Dear Abby – How do you not procrastinate?


Dear Abby,

How do you not procrastinate?

Dear Procrastinator,

Procrastinating is one of my main hobbies and, if it wasn’t, I’d probably have time for a few more hobbies. I get what you’re feeling. You have so much to do and you tell yourself you’re going to start on it as soon as you find the time. And then you find the time and you tell yourself you’re going to start and you don’t. You procrastinate. 

When you have a task that needs to be completed, it becomes so easy to find a million other things that need to be done. Procrastination is about everything but laziness and this is obvious when you realize how many little things you can get done, even if they’re things that don’t necessarily need to get done, while you procrastinate. Need to study for that big test tomorrow? Now seems like the perfect time to reorganize your closet, do your nails, or scroll to the first photo in your camera roll. 

I have struggled with this for years and I still do, and I’m sure you and I are not alone in this. There’s no perfect cure or solution to this, but there are little tricks I’ve learned to play on my own mind that seem to let me get the job done. 

To-do lists have worked wonders for me. Sure, I do put every little thing like “sharpen pencils” on the list just because I like crossing it off, but that’s alright as long it’s a goal and I can accomplish it. On a piece of paper, write down what you need to get done for the day and cross it off as you go. I also like to add a time estimation to each task, I write down how long I expect something to take me so I have an idea of when I’ll be done. You need to be careful that, when you’re making your list, you’re making it realistic. You can’t do too much or give yourself too little time. You need to be honest with yourself and understand what needs to get done and how you plan to do that. Don’t make the list something that stresses you out, even more, it’s just a rough game plan for you. Make it flexible, the world won’t end if you don’t stick to it exactly, you’re going to be fine. Give yourself the time and space to breathe. 

In that list, accommodate for breaks. A good five-minute break in between working can do wonders for your productivity. Whatever you would do while procrastinating, do during the breaks. Although you don’t need to pencil this in, reward yourself for getting your work done! It might not be what you want to do, but you’re getting it done and you should be proud of yourself. Rewards can be anything you see fit, making a snack, phone time, a walk around the neighborhood are a few of my favorites. 

To avoid procrastination, it’s important to stay motivated. You don’t have to love what you’re doing, we don’t always love the things we need to do, but you need to be motivated to get them done. Your motivation should also be positive. You shouldn’t want to get your work done because you want to, for example, show off or you’re afraid of looking dumb. Although those are compelling reasons and can be motivating, the motivation that comes from fear can do more harm than good. Negative reasons like that can cause a lot of stress and that can take up a lot of energy that can be spent on your work. Positive motivation could be the relief after you get everything done and can close all your tabs on your computer or the confetti graphics you get when you submit an assignment on time on Canvas. 

These are just a few of the things that help me. I don’t have it down perfectly, but I’m trying and I hope you do too!!!! Whether it’s these tips or something else, we all have different things that work for us. What’s important is that we find them and get our work down without stressing out too much.