "have to’s." When we feel obligated to someone else we may feel inhibited. Change these statements to "wants," and then you assume responsibility yourself for doing a task. Rather than saying, "I should write my paper," change it to: "I want to write my paper."
2. Look at your excuses rationally.
In fact, make up a list of the excuses you use which prevent you from getting a job done. Then examine each excuse and beside it write out a more realistic thought. For example, "I’m not in the mood" can be reinterpreted to "Mood doesn’t get the job done."
3. Use self-motivating statements.
How we define a task can alter our motivation for completing it. Many people repeat phrases to themselves, or even tack notes in visible places, which serve to spur them on. Try out phrases like: "The sooner I’m done, the sooner I’m free," or "There’s no time like the present."
4. Make up a To Do List.
Write out a list of things you need to do this week (or day...or month) and then cross them off, one by one, when they are done. With this list you can see exactly what needs to be accomplished, and you can get a great sense of fulfillment as the list gets whittled down.
5. Set priorities.
On your To Do list, rank the jobs that need to be done in order of their importance. Then just focus on one job at a time.
6. Break the task down into smaller pieces.
This is one of the most important ways to combat procrastination. Write down all the steps involved in your project and see each step as a manageable job that can get done with little effort. Even if we dislike some duties, we can handle them if they last only for a short time.
7. Look at time.
We sometimes have a poor conception of how much time it takes to complete a task. Rather than panicking at the thought that you only have a week to get that term paper written, break the parts of the task down into real time. You may find that this is only a three-hour job.
8. Take a stand.
Write yourself a contract to complete a job and sign it. Or tell a supportive friend that you plan to finish a job by a certain date. Make your project a public endeavor rather than keeping it to yourself. It helps to gain the support of others when you feel stymied.
Make sure you have a clean work area and all of your materials in front of you. Eliminate distractions like the TV blaring in the background if you need to concentrate. Warn others that you will be unavailable (or unbearable) during a certain time.
10. Manage your stress.
There are a number of techniques one can use to deal with anxiety: deep breathing, progressive relaxation, visualization, physical exercise, relaxation tapes, humor and music. These techniques can be learned in therapy.
11. Just get started.
You don’t have to wait until you feel inspired to write that paper. Just write whatever comes to mind, and you can revise it later. A journey begins with one small step.
12. Reward yourself when you accomplish a small goal.
Rather than procrastinating a whole afternoon by calling friends, call a friend only when you have written a page of the report as a way of rewarding yourself.
13. Look at all you have accomplished.
Rather than punishing yourself for not having done enough, take the more positive approach of examining all that you have done. Is the glass half empty or half full? Celebrate the completion of your task. Have a specific reward in mind for when your project is finished. Go out for dinner. Go to a movie. Take a weekend trip. Have a party. The celebration should be equal to your task.