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Ending procrastination 5 minutes at a time!

Let’s be honest, we all procrastinate. Some of us more than others, but the ugly truth is that we all do it. Midterm season is here and I found myself procrastinating more than ever while all my due dates where piling up. I have always thought that a little due date stress is good and helps with my production levels, but when there are too many things to do and too little time to do it, it stops being funny and it starts being stressful. 

How do you now if you are a procrastinator?

1. Do you often postpone important tasks, chores and/or homework?

2. Do you often find yourself saying things like: 

“I don’t feel like doing it now”

“I’ll dot it later”

“I still have time to do it”

“Let me do _______ first”

3. Do you often feel like you haven’t been productive?

4. Do you often finish your day with a pile of undone tasks?

If you answer positive to some of these you are a procrastinator, but don’t worry, I have good news for you. It can be fixed!

Data, data, data!

So in order to change my procrastination habits I started researching books, online articles, and journal academic articles that could explain not only the reason we procrastinate, but also that can bring me some tools on how to stop those patterns. Procrastination is the thief of time. In his Journal Article, Procrastination and Obedience, George A. Akerlof explains that “Procrastination occurs when present costs are unduly salient in comparison with future costs, leading individuals to postpone tasks until tomorrow without foreseeing that when tomorrow comes, the required action will be delayed yet again”. Here are some of the strategies that I found, but have in mind that not all of them are evidence based and that we are all different, so is possible that some of these will work for you and some will not. Here is what I found. 

1. Organize: In order to get the job (or jobs) done, you will have to organize. If you have many things on your plate at the moment is possible that you don’t even know where to start and when you actually do, you find yourself task switching and not finishing any of them. Start by making a list of all the things you have to do. Then prioritize, which means that you need to determine the order for dealing with those tasks according to their relative importance. One way to do this is by writing the due date next to the task in case of work/educational related tasks or by rating it from one to five (five been urgent and one trivial) in case that you don’t have a specific due date. 

2. Avoid Distraction and Unexpected Interruptions: One of the main reasons we procrastinate is because we often get distracted. Before starting whatever it is your going to do, get rid of the things you know can distract you. If you are working on your computer close any unnecessary tab (Netflix, email, blogs, social media, online store orders, YouTube…) and if you don’t need Internet at that moment turn off your Wi-Fi. Put your cellphone in airplane mode, turn off the TV, move that book that you’re dying to read, get the temptation out of your sight. 

3. Five-Minute Rule: I started by trying these strategies myself, and after organizing, this one was the most effective for me. If you are a procrastinator like most of us, you know that one of the hardest things to do is starting that task that you’ve been postponing. I stumbled upon the five-minute rule and it has become my new motto when it comes to stop procrastinating. If you force yourself to do what you don’t want to just for five minutes it will generate two things: a sense of accomplishment and the necessary motivation to finish it.

4. Break Tasks Down Into Small Chunks: Once you choose the tasks that you will do for the day break them into many small chunks with resting periods in between (time those breaks too so you don’t end up procrastinating again). 

 

5. Reward Yourself: Last but not least, if you reward yourself every time you finish doing any of the things you needed to it will increase the probability that you will do another one. So whenever you finish with one of your goals reward yourself with something you really like. That could be ice cream, ONE episode of your favorite series (dangerous territory, I know) or getting your nails done. 

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