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Five things you should know to stop you from procrastinating

12 May 2016

Five things you should know to stop you from procrastinating

Everyone puts things off in life. However, if you find that your procrastination is problematic for you; you are always having to work to the last minute to get things done, you are always handing things in late, you can’t seem to sit down and focus on revision, then understanding these 5 things could help you to stop your procrastination.

1. No one is born a procrastinator

Procrastination is a learnt behaviour, which means you can learn to stop procrastinating! Rather than saying ‘I am a procrastinator’, try saying ‘I am a person who procrastinates a lot’. This way of thinking will put some distance between you and the behaviour so that you can start to make changes.

2. You are effective at some things

The difference between the things you procrastinate over and the things you do effectively are the thoughts you have about them. Think about the things you enjoy doing; your hobbies and pastimes. What do you think when engaging in them? When we are excited about something and motivated by it, we think in the ‘Can do’ frame of mind.

When we put things off and procrastinate, we are thinking in the ‘can’t do’ frame of mind. Try drawing upon factual evidence that proves you can do what you are avoiding and watch your behaviour change. For example, ‘I am struggling with my revision but I have struggled like this before and managed it so I can do it again.'

3. Preferences are not absolutes

There are a number of unhelpful thoughts that can lead to procrastination, if we believe them to be true. Do you tell yourself things such as ‘I need to have a tidy desk/room before I can study’, ‘I can’t study when I feel too stressed, I need to relax first’, ‘I don’t know how to start it perfectly so I shouldn’t do anything’?

These thoughts represent preferences of the conditions you would like to have to start working but they are not absolute truths. Think of them as telling only half the story and finish the sentence by following it up with an alternative. ‘’I don’t know how to start it perfectly but I can write what I know and come back to that later.'

4. Feelings change

Sitting and having to study can make you feel a range of uncomfortable emotions; annoyance, boredom, fear, anxiety. Try thinking about how you will feel once the task is complete. It is likely that those emotions are things such as relief, pride and happiness.

Know that by completing the task you can feel these things and aim for that emotional experience.

5. The bigger picture

It can be useful to think about the bigger picture when you are struggling with a task. Why are you doing this at all? What is your aim? If you can link the here and now task to the future goals you want to achieve, it can make it easier to stop procrastinating.

The next time you feel your attention moving away from your work on to something else, focus on finishing university with a degree and realise that the assignment in front of you, or the hours of revision you need to do, are just a small step in moving towards the bigger goal.

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Dr Sonia Greenidge, UCL Student Psychological Services