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Putting it Off in the Name of Procrastination

Updated on January 25, 2016

There is nothing worse than the feeling of looking forlorn at a word document with zero text in it, trying your best to keep your mind centered around the task at hand instead of falling into the trap of thinking about doing something else. But there is no escape until you hit the 3,000 word requirement so you just need some cofee or maybe… A quick tv show episode which turns into another episode and before you know it, it’s 4:30 am and you’ve just binge watched 2 seasons and you are 3,000 words away from your 3,000 word requirement.


It is the ultimate drag to productivity - the big P - it is well known as procrastination. When exam time comes around it is never misses a beat, with at least 70 percent of students exhibiting its debilitating symptoms. Most students would prefer to wait til later instead of tackling their obligations now. Dr. Piers Steel, who wrote The Procrastination Equation explains that during their early 20s, students are still developing the will power area of the brain, the pre-frontal cortex. A weakly underdeveloped Pre-frontal cortex leads to less discipline.


Dr Piers says continues by noting that proximity to fun will always cause a student in that age bracket to indulge. Places like university libraries, full of friends and distractions, offer no escape. Not to mention the excellent internet connection available at the library, we’re looking at nothing but temptation in every direction. Truth be told, no matter what the environment, a procrastinating brain will always manage to find opportunities for distraction.

Willpower

According to research, a lack of willpower isn’t the only thing that stops many from fulfilling their obligations. The fear of failure is also an enormous catalyst. You’re familiar with the contention by some that they get their best work done under pressure. It’s actually relief that the work is being done that produces the adrenaline rush that eventually gets the work done. Let's be clear here, those in that position put themselves they're not out of planning, but out of last minute desperation to get their work done.


Now I’m sure that you knew that Facebook would come up. There is absolutely a link between Facebook and procrastination, according to a 2008 study. These study results need to be publicized more.


As mentioned earlier, between the lower levels of will power and the enormous amount of distractions, students are caught between a rock and a hard place. But is all lost? Is the fight lost? Not at all. But in order to rein in the monster, a great deal of willpower and good planning will need to be brought to bear.

For starters, students shouldn’t position themselves near temptation. But temptation comes in more than one form, which we will discuss later. There should be visual and mental cues so that work space never plays host to play, and vice versa. Rigidly defined roles for spaces create moods that are conducive to productivity. If the association with work is made well and taken seriously, you actually won’t be able to unwind or have distracting fun in a space that is designated for work.But there is a caveat here. After some time, the mind could get used to this set up and the original effects can wear off. In such a case, it is advisable to designate a brand new workspace so that the fresh feeling can be leveraged all over again.


Since all of us do work on laptops this begs the obvious question of how to deal with distractions like email and web surfing when we’re supposed to be concentrating on actual work. A little more work is required here as a flick of the wrist and a few keystrokes will land you in procrastination heaven ready to drink from the geyser known as the internet. In order to keep from succumbing to the internet’s siren call, you will need to create an entirely separate login profile and use blocking apps that will prohibit the opening of any social media websites.

But doing all of that won't be enough. As you know, these days people find it tough to walk down the street or even drive without constantly checking their phones. When it comes to avoiding procrastination, it is of the utmost importance to turn off all notifications on one's phone, or to even place the phone completely out of reach. It is too easy to be distracted by a single text or a single email which can be like the proverbial thread that undoes an entire fabric.

Another useful tool is to work in small time frames, allowing for a 5 minute break between each one. Knowing that relief lies at the end of the tunnel allows the mind to devote itself to the task at hand with full vigor and attentiveness. There is no need to force yourself to work for 2 hours straight when you can work in shorter increments and get the work done without falling off a cliff just so that you can avoid completing your work. It is better to play it safe and do a bit at a time.


And the root of procrastination is a feeling of being overwhelmed. Of course students are not fully aware of this because the feeling exists in the subconscious and its symptoms are only manifested in our behavior. This is one of the reasons that it is so difficult to deal with the symptoms because on a conscious level they are made separate from its root, therefore unidentifiable. Whenever any task is looming, it is best to separate it into smaller subtasks. The next thing to do is to ignore every other task while concentrating on just one manageable subtask so that there are no triggers for the “overwhelmed” sensation, which creates a fight or flight response, manifested as procrastination. In so doing, the student can move through the entire project without being overwhelmed by its enormity.

More Options

Students who still are unable to make headway can take advantage of their school’s extra support. Certain schools are familiar with this and already have great advice along with coaching that they can offer students who are enthusiastic about overcoming the problem. You need only ask. Schools can also provide tutors. Most schools here in new york city have tutor lists that students can use to create a greater sense of urgency. While a student is with a tutor there is a high likelihood that work will get done since the time is being paid for.


Last but not least, do not enter a cycle of self loathing based on your inability to curb your procrastination. Studies show that a person who forgives himself for procrastination has a lower likelihood of succumbing to the same traps in the future.

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