Curbing Procrastination

by STEPHANIE LIU

 

Procrastination, as might be guessed, is not a rare phenomenon. In one study, data collected from people of six countries, including the United States, showed that about 13.5% and 14.6% of men and women, respectively, self-identify as chronic procrastinators. [1]

Interestingly, it may be that perfectionism results in procrastination. A 2011 study conducted on undergraduate students showed that procrastinators tend to put off decision making until all possible options have been assessed. [2] These individuals, according to the Regulation Mode Theory developed by psychologist Arie W. Kruglanski, are classified as assessment-oriented because of their tendency to assess before taking action. [3] At the other end of the spectrum lies locomotion-oriented individuals who prioritize fast action in achieving outcomes. Study results support that locomotion-oriented individuals tend to procrastinate less and can better focus and avoid distractions compared to assessment-oriented individuals.

There are many reasons as to why people procrastinate. The aforemetioned study is just one among many studies conducted on procrastination, so the results may or may not resonate with you. However, regardless of the root of your procrastination, it is important for you to regain control over your time. Below are a list of hacks that may help you curb procrastination.

          

Hacks for Curbing Procrastination

1. Make To-Do Lists

Effective to-do lists are specific and help micro-manage your time efficiently. List tasks for the day and allot a time frame in which to do each. Once the timeframe ends for one task, start on the next task. I find setting mini deadlines effective because I feel motivated to work faster, and as a result, get more done by the end of the day.

Extra To-do List Tips:

  • Break large tasks down into smaller manageable chunks. It is much less daunting.

  • List your lectures, discussions, and appointments for the day and check them off upon completion; sometimes we don’t praise ourselves enough for doing what is mandatory.
  • Write in your bathroom breaks for finals week, and yes, allot a time for each!

2. Countdown from Ten

If you’re not in the mood for doing a task, prevent yourself from putting it off by conducting a mental count down from ten. When you reach zero, initiate the task. This works because starting a task requires a high activation energy so to speak, but a countdown determines a set time by which you must start. Once you start a task, you may actually realize it was not as difficult as you perceived it to be.

3. Have Others Hold You Accountable

Do you have an eight page paper but only three days left to write it? Broadcast about it to your close friends, co-workers, and family verbally or via social media. Provide them with updates about your progress on tackling the paper. If you have someone you’re really close to, promise them how much work you’ll accomplish each day. These techniques work because most people dislike disappointing others and losing respect.

4. Plan Your Rewards

In the past, I wasn’t a believer in rewarding myself for task completion because I thought doing so wasted time. However, now I actually find rewards to be quite effective as a motivator. By setting rewards for myself along the way as I complete a big task, I have decreased my tendency to leave a portion of my work for later. Rewards do not need need to be big or costly. For example, if you enjoy exercising, tell yourself that you get to exercise only after you have completed a predetermined amount of work.

5. Change Study Places/Rearrange Furniture

This is especially relevant for those studying for graduate school entrance exams. Countless hours will be spent studying and it is quite easy to feel stifled by your study environment. Personally, when I am stifled by my environment, I tend to feel drowsy and less motivated. Seeing the same scenery every day is boring and somehow makes me feel that I haven’t really made any progress. Switch it up by alternating your study sessions at several libraries every week. If studying at your residence starts to get dull, rearrange your furniture to freshen up your study space.

6. Type with A Funky Font

Do you study by retyping your notes? I do for certain classes. However, typing gets boring real fast for me not even before I’m a quarter through all my lecture notes. As a result, I often stop and tell myself I’ll type more later. Good news is, there are plenty of cool funky fonts out there to inspire you to continue typing away. You can even download some hip fonts online but don’t do so as a means to procrastinate!

 

Each individual differs in their preferred method of curbing procrastination, so it is important to experiment with a few techniques to see what works best for you. Additionally, although this article puts procrastination in a negative light, it is all right to procrastinate moderately as doing so may alleviate stress. It is only detrimental to your health and the quality of your work when it is done severely and chronically.

 

References ▾

  1. “Frequent Behavioral Delay Tendencies By Adults: International Prevalence Rates of Chronic Procrastination.” J. Cross-Cult. Psychol. (2007).
  2. “On the psychology of time in action: Regulatory mode orientations and procrastination.” J Pers Soc Psychol. (2011).
  3. “Locomotion and assessment as distinct self-regulatory imperatives." J. Cross-Cult. Psychol. (2011).