Procrastination is a common struggle among students. As Cal Newport discovered when writing his book How To Become a Straight-A Student, he noted that all straight-A students he interviewed claimed they did not defeat procrastination.
It becomes clear that we should not strive to remove procrastination. There will be tasks that we do not like to do, and the urge to procrastinate is unavoidable. Instead, you should try to limit it, and prevent it from affecting our schedule.
In this article, we will talk about some useful tips that are applicable to students that want to fight procrastination. But, before going on the tips, I would like to emphasize the importance to understand procrastination and why we do this.
Via his book, Finish What You Start, Peter Hollins highlighted that the main component of procrastination is time inconsistency. Essentially, the situation can be thought of as there being different “selves” within us where each “self” represents us at a different point in time. The inconsistency occurs when the preferences of our “selves” are not aligned with each other.
This also explains why we tend to value immediate gratifications over long-term rewards.
Your future self would want goals that pay out some time in the future, after work done by your present self. But your present self wants rewards that payout now, which would often affect your chances of getting the long term rewards. Hence, the best way to solve this issue is by moving your future long-term rewards into the present, which will be explained further below.
1. Temptation Bundling
One excellent way to overcome procrastination would be temptation bundling. The essence of this concept is to link actions that you want to do and actions that you need to do. You are combining your present and future selves and their conflicting needs.
It is simpler to explain it by example. Let’s say you want to watch a new episode of your favourite. But you have a writing assignment due in a couple of days. Then you could tell yourself that you’d get to watch that new episode only after you finish your assignment.
List out the things that you love and the things you have to do and find ways to combine them. This would definitely help make the unpleasurable things more tolerable.
2. Small, Easy Increments
Break your tasks into small manageable parts. This is also another efficient way because it would be easier for us to get the willpower to do multiple smaller tasks than one big task.
Then, you could start with the easiest task. After finishing a few easier tasks, you may have been able to gain momentum to be able to do the more difficult tasks.
3. “Just 10 minutes”
This rule is simple yet powerful because it exercises your self-discipline and tolerance.
Essentially the rule works as follows:
If you have the urge to do something harmful to your follow-through, wait at least 10 minutes before getting it. If you are still craving it after 10 minutes, then have it. Or better, wait another 10 minutes as you have done it the past 10 minutes and survive just fine.
Similarly, if you want to stop doing something beneficial, wait at least 10 more minutes. Every time you start to feel distracted, stretch your willpower for a few more minutes. Eventually after enough iterations of “10-minutes”, you will reach momentum and it would be easier for you to carry on for hours.
4. Minimizing Distraction
Focus is a crucial part of being disciplined. To make sure you are studying efficiently, you should prime your study environment by removing distractions as much as possible.
When it is time for you to study, the first thing you should do is remove any potential distractions that could cause you to eventually procrastinate studying. This includes your phone, email, any other items that are not related to what you are studying at that moment.
Multi-tasking is focusing on more than 1 task at a time, or repeatedly switching back and forth between different tasks in a short period of time. Multi-tasking could make you less efficient than you think. This is caused by the attention residue left from the previous task when you are switching to a new task.
Multi-tasking could work when you are doing tasks that can be done on ‘auto-pilot'. Think of listening to music while exercising. However, when we are talking about tasks that require conscious thoughts such as studying, doing writing assignments, or homework, multitasking could tremendously affect your focus and efficiency.
Alternatively, consider single-tasking. Work on one task at a time, and put your entire focus on that task for a period of time, before moving on to another task. If you are interested to read more about this, do refer to this post.
6. Do Nothing/De-stress
Humans have limitations. If you constantly attempt to perform over your maximum limit, soon enough you would reach a point of burning out. Disconnecting from everything may lead to greater insight and creativity. Consider it as recovery so you can get ready to be in your best condition when you really need to perform.
7. Know yourself
Look, you could read multiple books on procrastination, or read hundreds of articles on the topic. But doing this could just be a waste of time if you do not spend time to think and get to know yourself.
If you want to work on your self-improvement, you need to first think and diagnose why you are failing certain things and where you are lacking. Only when you have identified the issue would you be able to work on a solution to fix the underlying problem.
If you are still facing difficulties in your learning journey, remember that it is okay to get extra help.
Good luck on fighting that urge to procrastinate and happy learning!