Tips for avoiding procrastination

As I mentioned in my last post, I was interviewed for the Personal Best programme on BBC Radio Scotland. They wanted to know what advice I give to students on how they can overcome procrastination. Here’s the link to the programme while it is still available: Personal Best: Procrastination  
Here are the main points I made:

Remove your distractions

If you tend to procrastinate by doing things around your home (e.g. making tea, doing housework), work somewhere else like a library or cafe. Or if you procrastinate by checking your phone or emails, turn off your mobile data or wifi or use an internet restriction app. Consider using the Pomodoro technique.

Mark importance of your tasks on your to-do list

This one helps me the most. I don’t really suffer from distractions, but I do find myself choosing simple, low-priority and putting off the difficult, time-consuming (but very important) stuff. To stop myself from doing that, I mark things as  on my to-do list, so I’m conscious about the choices I’m making about what to do when.

Just do it!

One of the reasons we put off the important stuff is because we are overwhelmed by the perceived difficulty or length of time the task will take. But often when we finally sit down and get started, we find it is not so bad and wonder why we made such a big deal of it!

Be kind to yourself

Remember that tendency to procrastinate is not a personality failing. A research study showed that students who forgave themselves after procrastinating before a test were less likely to procrastinate before a second test.

Further reading

Ted talk: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator (Tim Urban)

Podcast: PsychCrunch  Episode 10: How to stop procrastinating

2 replies to “Procrastination”

  1. roy says:

    I’ve been to your presentation today and I must say it has been very helpful and have made considerable changes to the way I study (and will study): I’ll try to use Pomodoro technique again, I’ll stop re-reading or highlight, I’ll focus on the few subjects that i find most difficult and leave the rest behind, I’ll study several subjects per day instead of one as I’ve done so far and I’ll attempt to put aside my notes and rewrite them from memory. These are all things I’ll be trying in the coming days.

    In this post, I’ve done progressively the first point the entire semester by eliminating distraction after distraction, and it has helped me a lot. The second point is also super important, what I started doing two weeks ago is to just postpone all the “fun” stuff (like reading this blog post) to the end of the day (as you can judge by the time I made this comment) and do all the major tasks during the day.

    Thanks for this post & your presentation,

    1. Pamela says:

      Excellent, let me know how you get on! I think you also mentioned that the pomodoro technique hadn’t worked for you previously because you found yourself mind-wandering. You might need to train yourself up to 25 minutes of focused time – you could try 10 or 15 minutes for a while first.

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