I'll Think of a Title for This Later: Steps Against Procrastination
October 1st, 2018
At this very moment, I am procrastinating. (I have a big U.S. History assignment due this Wednesday, and so I am writing this piece so that I can be productive without doing an essay that I don’t know how to write.) Unfortunately, however, my procrastination does not always manifest itself as something productive.
What usually happens is that I will take one peek at my phone, and suddenly it’s forty-five minutes later and I’m watching 30-second Instagram clips of television shows I’ve already seen. So, as much as for Highly Indy readers as for myself, I am writing this article with a few tips on how to curb the urge to procrastinate.
The first thing to note is why you procrastinate in the first place. The key is the want for instant gratification. We tend to make bad decisions in favor of our present selves than think about what is best for our future selves. Consider an example: you have a test in a week and a half, and no more work you have to do that night. You could make a study guide for your test, but you could also watch an hour of Netflix. Sure, the night before the test you will wish that you had started studying earlier, but that’s a week and a half away and you could be watching the next episode right now. Behavioral economists call this common mindset phenomenon “time inconsistency”; when thinking about the future everyone wants to make long-term beneficial choices (saving money!) but in the now everyone wants to make the instantly gratifying one (spending money).
To curb procrastination and make better long-term choices, you have three main options:
Make the rewards that come with long-term benefits immediate. Incorporate the instant gratification! You could do this by rewarding yourself when you do work, such as only eating your favorite snack when you are studying, or listening to your favorite music when you work out.
Make the negative cost of procrastination more immediate. If you know something negative will happen right now if you procrastinate, you will be less inclined to do so. For example: try setting a public deadline for your behavior (“I will share my study guide with you guys by Sunday at 5 pm”), placing an expensive bet on your behavior (“For each ten minutes I spend scrolling through Instagram, I will pay my friend x dollars”), or make a physical consequence for your behavior (“Each time I watch something on Netflix or Facebook I will do 25 pushups”).
Remove the things that make you procrastinate from your environment. This is the most powerful way to stop procrastination. If you are really committed, try deleting social media apps, using an app that prevents your from accessing certain websites for a period of time (I use Blocksite!), asking your parents to change your Netflix password and not tell you what it is, or work in a designated space that has no distractions.
Another good way to try to be productive is making lists. It’s easier to plan to do things than it is to actually do them, so use that to your advantage. First write down the 5 main tasks you have to do the next day. Rank them in order of importance, not ease. Then, break each task down into the smallest steps that you can. The easier these steps are, the better. The next day, before you do anything else, tackle the first thing. This momentum will get you going for the rest of the day, and soon enough you will eliminate all the tasks from your list.
We all procrastinate, including myself, and it’s a frustrating thing. But the difference between procrastination and productivity is a series of small decisions, and the hardest part is beginning. So, if you are on Highly Indy because you don’t want to start your homework, this is your reminder to go begin (after reading all of these awesome articles)!