It’s a brand-new year, and suddenly thoughts on how to better ourselves start popping up in our heads. This rush of motivation helps us concoct many goals, plans and resolutions we are certain will be fulfilled as the year progresses. We promise to lose (or gain) weight, to achieve high grades at school and to finally continue that passion project we left forgotten. But as the weeks pass — and the number of pages on the calendar start getting lower and lower — so is our drive. What is it exactly that makes it so hard to stick to a goal, without losing concentration midway through? It’s the ugly monster of procrastination.
Just think about the countless times you’ve frantically turned on your computer at 11 p.m. and started working on an assignment that’s due at midnight. Or how about when you have all the good intentions to do a study session, but the allure to browse YouTube or Facebook — “for only two more minutes” — later turns into two wasted hours. We’ve all been in those situations, and we tend to joke about them. However, continuing this trend will only strengthen procrastination dominance over you.
Funnily enough, we even procrastinate when it comes to our sleeping time. I have woken up tired, irritated and groggy. Thinking it will make it better, I grab a quick cup of coffee and rush to school because I’m going to be late to class. I make the awful decision to skip breakfast, which means I’m depleted of energy halfway through the day. I guess this gives me a good excuse to skip going to the gym today. If this sounds like you too, it becomes apparent how we — sometimes unknowingly — invite procrastination into our lives. And when we do it, it’s like a magnet that keeps attracting negative things in our way.
Dealing with procrastination takes some serious commitment. People prefer sticking to their old ways, following paths that require the least amount of effort. It’s difficult to establish new habits, especially challenging ones. However, there are techniques that — at first glance — might sound like common sense, but once actually applied can have powerful effects on your productivity. For students specifically, studying, healthy lifestyle choices and completing personal projects are some areas in which procrastination reigns. Here are some tips on how to deal with them.
The habit of creating a schedule for your studies is something that can’t be stressed enough. Don’t simply write down on a crumpled piece of paper that you have some assignments due next week. Instead, be as specific as you can, using whatever type of recording device you like best. Write things on your schedule in advance and give yourself some buffer time to avoid doing tasks at the last minute. The quality of whatever you produce will be higher if you work on it periodically, as opposed to rushing things.
On days you want to be extra productive, make a schedule of the whole day, hour by hour. For example, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., you’ll work on your Calculus assignment. After that, you’ll reward yourself for the hard work by scheduling a one-hour session of an activity which provides you with high-level entertainment. Re-energized, you are ready to tackle another focus-consuming task from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. We procrastinate because we grossly miscalculate the amount of time we have available. Once we write it down, it becomes evident that days are shorter than we think — so we start prioritizing tasks more effectively.
As with studying (and anything else for that matter), scheduling is pivotal in making sure we follow our plan to live a healthy lifestyle. If you want to make a habit of working out, allocate an hour of your day specifically towards that. We all have rotating schedules, so it might sound difficult. But by working out at random hours — on random days — we kill any sort of momentum. This makes it more likely to come up with excuses that keep feeding the procrastination monster, until it grows so big we lose control and give up. It’s no wonder why so many people sign-up for gym memberships at the beginning of January just to drop it completely a few weeks later.
Eating right is another part of the equation. You can work out all you want, but without a proper diet, the results will be severely limited. This lack of progress will, understandably, make people want to stop. Planning meals before the start of the week is the best first step to adhere to the diet. Once you know exactly what you’ll be eating on a certain day, you are less likely to do fast-food impulse buys.
Defeating procrastination revolves around how well you plan things in advance. If you want to succeed in your goals like reading more, finishing projects or learning a new skill, you have to develop a plan and follow it. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just writing things down — and finding a slot of free time in your schedule (even if it is 15 minutes) — will put you farther ahead than most. By the end of the year you’ll be reaping the benefits from accomplishing your goals. Or you can choose to not do anything and be a slave of procrastination forever.