Procrastination is one of the biggest challenges university students face. While some courses have constant deadlines, many are more self-directed, with only one big assignment or exam at the end.
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We all know it’s important to get down to work ahead of time, but that’s much easier said than done! How many times have you made a long to-do list, settled down to work… and then found yourself lost on YouTube three hours later? We procrastinate for weeks on end, then end up pulling an all-nighter and finishing our assignment last-minute. The assignment wasn’t our best work, and it wasn’t a fun process, either.
How can we best avoid procrastination and make the most of our time? Here are four tried-and-true ways to get started tackling the dreaded procrastination monster!
1. Recognize Perfectionism
Many people assume that procrastinators are lazy and don’t care about their work. The reality is the exact opposite! Procrastinators usually care deeply. In fact, the main reason they procrastinate is because they’re too worried to get started, because their work might not be good enough.
As you probably guessed, procrastination goes hand-in-hand with perfectionism. When we want our work to be perfect, it becomes almost impossible to get started, so we procrastinate instead. After all, if we’ve not yet started, then our essay can still be perfect, in our imagination, at least…
The best way to avoid procrastination is to overcome perfectionism. Keep reading to learn how!
2. Start Small
We’ve all been there: staring at a blank page, unable to write a word. We want our first words to be perfect, but our mind is utterly empty.
So often, an un-started task can loom large in our minds and it becomes too overwhelming to begin. Once we’ve started, however, the task gets much easier. So, how do we overcome this hurdle and get going?
The best way to get going is to start small. Don’t write your whole introduction; just scribble down a few thoughts you find interesting. Don’t plan to revise for five hours straight; just spend a few minutes on your favourite topic. Once you’ve started on a task, even in a small way, it becomes much easier to keep going.
3. Edit Later!
When we start working on a project, particularly a written assignment, we think it needs to be perfect on the first go. In contrast, any professional writer will tell you that the first draft is meant to be rubbish!
Editing as we write is a primary cause of procrastination. It slows us down and makes us criticise our work, so we turn to something else to distract ourselves, like funny cat videos.
The best way to avoid procrastination while writing is to turn off your inner editor. Just write! It doesn’t matter if it’s bad; in fact, it should be bad at this stage. Once you’ve written the full essay, then you can go back and edit.
4. Productive Procrastination
Productive procrastination sounds like an oxymoron, but it can be really helpful for difficult problems. When we’re stuck on a tricky problem, it can actually help to get away for a little while.
Next time you’re stuck, try procrastinating! Get away from your desk and do the washing up or cook dinner. If you’re stuck on an essay for one module, do the lecture-prep for another. You can also try doing something you love, like playing a sport or chatting to a friend.
If you intentionally procrastinate by getting started on a task, then doing something else for a while before returning to the task, your mind will work on the problem in the background. You may just find that by procrastinating productively, you discover the answer you need!
For more tips on how to avoid procrastination and take control of your time, check out our LIVE SMART resource!