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Procrastination is when we delay or put off something we know is to our benefit. The key is to stop making excuses and do something.

Most people practice procrastination. What is important is to know when it is time to stop making excuses and do something. Here are some strategies that might help you. Remember - it is important to find strategies that work for you.

Strategies to overcome Procrastination

Take Action Sometimes just doing something creates the mood and momentum to continue, so decide to just do something, anything to get you started which you can then use as a way in to further study.
Visualise it Visualise or rehearse in your imagination completing the task and feeling pleased with yourself.
Salami Technique Slice a task or goal down by function and time, getting down to smallest unit. This is useful if your excuse for putting it off is that it's so big or you have so much to do can't start. For example, a long reading assignment in a difficult subject can seem intimidating and easy to put off, however if you divide it into smaller tasks (chapters, sections) then it will be easier to schedule these tasks as well as seeming less daunting e.g. you can choose to just focus on the lit review or methodology section in one study session.
Five minutes Spending just 5 minutes, anyone can do that short a time and once started you just might keep going!
Related tasks Do something related; the back door approach. For example, if you have to start a project maybe decide to just go talk to someone about it; this in turn may lead you to the library because they suggest a reference. Often it can be easier to talk to someone then having to sit down and write.
Worst first That particularly boring or difficult task is easy to put off, in fact you'll do anything not to get it done but often when you get the hard bit done first the rest is much easier to do. Do the hard bits when you are at your best mentally i.e. in the morning if you're a morning person.
Keep motivated Keep yourself motivated by writing down your personal goals and posting them around the place where you can see them on a regular basis.
Get support Get help from other people, friends, support services
Pep talk Give yourself a pep talk.  Remind yourself of the benefits of getting the task done and the consequences of failing to do it now. Remind yourself of the emotional and physical consequences of procrastination.
Organise yourself Surround yourself physically with items associated with the task.  Keep your study space organised.  Make sure your environment encourages you to study (limited distractions, things you need to hand).
Leave it unfinished Leave something definite to go back to when you finish studying – this helps to avoid pre-study fidgeting and things to distract you.
Avoid negative thinking Avoid self-defeating, avoidance generating beliefs and statements that tend to encourage procrastination.  Such as thinking you’re not good enough or that everyone else is doing a better job or that you’ll never get it all done.  Instead, use enabling and positive beliefs and attitudes.
Mistakes Don’t worry about making mistakes -you only find out what works by trying things. We often learn most from our mistakes.
Rewards Use contingencies and rewards – something you enjoy after doing a task you’ve been putting off.  For example, 20 minutes on statistics then going for a cup of coffee instead of the other way around.  Also reward yourself at milestones along the way.
Reminders Make your tasks visible – set up reminders, signs, lists, notes all around you.
Make commitments An oft-used excuse is "I work better under pressure", so create pressure. Tell people you plan to get something done, and then they'll ask if you got it done.
And Finally! Don’t allow yourself to make a split-second decision to put if off yet again.  Slow down the decision-making process to consider the importance of the task and the consequences of delay.  Working under last minute pressure may sacrifice accuracy, damage relationships, and put your body under unnecessary stress.

Why do you Procrastinate?

There are many reasons why we procrastinate. Sometimes we just can't get started, some people fear failure and therefore don't start. Some other people fear success and having to meet high expectations all the time. Can you ask yourself what your reasons are for procrastinating?

In some cases procrastination is positive. Consider the following possibilities:

1. Procrastinate deliberately: You might discover that if you can choose to procrastinate, you can also choose not to procrastinate.
2. Observe your procrastination:

Instead of doing something about it, look carefully at the process and its consequences. Avoid judgements. Be a scientist and collects the facts.

Procrastination Exercise

Think about one problem that might develop [or has already developed for you] and that leads to procrastination.

  1. Describe the problem:
  2. What is the source of the problem:
  3. What is the reason for the problem:
  4. Can you set a goal for a solution [be specific]:
  5. With your goal in mind what Options can you have [be practical in deciding your options]:
  6. What are the advantages of each of your options:
  7. What are the disadvantages of each of your options:

Useful resources

For a great range resources on time-management, in a variety of formats, Click here to enrol the SLD Blackboard module.