Your ultimate guide to anti-procrastination techniques

October 19, 2015
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Assessment deadlines are creeping up, exams are just around the corner, and you know you’ve to get on top of it all.

But first, you need a snack.

Maybe a quick scroll through your Facebook feed.

And Instagram.

Another snack, an episode or three of Narcos, and now you’re feeling a bit tired so you’d better wait until tomorrow to start those notes.

Sound familiar? It’s been found that over 70 per cent of uni students are prone to procrastination. But while it may begin with a few innocent instances of avoidance, it can soon become a dangerous habit that doesn’t only negatively affect performance and productivity, but also our mental health.

So stop making excuses (no, watching that cat video isn’t vital), and get your head back in the game with the help of these tips.

Break it down

That wave of panic you get when reading over the details of an upcoming assignment and seeing how much there is to do is a surefire trigger for procrastination.

There’s no point in trying to tackle it all at once, so make it more doable by breaking the task into smaller chunks and approaching each part individually. Work out what each step entails and how you need to go about it. The steps can be as simple as is necessary for you to feel more at ease, and with the completion of each one, a sense of accomplishment will only motivate you further.

Plan it out

If you’ve never been one for planning ahead, now’s the time to embrace it. Start by buying a planner or downloading an online template. Identify what needs to be done and what takes priority, then break up your day with appropriate timeslots for each task.

Stick to your schedule, and anything you didn’t complete can be returned to at the end of the day or scheduled for the next day. Avoid burning out by allocating yourself a few breaks here and there.

Eliminate distractions

Distractions are simultaneously a procrastinator’s best friend and worst enemy. We all know how quickly motivation can dissipate when social media comes into the mix, so test out a distraction-blocking app and turn off your phone.

If family members, housemates or your furry friend are the cause of distraction, relocate yourself and your workload to a nearby library or café where you can study in peace and enjoy a change of scenery.

Get real

There’s no point in scheduling three hours of non-stop study if you know it’s not likely to get done. Keep in mind your abilities and weaknesses and plan accordingly. If the goals you set are unrealistic and unachievable, you’re just going to become stressed and more likely to put things off.

You also need to be realistic about the excuses you’re making to yourself. Will you really be more motivated tomorrow or can get through that last paragraph tonight? Stalling unnecessarily will only make you feel shitty.

Treat yo’ self

Whenever you tick a task off your to-do list, celebrate your accomplishment by rewarding yourself. Be it hanging out with friends, watching a movie or even going for a run (apparently some people are into that kind of thing), you deserve to let loose and enjoy yourself after putting in the hard yards. Setting rewards will also give you an incentive to work towards, so you’ll finally be able to enjoy that Netflix binge knowing you earned it. 

Aobh O’Brien-Moody

Aobh studies journalism at UNSW, eats too much ice cream and is half Irish in case you couldn’t tell. She tweets at @Aobh_OBM.

Image: Gabriela Pinto, Flickr Creative Commons license