5 tricks to help you stop procrastinating

We’ve all been there, in the dead of night writing that essay you promised yourself you weren’t going to leave until the last minute, or the job that you put off so many times that by the time you got around to doing it, it took you double the time. 

It’s your procrastination monster and hopefully this blog post will help you tame it slightly. If you’ve got some time, watch Tim Urban.

If you don’t have 14 mins right now, then read on as we’ve got a few tips on how to stop procrastinating from the people that know best, your fellow LifeStart community.

Create a fake deadline

It seems that most of you in the LifeStart community need some sort of deadline to get something done. Whether that’s real or fake. With this in mind, if you make yourself an earlier deadline, you’ll be giving yourself more time to edit, improve and stress slightly less. Mohamed S. from the University of Birmingham says that he sets himself “a strict schedule” which “sets the deadline 2 weeks before the actual deadline to serve as an enhancement period for the highest quality possible.” This tip is especially helpful if you have multiple assignments for the same deadline. If you set your own deadlines before, it gives you time to edit, ask for advice and work on the bits that you find the most difficult.

Prioritise your tasks

We know what needs to be done, but we usually do the tasks that are least important first. They’re often easier and make you feel like you’ve achieved something. If you work from home, suddenly your room has been cleaned, washing done and you might even do some ironing. It looks like you’ve achieved a lot in one day as you have physical proof, but in fact you’ve just put off the “real” work which has non-negotiable deadlines.

Learning to prioritise can be difficult, but you can do it one of two ways. The first is placing real end dates that things must be completed by. For example, I went on holiday two weeks before an essay deadline. I still had my day to day tasks to do, but I also had an essay to finish before I left and packing! Unsurprisingly the normal procrastination tasks, like cleaning, or catching up on a series, went completely out the window. I had two priorities: Finish my work and then go on holiday.

Now unfortunately most of us aren’t lucky enough to book weekend breaks before every deadline just to encourage us to get work done.. but you can fake it. Always ask yourself, what do I need to do? We’re not saying that cleaning or anything else isn’t important, but plan into your timetable what’s necessary. You probably had a revision timetable during your exams, you can do something similar, but for your day to day. That way you don’t feel guilty when you’re taking time out with friends as you know you’ve got the most important things for that day done.

Remove disturbances – in your online and offline workspace

Don’t kid yourself. If you really need to get a piece of work done you can’t multitask. As much as you think that it’ll make the task more enjoyable, you’ll probably find yourself not doing the task, or that it takes you double the time. Jad G. from Guildhall School of Music and Drama agrees, studying and not doing “other things [and] allows me to concentrate much better.”

Some people like sitting in a café to have a little ambient noise around them, but that’s very different to having someone talk to you whilst you’re trying to concentrate. Find what works for you, but often a quiet, calm space without distraction is the best place.

It’s the same for online work too. Most of our work is now done on a computer and our smartphones are always close by. Close all your tabs, turn off your email notifications and perhaps even your phone. Just because you have your essay window open doesn’t mean you’re working on it. If you have notifications coming in every few minutes, it’s very hard to ignore them. If you don’t think you’re disciplined enough to turn off apps yourself, consider downloading an app like “Self Control.” Elisa G. from Oxford University recommends it as it stops you from accessing pages for a stated amount of time and no matter what you do you can’t access it until the time is up. Perhaps a bit drastic, but if you really find yourself struggling and you’ve got an eminent deadline, it might be the best option for you. 

Know yourself and your own timings

Hopefully you’ve already guessed, that all the tips so far that have worked for the LifeStart community may work for you or may not. Elisa G. adds “I know myself enough to know that I just have to manage my time so that I have just enough time to complete an assignment, that way I know there’s no other way, I just have to get on with it.”

Some people work well in short bursts taking regular breaks, whilst others can concentrate for hours but then need an evening off. Find what works for you and don’t compare yourself to others. Some people may need a few days writing an essay whilst others prefer to spread across a few weeks. There’s no right or wrong, as long as you get it done!

As a popular shoe brand says: Just Do It

At the end of the day, you can do all the things we’ve said previously, but as Jad G. says, you’ve got to throw yourself “into the job wholeheartedly.” It will only get done if you just go off and do it. If you’ve got something on your To-do list that keeps being pushed to the bottom, there’s a reason for that. Whether you’re worried by it or think it’ll be boring – whatever the reason, it’s easier to get it done now so you have less time to dwell on it. You’ll end up having more time to do the things you like and the task may end up not being so bad after all. If you do it, it’ll be over and you can move on. 

Now, back to work 😉

(Want to share your tips and tricks and be featured in one of our future blog posts? Do so here!)