Educational Advice

How to stop procrastinating

By its very definition, procrastination is the act of postponing a task, not making it vanish. What you don’t do now, you will have to do later – so why do so many of us insist on waiting, even though we know the pressure and panic will build up?

This essay uses the metaphor of the Instant Gratification Monkey to rationalise the motivation behind procrastination, explaining that the monkey ‘thinks only about the present, ignoring lessons from the past and disregarding the future altogether’. Not, you may agree, a productive way of living life. That’s why MyTutor has compiled a list of top tips to help you stop procrastinating. Check it out below.

The Instant Gratification Monkey, encouraging procrastination

Source: Why But Wait

Fight technology with technology

Many of us have succumbed to the mighty power nap as a form of procrastination. The logic of ‘How can I work if my brain is tired?’ often reigns supreme. Unfortunately, so does the logic ‘another hit of snooze button can’t harm me’. Next thing you know, you’ve slept through first period or your coursework deadline. Luckily, as with most things in life, there’s an app for that. Power Nap is an alarm clock designed for power nappers. Worried you won’t wake up? There’s an app for that too. Alarmy won’t stop your alarm until you get out of bed and take a picture of your sink (or any other area you define).

Form better habits

Despite there being a commonly held assumption that a new habit can be formed in 21 days, alternative studies have shown that it can take more than 2 months for a new habit to become automatic. Don’t beat yourself up if you briefly slip into old habits – making one or two mistakes has no measurable impact on your long-term lifestyle, as long as you get back on track as soon as possible. Soon you’ll be drawn into an upward spiral of conscientiousness, procrastinating less and thereby lowering your stress levels.

Set the stopwatch

A common fallacy is the belief that spending 8 hours in the library is the same as spending 8 hours working. It’s easy to spend a large chunk of time in a ‘working environment’ and then feign bemusement when your work doesn’t get completed by the deadline. One of the best ways to counter this is to set a timer on your phone, and only leave it running when you are actually doing work. The second you go to check Facebook or Buzzfeed, or take a long coffee break, press pause. The first time you try out this method, you’ll be shocked by how little work you’ve actually done. 30 minutes over the past 8 hours? Yup, sounds about right. But hopefully this somewhat unpleasant surprise will shock you into action, ripping off the blinders which allow you to ignore how much you actually procrastinate.

Use a clock to measure your procrastination

Break down your task into small steps

One of the reasons we procrastinate is because the task at hand seems insurmountable. You can counteract this by breaking down your task into small steps. ‘Write my coursework’ is a huge challenge. Reading and annotating 3 sources for it isn’t. Nor is ‘proof-read’ or ‘write conclusion’. Additionally, breaking your workload into small tasks makes it easier to plan your work timetable and set a clear divide between work time and ‘fun’ time.

Work with people who work well

This is an obvious one: if you surround yourself with people who work well, then you will too. You do need to be completely honest with yourself about who these people are. I once spent a Saturday night A-Level revision session with a friend drinking cocktails, our notes unpacked and ignored. Find the right study buddy, however, and you’ll get more done in your work time, as well as having someone nice to talk to on your study breaks.

Visualise finishing your task

Imagine how wonderful it will feel to get a good mark on your paper, to be congratulated by your teacher, and to take some time off. Maybe promise yourself a reward for finishing as well, like a nice meal or a trip to the cinema. Visualising these benefits will remind you what you’re working towards and motivate you to get there as fast as possible.

Hit the ground running

The best way to eliminate any faffing in the morning is to have your plan for the next day already sorted; bag packed, hair washed, shoes ready by the door. This means you can wake up and be dressed and on your way to the library without wasting the morning. As much as early starts can be a little bleak, being in the library by 9am means you can get four hours of work done before lunch and be well on your way to achieving your goals.

Don’t cheat yourself

Unless it’s light jazz or classical, you won’t work well with music on, so switch it off. No one has ever got any work done in their bed. This is a fact. Ticking ‘organise sock drawer’ and ‘cull Facebook friends’ off your to-do list does not mean you have achieved anything meaningful. It just means you have a lot of pointless tasks on your to-do list. Accept these fundamental truths and stop procrastinating once and for all.


Written by Lauren, who recently graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in English 

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