The scenario is all too familiar: a professor gives you an assignment with a couple of weeks until the due date, then you find yourself with just one day left to complete an entire essay and scramble to do it in one night — yet somehow it still gets done.
How Does it Feel?
Procrastination can manifest in different ways for different people. For a lot of us, procrastination is a result of feeling “stuck.” Even though you know the deadline is approaching and you know you have things that you need to do, you can’t help but just put it off until the last viable second. Almost like it is impossible to start. For others, it can simply be laziness. Procrastination is not always complicated — sometimes you really just don’t want to do the work.
So, Why Do We Procrastinate?
While there are many studies and articles that chalk up procrastinating to anxiety or perfectionism, the overall consensus is that the real reason for procrastination lies in the lack of motivation — that lack of motivation stems from the fact that despite all of the oppressing deadlines, we still manage to get the work done, even though it is not our best work. It is almost a phenomenon, but it creates detrimental cycles. This is what researchers call a “chronic manner.” Chronic manners are created by when exhaustion and anxiety get in the way of self-control and motivation, which are what are usually relied on to complete assignments. Feeling disconnected from your future self, having abstract goals and overwhelming feelings that seem out of our immediate control all also contribute to chronic procrastination.
Ways to Stop Procrastinating
According to an article from Harvard Business Review, the top two tricks to stop or encourage the stopping of procrastinating are creating habits and changing your thought patterns.
Establishing a system for starting new tasks or learning how to tackle labor-intensive work are healthy habits to create. For even just 10 minutes a day, get in the habit of working on something you have been avoiding. Think about it in a way that you would not be doing anything else important in those 10 minutes anyways, so you may as well do the intro for that essay you have been putting off.
Changing your thoughts and emotional patterns is crucial to stop procrastinating. We tend to avoid tasks that stir up negative emotions like anxiety or uncertainty — so we’ll avoid them altogether. By “detangling” your emotions, you may be able to get rid of a mental block that prevents you from completing tasks. If a task is boring, pick something to reward yourself for after completing it. If an assignment makes you anxious, start by working on what makes you the least apprehensive and work up from there.
Don’t Stress It
Regardless of all the tips and tricks to not procrastinate, the most important thing to remember is to not be too hard on yourself. It is easy to feel guilty about procrastinating especially if you get into a chronic cycle of it. But remember — It. Is. Normal. Everyone from the professors who teach here to the top students in your class to your parents who have e-mails to read for work: they are all procrastinating something. The best thing to remind yourself of is the relief you feel after completing an assignment — the sooner you do that, the more time you have to do whatever else you’d like.
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