Let’s face it – we all procrastinate at some time or another. Reasons vary from mismanagement of time, organization, and distractions, to disinterest in the task and fear of failure. If you need to figure out why you procrastinate, there are excellent articles and resources online to help with that. Usually though, addressing these issues is easily managed with an organization plan that includes five key factors.
- Break down large projects into mini-tasks: Contemplating a large project can be intimidating for some people. Break the large project into smaller manageable steps and work on each step for a couple hours at a time each day. A large project can be as simple as a paper due at the end of the week. Instead of waiting until three hours before the paper is due and then rushing through the writing, start 5-7 days early and work on the paper for 30-60 minutes a day. While planning an entire project may be daunting, breaking it down into smaller tasks makes the project more doable.
- Keep a list: Make a list of tasks you need to do for the project. Make a separate list of tasks for the discussions and all assignments for each week. Prioritize the tasks by how much time each will take and then make a timeline and write each task on the daily schedule for each day. Following the list each day will keep you on track to completing all your work for class.
- Make bargains with yourself and reward your progress: Say to yourself “if I do this now I can do that later.” For example, finish an hour-long task and then take a break to read, go out for walk, get on social media, or whatever you enjoy doing. Set a specific time each day to complete one of your smaller tasks. This can be different on different days but needs to be scheduled on a daily basis.
- Avoid distractions: Change up how and when (and sometimes where) you work on homework. Find a quiet place, set a timer, and do nothing except classwork for however long you have scheduled for that day. Turn off the phone and set your electronic communication device to disturb you only for emergencies (for example, calls from your children). Turn off all notifications for emails, text messages, etc. and reward yourself with a “distraction” after you have completed your task for the day.
- Don’t over-think things: Many people want everything to be perfect and they spend a lot of time thinking about how to do something. Many people rewrite assignments multiple times because they are uncertain about the requirements for exemplary work. If you don’t know or are unsure, contact your professor for clarification. Always read feedback on previous work to avoid similar mistakes on subsequent work. Once you have completed an assignment, double check to make sure you have included all necessary requirements, and then don’t second guess yourself or your work.
The best plans can go astray and the bottom line is that if all else fails and time is getting short, the last resort is just to buckle down and do it. We all have tasks and obligations we do not particularly want to do but eventually the time will get here whether we start early or procrastinate until the last minute. Remember that it is always better to start early.