The Battle with the Inner-Demon, Procrastination
Conquering our time management skills with oomph
By Alissa Chooljian, Staff Writer
The common struggle you have heard at the tip of many peers’ tongues: time management skills. The many ‘submitted-in-the-last-second’ stories and the countless all-nighter sessions. The drag of completing basic household chores in a timely manner, leaving the bedroom instead to its own designs (yes, the fact that our bedrooms may be messy is the bedroom’s fault). And let’s not forget: the exacerbated, disastrous feedback loop that it is always accompanied with.
But all is not without hope! Pray tell? Then read on…
- Eat a frog (not literally)
The ‘Eat a frog’ expression was first introduced by Mark Twain and later coined by Brian Tracy in his book, Eat That Frog! In a literal sense, eating a frog would be difficult and quite traumatizing. However, in this expression, the frog is meant to represent the intimidating task that procrastinators have a tendency to postpone…perhaps until they are motivated by the looming deadline. Tracy suggested that eating a frog for breakfast (tackling an important or difficult task first thing in the morning) is the best way to combat procrastination. The reasoning behind this principle is that getting a difficult task out of the way (like that big essay that keeps creeping up at the back of your mind) can leave one with less stress and hence greater productivity throughout the rest of the day.
- Cut an elephant up into tiny pieces (again…not literally)
Sometimes people procrastinate because they’re not quite sure how to approach (more like whether to approach) a large task. As the famous maxim goes, “the hardest part is starting.” So cutting up an elephant, as it metaphorically implies, refers to the effective strategy of breaking a large task into smaller, more manageable parts. For example, a student can begin their assignment by first conducting some research or going through course material. After that, they can gradually go through each step of the assignment, rather than taking on the project all at once. Or the student can allocate 1-hour max work sessions daily or every other day to this project. This method may even give students the victorious feeling of achievement after the completion of each small task (why, you now deserve a badge for taking your first steps!).
- Positive reinforcement and punishment
If you’re into psychology, then you’ll like this one. You can train yourself to respond to certain positive or negative stimuli. Positive reinforcement is a technique that is used to increase the likelihood of wanted behaviour by providing a positive stimulus. An example of this would be eating a delicious snack after completing a section of a reading or assignment. On the other hand, positive punishment is a technique used to decrease the likelihood of unwanted behaviour by reinforcing a negative stimulus. An example of this would be to set an annoying alarm once a study break is over, compelling the student to end their break. Both of these methods can be very useful as they can train the mind to associate unproductive habits with bad stimuli and productive habits with good stimuli.
- Clear that “clutter”—yes, that would be your phone
One of the biggest culprits of procrastination is the dreaded smartphone, a device that cultivates distraction. Loaded with all of the most intriguing applications, it can be very difficult to resist. Students may plan on taking a fifteen-minute break to check their smartphones—a break that ends up lasting over an hour. To avoid such a “break,” try playing hide-and-seek with your device! We’re sure your phone would not feel lonely if it knew you weren’t looking for it because you were playing this game. You can also stuff it at the bottom of a laundry basket, just so it knows how much it stinks up your productivity. Rummaging through a basket of laundry can be tedious, and hence can reduce your urge to touch your phone.
- Accept your faults
Procrastination may occur due to the fear of failure. Putting off a task for as long as possible will delay the possibility of failure or imperfect outcomes. However, lower quality to start with is alright. As you’re putting off that procrastination (yes, can you imagine that day where we procrastinate on procrastination?), you have much more time to check over your work and edit it to higher quality, or get others to review your work and give you feedback to improve! Moreover, if mistakes still happen, reward your efforts with some self-compassion and patience. Approaching the day with this mindset can make important tasks and duties seem less intimidating and hence increase the likelihood of accomplishing your goals.
The cycle of procrastination is mentally draining, and you might not even realize its burdening weight until you overcome its hurdles and be more productive. Kicking procrastination to the curb is no small feat. For those of you who are in the late stage of being plagued with procrastination, the methods listed above can undoubtedly be mentally, if not physically challenging, but the positive outcomes surely make it worth giving a try.