You’re sitting in front of your computer at 9 p.m. on a Sunday. All your work is open on the screen in front of you, but you’re on your phone, scrolling through Instagram or reading a BuzzFeed article about knees that look like celebrities. Almost every college student knows the feeling; in fact, you’ve probably been an expert on procrastination since high school. In the moment, it seems like a no-brainer. Why would you write a five-page essay when you could be watching Sunday Night Football? Two hours later, however, when you’re panicking about the work you haven’t even touched, you’re probably cursing out your past self for being so lazy. As a chronic procrastinator, I’ve tried almost every motivational tip there is, and these are the ones that have worked best for me.
- Break the task down. When you’re staring an entire assignment in the face, it can seem too overwhelming. Instead of looking at it as a complete assignment, divide it into smaller pieces to reduce your anxiety. Instead of trying to complete a 20-problem set in one sitting, aim to do five problems at a time and then take a small break- drink some water, eat a snack, walk around, and stretch. Don’t pick up your phone and get sucked back into social media, because it can (and will) derail all your progress.
- Remove social media from the equation entirely. If you can’t trust yourself to avoid it, extensions for your browser like StayFocusd and Work Mode will block any sites you choose for a certain amount of time. If you can’t stop answering texts or checking Twitter on your phone, set it to silent and put it across the room. Not being able to see or hear it will remove most of the temptation.
- Don’t depend on motivation. If you’re waiting until the conditions are right to start a task, you’ll probably be waiting a long time. Instead of telling yourself, “I’ll start work when I’m done with this article” or “I’ll turn off the TV when the halftime show starts,” just get up and do it. Discipline will take you much farther than motivation ever could.
- Change your environment. If you’ve done all of the above and you still feel paralyzed, get up and move. Something as minor as relocating from your room to the library might get you started. However, sometimes you may have to walk away from the task for a while. Taking a shower is usually good for a quick fix, or you can set aside some time to go to the gym. When you return, you’ll feel like a new person and be much more productive.