We all procrastinate. Netflix, naps, scrolling through Insta and tagging your mates in memes all distract us and stop us from doing our work until the very last minute. Some of us say that we can only work under the pressure that comes with smashing out an assignment or an essay the night before, whereas others know the only reason they’re pulling all nighters is because they couldn’t get their shit together.
Regardless of why you leave everything to the last minute, most of us can agree that it causes a heap of stress when we have to bang out a 3,000 word essay in the early hours of the morning, or are scrambling to finish our homework five minutes before class. We know that a bit of short term pain will have long term benefits when it comes to starting our work but we still put things off until the very last minute and finish everything in a mad rush. Here’s how to avoid it.
1. Break it down
One of the things that stops us from starting our work, is the sheer amount of shit there is to do. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by a massive assignment or a huge pile of study notes to revise, to the point where we get too stressed to study. We look at everything we have to do and just don’t know where to start, so we don’t start at all.
A way to get over this and actually do some work is to break it down. Stop looking at it as one massive impossible task and break it down into nice bite sized pieces. Got a speech to memorise? Only think about getting the very first sentence down pat. Need to write a 2,000 word essay? Just type out the very first line, even if it’s just a slight rewording of the question.
2. Don’t wait for motivation
We fall into the habit of telling ourselves we’ll do something tomorrow, when we think we’re going to be more motivated. We procrastinate till the ‘next morning’, or ‘later on’, but when the time comes to actually start our work, we’re still unmotivated and looking for another excuse to procrastinate.
The thing with motivation is that you can’t rely on it. It’s super helpful when motivation does strike, but chances are it’ll only hit you at 3am in the morning or when you’re in the middle of doing something else, and won’t actually help you get anything done.
What you can rely on is that if you just start something, motivation will come. Not the other way round. So start that tiny bit of work and you’ll find yourself getting it all done before you know it.
3. Reward yourself for getting it done early
Reward yourself for getting it done early, rather than punishing yourself for doing it late. Some punishments for lateness are inevitable. You hand in an assignment late and you’ll get docked marks. But try to give yourself rewards for getting things done early. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but even going out with your mates if you finish an assignment by Thursday instead of the Monday it’s due can push you to get it done.
4. Break the habit of smashing it out
If you always think of your assignments as one big task that you have to smash out in one go, you’ll get into the habit of sitting down and pumping it all out in at the very last minute. Avoid this train of thought. Once you’ve broken down your tasks, just focus on getting through them one by one, rather than having to smash them all out at once. Just because you can’t get everything done in a couple of hours, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least have a crack at getting a little bit of it finished.
5. Good enough is good enough
Perfectionists this one’s for you. One of the reasons we procrastinate so much is we want produce our best work and the fear of not making it perfect stops us starting until the very last minute. High expectations are fine, until they stress us out to the point where we’re not doing anything.
It’s hard to ignore the voice that says you haven’t done enough- that you haven’t quite achieved the ‘perfect’ essay or that you won’t get 100% on an exam. But it gets to a point where you need to trust that good enough, really is good enough. The first draft of your essay might not get you top marks, but it’ll be good enough to start you for the final copy. The first practice exam you do might not be perfect, but it’ll be good enough to help you when you get to finals.