Break your work into little steps
One common tip to help you stop procrastination is to divide your goals into smaller baby steps. This is a very good study tip but the problem with this mindset is that it imposes a linear structure on your goals; you need to complete one step before you can move on to another. While in some cases this is inevitable, for example, you can’t revise a book without having first read it, most times you will have a bunch of study tasks that can be completed in any order.
Switching emphasis from completing study in a linear fashion to doing a number of study tasks from a larger list will give you greater freedom to choose. You will no longer be able to say ‘Well, I can’t study X because I haven’t studied Y’. This is an important distinction to make when it comes to ways to avoid procrastination because as soon as you complete one study task, you are more motivated to complete others. You also don’t limit yourself into ‘having’ to do something since you will have many study options to choose from, you can pick the subject that appeals to you to study most on the day.
Divide tasks by how long they take to complete
The way to divide up your study tasks is by how long they take to complete. A study task shouldn’t take you any longer than a half hour; this may vary, however, from person-to-person for some it could be 15 minutes, others an hour. If you have designated yourself a study task and you know it is going to take longer than an hour then you need to break this task down further to make it manageable. Breaking tasks down into their simplest components is a great way of stop procrastination. Don’t say to yourself ‘I need to write an essay’, break it down into what it actually entails: I need to plan my essay, research my essay, write my opening paragraph, write paragraph #1, write paragraph #2, write paragraph #3, write conclusion, reference my essay etc.
There are many other aspects you could break your essay into but having a list of smaller study tasks makes them easier to complete. Having study tasks divided in such a way makes it easier for you to utilise the mindset outlined under study tip #1. For example, I’ve often found when writing an essay that the last piece I write is the opening paragraph, as such having the option to start on paragraph #1 before the opening paragraph helps me get started quicker. If I had only outlined my task as ‘write an essay’ and hadn’t broken it down based on how long it would take to complete each component I wouldn’t have the same number of options. Crucially, this approach allows you to accomplish more by doing the same amount of work. As soon as you see you are making progress your motivation will increase and your levels of procrastination will decrease.
Change your environment
Different environments have different impacts on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace. One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around.
Get rid of distractions
If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate. Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you. I know some people will out of the way and delete/deactivate their Facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic/extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.
Re-clarify your goals
If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that. Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?
Get a buddy
Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other. I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.
In the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get people who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day. Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.