How to stop procrastinating!

by Jessica Holsman

Dear Jess,

I'm having such a hard time motivating myself to work. The only time I seem to be able to sit down and study is when I have a short deadline, like two or three days before a test. I really hate myself for not being able to just get things done and I know I need to find a way to just pull it together.

How can I stop procrastinating and being a last-minute crammer?

Anonymous x

Hi Lovely,

I’ve been reading a lot about ways to increase productivity and trying out different approaches lately to see which ones actually work. Good news, I found some!!

I thought I’d break down my advice into 3 sections or easy to implement steps below for increasing your productivity and overcoming those last-minute-cramming habits. Also, shout out to Marisa Peer (Britain’s #1 hypnotherapist) because I learned a lot of these tips while completing her 8 week online training course and they’ve honestly helped me so much!

1. Do what you don’t like and do it first!

If you look at your to-do list, do the task you dislike the most first, so it’s out of the way and you feel like a winner. This could include getting into the habit of doing your homework for your least favourite subject or spending time writing your weekly summaries and revising for your upcoming tests before any other school work.

I’ve started doing this each day and it’s helped a lot. Some people call it “eating the frog” but the idea is to get your least enjoyable task out of the way asap so you can let go of the feeling of dread which is almost always worse than the act of actually completing that task. Now I even try to get my chores out of the way first thing and schedule my dentist appointments early in the morning so I can enjoy the rest of my day!

The idea behind this tip is that if you know you need to do something but you dislike it, you are very likely to keep putting it off. This is also why experts advise people to do things like exercise, meditate, or complete anything else that you know you should first thing, so that you don’t procrastinate and never end up doing it.

Honestly, every day you will come up against things that you don’t particularly want to do, even if they are very minor tasks. If you want to be successful, it’s about training yourself to do what you don’t want to do, first. Eventually, it will start to feel natural and you will have this ability to automatically say “I don’t really like this, so let me do it first and get it out of the way so that I can enjoy my day.”

2. Delaying gratification

One of the reasons a lot of us procrastinate is also because we spend time doing things we enjoy that really should be used as a reward later and not a form of procrastination (e.g. TV, social media, hobbies, socializing).

It’s really important to get into the habit of setting yourself a reward each day for your work and using it as a motivator. The better you get at delaying gratification, the less likely you’ll keep putting off your tasks and spending your time doing things that really should be scheduled for later.

Also, I always find that having uncompleted tasks on my list of to-do’s just makes it harder to fully enjoy other activities, because I have this gnawing feeling in the back of my mind, reminding me and totally guilt-tripping me for not doing what I know I should have done already.

Try and think of ways to reward yourself once you’ve completed your work and even consider making a list that you can display on your vision board or in front of your desk with a bunch of ways to treat yourself at the end of a study session (e.g. watch a show, see a friend, play video games, run a bath, do a face mask etc).

3. Make the unfamiliar, familiar

At the moment, it sounds like procrastinating is really familiar to you. It’s what you’ve been doing for a while but not something you want to keep doing in the future. The thing is, our minds are hardwired to seek out the familiar and stick to what it already knows, so it’s your duty to train yourself to go about your work habits differently.

Even though it might not be familiar to you to initially sit down at your desk when you get home and begin working on your weekly summaries or revising a little bit each afternoon at the start of your study sessions, after a few weeks, this behaviour becomes the new norm and you’ve successfully established a new habit! The more you stick to this habit and do it daily, the more it becomes part of your natural behaviour.

I guess when I think about it, overcoming procrastination is actually a lot less about motivation and a lot more about self-discipline and enforcing new behaviours.

Like I said earlier, these tips have made a huge difference to the way I approach my work and responsibilities and if you can commit to taking daily actions then I am very confident that you’re going to see a big improvement!

And on that note, now that I've written this week's blog post, I'm off to my pottery class to reward myself for getting my work done! (YAY!)

Best of luck!

Love, Jess x