How to Stop Procrastinating - Seven Steps to Success
One of the most valuable skills in life, work, and school is the ability to meet deadlines and accomplish tasks in a timely manner. Winning the battle against procrastination may seem a daunting, even unachievable goal, but anyone can do it. Systematically apply these seven steps, based on researched behavior modification techniques, and watch your grades go up, impress your boss, and find a lot more time for family and fun!
This plan itself is structured in such a way as to make it approachable for even the worst of procrastinators. Take it step by step, day by day, and you, too, can manage your time efficiently and effectively to accomplish anything.
Step 1: Take Note
This is a period of observation, where you simply bring awareness to the patterns in your life that keep you procrastinating. What are the activities you use to distract yourself from getting started on the task? You will probably find that you waste a large portion of your time on meaningless activities, for the sole purpose of procrastinating, instead of getting the task done, and having more time to do something you'd really enjoy.
Jot down any environmental cues that might interfere with your work-anything from hunger pangs to the phone ringing. Next to each item you've listed, brainstorm how this cue can be avoided. For example, turning off the ringer on your phone, or beginning a task after, rather than prior, to a meal.
Step 2: Look Ahead
Visualize the consequences for procrastinating your given task. If you don't study, you might fail a test. If you don't prepare for your presentation, imagine how uncomfortable you'll be with all eyes on you and nothing to say. Then, visualize the positive outcome you can create by getting your work done: a good grade, a promotion, the sense of a job well done. Focus on how good you'll feel after having accomplished your task, rather than on how much you don't want to do it.
Step 3: Make A Date
Schedule your study or work time as you would a date. Write it into your planner. Add it to your Palm Pilot. Make it definite, set it in stone, and be as faithful in keeping to it as you would a dinner date with your significant other! Schedule an activity you particularly enjoy just afterwards, but be sure not to move on to that activity until you've devoted the allotted time to study or work.
Step 4: Be Prepared
Be sure to have everything you need to accomplish the task before you sit down to do it. Preparation time should not cut into the time you actually spend on the work itself. Too often, procrastinators find themselves over-preparing simply to avoid the meat of the matter: getting it done.
Step 5: Dig In
This is the hardest of the steps: just getting started. Give yourself an extra reward for starting on time, and perhaps a penalty for starting late. For example, say you've scheduled study time from 1-4 pm. If you start right at 1, maybe you "get off" fifteen minutes early, at 3:45 pm. However, for every minute you procrastinate after 1 o'clock, you have to study an extra 2, or even 5! The prospect of having to work an extra half hour for being 6 minutes late will certainly motivate you to be on time!
Break the task down into achievable smaller goals, and give yourself a mental pat on the back every time you accomplish one. Research indicates that procrastination often stems from a lack of confidence in one's ability to meet expectations, but taking note of the reality that you are, in fact, making progress, gives you the boost of self-confidence you need to continue working.
Step 6: Buckle Down
Beware of distractions! Having brain stormed ways to avoid the cues you noted in Step 1, put those tactics into effect! One of the most common ways procrastinators sabotage themselves is by jumping to another task whenever their work becomes difficult. Avoid the temptation to "take a break" when the going gets tough. Instead, return to the visualizations from Step 2 to help motivate you to muscle through. Keep your schedule in mind, and, if necessary, institute a further penalty for distractions within the allotted time. 1 minute playing Tetris instead of typing your paper equals 5 extra minutes tacked onto your time.
Step 7: Soak It Up
Once you have implemented these steps, don't forget to take account of the positive outcome. Don't be too quick to move on to the next thing you "have to get done." Enjoy the rewards you have set out for yourself, but also remember to take note of the good feelings you get from having the task out of the way, from the fruit of your labor. When you score highly on your test, be sure to link this success in your mind to the studying you did earlier. Connecting the dots in your mind will reinforce the behavior, and make the work slightly less unattractive the next time you need to do it.
If you're a procrastinator, you have so much to gain by using these tips to change your habits. Apply what you've read here, step by step, and see the results; not only will you use your time more efficiently and reap the rewards of meeting deadlines and achieving goals-your self esteem will dramatically increase, with the knowledge that you can, indeed, succeed.
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