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How to stop procrastinating

What is procrastination? The word comes from the Latin procrastinare which basically means to ‘postpone until tomorrow’. So when you procrastinate, you are putting something off. You might do this at school, at work or even when it comes to everyday chores such as doing the washing or finally making an appointment with the dentist. It can be harmless, but when procrastinating begins to affect your life negatively then you need to make a change.

Why do people procrastinate?

Why do people procrastinate when they know it's not good for them? The answer to this question is simple; people are afraid of failure. It's hard to begin working on something if you're worried that you aren't going to do a good job. Another reason for procrastination is if you are unsure what is expected of you. If the task at hand is vague or difficult to understand, then it’s easy to shy away from getting started on it.

How to avoid procrastination:

1. Set realistic goals

So how can you combat procrastination? Firstly, it is important to set realistic goals. This also includes admitting to yourself when you can't do something. For example, if you are really struggling with understanding equations on your own, it might help to look for a tutor. But to avoid getting to this point, it’s useful to make an overview of what you need to get done and prioritise well. For example, you can write a to-do list and then decide what needs to be done straight away, and what can wait a little longer.

If you are studying for exams, write down exactly how much time you aim to spend on each subject or topic. This way you can avoid getting stressed as you are planning out your time effectively.

When you've done something, cross it off your to-do list. Being able to see the progress you have made will give you a sense of accomplishment and it can motivate you to continue working. Try to always keep your goals in mind to remind yourself why what you're doing is important.

2. Minimise distraction

Put your phone away! Put it on silent and leave it in another room so you don't get distracted. It should be out of sight and out of mind.

Make sure to tidy your desk or workspace before studying. This way you won't be tempted to sort or clean anything when you're studying as a way of avoiding the task at hand.

Find out what type of learner you are. You will find a few more articles on the blog that explain various strategies and methods that will make learning easier for you. Depending on how you learn best, you can use different strategies, for example mind maps, flash cards or listening back to yourself talking about a topic. If you are prone to procrastination, you should try out the Pomodoro Technique for studying, which you can read about on our blog.

To motivate yourself, you can also try telling a friend or family member what you are planning on doing and what your goals are. This makes you hold yourself accountable because you don’t want to have to make excuses and tell someone that you haven’t achieved what you had planned.

You could try to form a study group. Find people who have the same problem as you, get together to discuss what you need to get done and ask each other questions to test one another. Studying in a group with a shared goal is more fun, you won’t get bored during your breaks and it's good to know that you're not alone. Read our blog on study groups to find out more.

3. Have a routine

Having a routine and structure to your day helps enormously with procrastination. For example, get up at the same time every day and walk to the nearest library. You can start studying right away and use your time wisely. When you go home afterwards, you can be proud and reward yourself - for example, with an episode of your favourite show or something delicious for dinner. Structured daily routines can help you be consistent with your studying and help you to be more balanced, both mentally and physically.

Breaks are also an important part of working efficiently. Your brain is like an engine; you have to take care of it so that it can perform at its best. You need time to clear your head and recharge your batteries. Go for a walk, go to the gym, prepare a snack or just lie in bed for 20 minutes and listen to your favourite music. Try not to go on your phone! Spending time scrolling on your phone isn’t a proper break as it overloads your brain with information and then you can’t process the important things relating to your studies.

To sum up: Don't put anything off until tomorrow if you can do it today.
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