From the Principal

How to Kick the Procrastination Habit


I must confess at the outset that procrastination and I are old friends. We have spent hundreds of hours together, dreaming about possible future holidays, watching television, flicking through YouTube clips and reading random articles about anything pretty much to avoid the task at hand. So, what can school students, easily distracted adults and people in general do to overcome procrastination and avoid the stress, anxiety and possibly poor grades, that stem from getting things done at the last minute?

Experts in this field suggest that developing a schedule, carefully planning tasks – including school tasks, and improving time management skills are all effective ways to deal with procrastination. Below are a few tips offered by these experts that can help even the most determined procrastinator to deal with the times when they are beginning to move into full avoidance mode.

  • Deal with the fear

Fear is one factor that can contribute to procrastination. This can involve a fear of failure, a fear of making mistakes, or even a fear of success. Challenging our faulty beliefs is important and can lead to better habits. By addressing the fear that is keeping us from getting started, we can begin to overcome our procrastination habit.

  • Make a list

Start by creating a to-do list with things that you would like to accomplish. If necessary, put a date next to each item if there is a deadline that you need to meet. Estimate how long each task will take to complete and then double it so that you don't fall into the trap of underestimating how much time things will take.

  • Break down tasks into more manageable bits

When you are faced with a project, you might feel daunted, intimidated, or even hopeless when you see the sheer amount of work involved. At this point, take individual items on your list and break them down into a series of steps. If you need to do an assignment, identify what needs to be done and in what order.Once you’ve created a list outline the process you need to go through to accomplish the task. You can start working on individual "baby steps."

  • Recognise when procrastination is close.

As you start to tackle items on your list, pay attention to when thoughts of procrastination start to creep into your mind. If you find yourself thinking "I don't feel like doing this now" or "I'll have time to work on this later," then you need to recognise that you are about to procrastinate. Instead of giving into the urge, force yourself to spend at least a few minutes working on the task. In many cases, you might find the task is easier to complete than you thought once you get started.

  • Eliminate distractions

It's hard to get any real work done when you keep turning your attention to what's on television or you keep checking your Facebook status updates. Give yourself a period of time during which you turn off all distractions - including music, television, and social media, and use that time to focus all of your attention on the task that needs to be done. I use a kitchen timer for this purpose as it keeps me on track.

  • Reward yourself.

Once you have completed a task or finished even a part of the task, give yourself a reward. For me this is where the timer comes in handy. At the end of my set time, I take time to do the stuff I normally do when I’m procrastinating for a short time as a reward. Then I reset the timer and start working on the next task. I learned long ago that food is not an ideal reward as it does have other downsides.

Final Thoughts

Breaking the procrastination habit isn't easy. After all, if it was simple there wouldn't be an estimated 70 to 95 percent of students engaging in procrastination on a regular basis. The urge to put things off can be strong, especially when there are so many things around us to provide fun and entertaining distractions. While procrastination might not be something you can avoid entirely, becoming aware of the reasons why you procrastinate is a great start. By trying a few of these strategies, you might find it easier to start work, and just maybe, begin to think about tasks in ways that cut your stress and give you a more balanced approach to your work.

Have a great weekend.

Dr Frank Pitt



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