Do not postpone what you can do today. A planned approach could help you reach your goal.
At some point of time in our lives most of us would have put off for later a task that had to be done. Whether it is about completing academic assignments or projects before the deadline, or seizing an opportunity which could have altered the course of our lives completely, we may have missed it because of procrastination. Procrastination means postponing things or putting off until tomorrow what could have been done today. But the problem is “tomorrow never comes.”
Procrastination comes into the picture when it is a question of choosing between larger long-term rewards and smaller short-term rewards. Students know that they have an assignment to finish before the deadline. But they spend their time in other pleasurable activities or gather data till the penultimate day and complete their assignment on the last day in a hurried manner which may not bring out their full potential.
According to research, performance anxiety, fear of failure and low self-esteem are some of the reasons why students procrastinate. Some students procrastinate to avoid anxiety and some avoid tasks which they feel they cannot complete successfully and which will make them feel like failures. Students with low self-esteem tend to be self-critical and judge themselves by high standards and say, “If I am not good enough why should I begin this task now?”
Overcoming procrastination is easy if you have a planned approach.
Often students underestimate the time needed to complete a task and think there is a lot of time remaining and don’t begin. When they overestimate time, they perceive the task as large and difficult and don’t start.
For example, if you have to read a management text book of 700 pages. You have to calculate your reading speed (words per minute) and check the time you take to read one page and multiply that by the total number of pages to estimate the total time needed to complete the book and then calculate how much time you need to invest on a daily basis.
Sometimes students get discouraged by the size of the task and due to fear don’t even make a beginning. It is said if you want to eat an elephant, start by taking small bites. Divide the complete 700 page book into small chunks of bite-sized pieces according to your comfort/resistance levels, say 5-10 pages, and read them over 30-45 minute slots.
Starting with easy tasks first will not only increase your confidence level but will also help you to overcome inertia and gather momentum to sustain.
Sometimes students feel if they have to begin studying, they need a big time slot where they can study for long hours continuously. Instead you can poke holes on a big task and work in smaller units of time at odd moments like utilising a free 30-minute slot available, for completing assignments.
Choose the time of the day when your energy and alertness levels are high and utilise that time to tackle the most difficult subject.
Lack of exercise and low energy levels are common among those who procrastinate. Physical exercise will increase your stamina and cause the brain to release endorphins which will act as natural pain-killers and make you feel calm.
Visualise yourself as performing a difficult task easily and give yourself encouraging self talk. Like, when reading a big book, say to yourself, “Come on just one more page to study. I know I can do it.”
Keep a to-do list, visible to you with tasks arranged according to priority (importance/urgency) to serve as reminder. Strike-off each accomplished task and feel happy to see the list diminish.
Occasionally give yourself small rewards for accomplishing the task on time. This positive reinforcement will help you to maintain your progress and increase productivity.
If the habit of procrastination is not overcome during student life it will carry forward to your work life and social life. The cost of procrastination is high. It reduces productivity and sometimes compounds problems. Many medical problems could be treated, if diagnosed early. But the problem is people postpone their visit to the doctor.
The famous speaker and writer Dale Carnegie said “The best possible way to prepare for tomorrow is to concentrate with all your intelligence, all your enthusiasm, on doing today’s work superbly today. That is the only possible way you can prepare for the future.”
Don’t procrastinate, follow the mantra DO IT NOW.