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A wise man once said “procrastination is the thief of time” and to be more specific, this wise man is a British poet who goes by the name of Edward Young.
To be honest, we have all been there, staring at a blank word document, waiting for some sort of inspiration to come by and desperately wishing to be somewhere else. Perhaps an energy drink will help get your mind into gear and before you know it, the energy drink has turned into a two-hour YouTube marathon. Your word document is still blank and you start to feel guilty and panic before spiralling down into depression.
What comes as a shock to no one is that procrastination is particularly pronounced among University students with a study in America estimating that over 70% of students procrastinate on academic work.
In 2007, researchers collected surveys from students at the beginning of the semester with students who are procrastinators reporting that they experience lower stress levels and have fewer illnesses. By the end of the semester, this changed dramatically and the procrastinators reported to have higher levels of stress and illnesses.
Dr. Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation, argues that the closer we are to temptation, the more likely we are to indulge ourselves. On a university campus setting, where we are likely to bump into friends and exposed to rapid internet speed, a “short break” can easily turn into a riveting conversation with the person sitting next to you that goes on for hours. Also, we, as humans, are biologically wired to increase pleasure and avoid pain and we all know how painful it is to finish an assignment, hence, the procrastination.
Moreover, the procrastinator is often optimistic about their ability to complete a task in a tight deadline. We often overestimate the time we have left to get something done which leads us into a false sense of security. Also, we may fall under the notion of having to be in the right state of mind to do a certain task so we end up waiting for some sort of inspiration or motivation to come.
In reality, if you wait around for the right moment, you probably won’t find it and the task will never be completed.
Self-doubt and the fear of failure is another major factor that corresponds to higher levels of procrastination. When you are unsure of how to approach a project or if you are insecure in your abilities, you are more likely to put it off in favour of working on other tasks that you are sure you can perform well in.
So, how do you overcome procrastination and stay productive? It takes commitment. First, you must get rid of temptation. Set up a place for work and don’t mix it with anything that might distract you. It is hard to switch from work mode into relaxation mode and vice versa. Once concentration has been broken, it takes an average of 15 minutes to get back into the right mindset.
Secondly, you have to plan your time. Work without any interruptions for a short time period before taking a break. You’ll be amazed at how much you got done in short amount of time. You’ll feel more motivated knowing you only need to power through short time periods and the regular breaks will help you concentrate.
Finally, if you’re still having trouble staying away from those distracting sites, site blocking extensions like “stay focused” can help.