In a recent WyzAnt.com poll of over 350 private tutors, procrastination topped the list as the number one habit to avoid this semester…and every semester. Considering all the online and offline distractions available today, there is no question that students are having a harder time prioritizing tasks and tackling responsibilities head-on. In addition to the typical distractions that we’ve faced for generations, the influx of digital diversions is helping to create a new crop of chronic procrastinators.
Here are 7 tips to keep in mind this semester and help you overcome procrastination once and for all:
1. Start the day with a to-do list.
The first item on your daily agenda should be to write out an actual “to-do” list. Put the most important items at the top of your list and use urgency of each task as an indicator of the importance. Whether you prefer a printed out or digital version, make sure your list allows you to check off each individual box as you complete tasks throughout the day. Seeing physical evidence of the day’s accomplishments will give you a motivation to do “that last thing” on your list.
TUTOR TIP If you’re not into lists, Math & Accounting tutor Ari from Gilbert, AZ, has an take on tackling to-do’s:
Write each thing you have to do on a separate piece of paper and put it in a pencil box. Randomly choose one piece of paper out of the box and do the task written on it. Don’t move on to the next until you’ve finished the task in hand. Example: 1. Do the dishes. 2. Solve 20 math questions. 3. Read 5 pages of English literature. 4. Write a report for Spanish class. It is psychologically easier to deal with one piece of paper at a time than hold 10 tasks in your head and become overwhelmed.
2. Put your calendar to work.
Let your calendar be your guide to productivity, and not just a way to remember your friend’s upcoming birthday party. Take the line items from your to-do-list and fit them into your calendar where appropriate. If you told yourself you would read those last 10 pages “at some point” before class on Thursday, then define what “that point” is and assign it a time. Don’t forget to set reminders with checkpoints so you can hold yourself accountable and stay on track!
Very little productivity has ever resulted from scanning through profiles on Facebook. If you want to get serious about your upcoming test sign out of Facebook and turn off the TV. If you are multi-tasking you will not get the same sense of accomplishment as you do when you are completely focused on one task. Additionally, if watching the season premiere of your favorite show is important to you, then attempting to study throughout will prevent you from fully enjoying the show. In most cases that involve sustained mental effort, trying to multi-task a lose-lose situation.
TUTOR TIP from Preston in Oklahoma City, OK:
An incredibly useful thing I have found is a software extension for Firefox browsers called “leechblock”, this software allows you to set what parameters you want to restrict usage of commonly known time-waster sites, like social media sites, and gaming sites.
4. Call yourself out.
Tutor John P. of Fort Lee, NJ, says that the first step in avoiding procrastination is to recognize when you’re doing it. Be honest with yourself and pay attention to unhealthy patterns you have established. If you look through your notebook and see that halfway through class your note pages turns into an elaborate series of doodles, then try to identify the first urge to you get to doodle during next lecture so you can actively resist it.
5. Create a back-up plan.
Wasting time begets wasting time. Create a fail proof safety net for productivity. There are certain things that always need tending to such as cleaning your room, laundry, dishes or organizing your computer files, clearing out old documents, etc. Make sure you have a list of 3-5 back-up items outlined each week so you have the power to kick-start a period of productivity when needed. Math and Spanish tutor LeAnna from Moorhead, MN, says, “Don’t think, just do!”
6. Set up micro goals.
The classic saying is “the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” When you stare at the due date of giant project or term paper, all you focus on is the end product. Rather than think of the project as one giant undigestible piece, consider it a series of related mini-projects each with their own deadline.
TUTOR TIP from Windy C., Rancho Cucamonga, CA has a tip for a project with a long-term due date:
Break the assignment down into manageable chunks and list them in order. Then schedule the mini-assignments in a date book for a specific hour and day, preferably the same time every day. Then set a timer for the hour or two blocked off and do nothing else during that hour but that assignment. Lastly, give yourself a small reward, such as extra time to do something you love for completing that part of the assignment.
7. Get inspired.
Music tutor Jeffrey N. from Pinckney, MI, sometimes looks to the accomplishments of others to help motivate him. “Often when I’m feeling lazy I like to go to a concert. Seeing great musicians perform always motivates me to try and better myself.
Watching and learning from others, especially those who are great at what they do, is a good medicine for procrastination.” Watch a documentary about a famous person in history, or research the biography of someone you admire – or better yet, someone you know in real life – to see what led to their success. Learning about the effort of others will help kick your willpower into motion and most worthy achievements come from hard work and determination.
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