We all deal with procrastination. I’ve been working online for six years, and I’ve been struggling with procrastination every day of those six years. When I was a teenager, I procrastinated, too. However, there was less around to distract me. I could do my homework, or I could watch some MTV or re-read one of my favorite Jane Austen novels. That was it. There was no YouTube, Facebook, or Amazon. Nowadays, you’re just a click away from getting off-task and losing hours of precious work time. Online students seem more prone to procrastination than brick-and-mortar students. However, there are ways you can keep procrastination at bay. Here are some of my favorite strategies for reducing procrastination and increasing productivity:
1. Figure out why you procrastinate. We all procrastinate, but we all have different reasons for procrastinating. I procrastinate because I’m a perfectionist. I don’t like submitting work that isn’t perfect, and often, my quest for perfection paralyzes me. Other people procrastinate because they get easily overwhelmed by the all the items on their to-do lists. If you want to stop procrastinating, you have to uncover the root of the problem.
2. Commit to a schedule. I know most students love the flexibility that online learning provides, but flexibility can be dangerous. My students have two deadlines – a discussion board deadline in the middle of the week, and an assignment deadline at the end of the week. Most of the discussion posts and assignments come in just under the wire! Instead of waiting until the 11th hour to complete your weekly coursework, I recommend creating a weekly work schedule. I follow a consistent routine — I like to work the same number of hours on the same days each week. However, you might prefer to change your schedule each week. Either way can work! Once you’ve created your schedule, commit to it! Don’t spend your school time doing laundry or texting friends. Think of your schedule as non-negotiable!
3. Give yourself a break or two. If you’re like most of my students, you’re juggling work, school, and family. You probably don’t have a lot of spare time. You probably don’t have a lot of time for yourself. However, you should schedule breaks into your schedule. Research shows that short breaks can help you feel more motivated, focused, and creative.
4. Create a reward system. It can be hard to stay focused if you’re not working toward a tangible goal. So, I suggest creating a reward system. Love looking up cat videos on YouTube? Great. Complete three of your required discussion posts and reward yourself with one hilarious and heartwarming cat video. Love playing tennis with your buddies? After you write 5-pages of your paper, reward yourself with a highly-competitive doubles game. A well-conceived reward system can help you transform your work habits!
5. Use a productivity app. There are a ton of apps out there that can help you stay organized, focused, and motivated. I like Procraster. Available for iPhones and iPads, Procraster can help you manage your to-do list. It tracks your productivity and shows you how you’re spending your time. The app also gives you advice for getting back on track when you slip up! You can find dozens of other productivity and anti-procrastination apps by visiting the Itunes or the Google Play store!
Bottom line: We’re all susceptible to procrastination. However, you can develop strategies that will help you stay productive and make the most of your valuable time.