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Overcoming Procrastination

November 13, 2019

By Yasamin Rahmani

The Webster’s Dictionary definition of procrastination is “to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done.” Although the definition is quite broad, it does hit close to home. Whether this intention of putting off is at work, school, or our personal life, it is no stranger to us – at least not to me.

Procrastinating can also be looked at as a habitual stress relief that can be done inadvertently, hindering one’s success. It is no surprise that having the habit of procrastination affects productivity and the ability to plan ahead to achieve short-term and long-term goals.

The reason I chose to write this piece is that I too find myself procrastinating, and it becomes debilitating over time. Now that I am in graduate school, my primary goal has been to take this opportunity to better myself as a learner. Whether I am going to go into a PhD program or go out in the industry, I find this time to be beneficial for me to really work on myself in every aspect that I may have neglected in the past.

By doing the background research to gather a greater grasp of why I procrastinate and why an average individual would, I was able to address my weaknesses and use my strengths to overcome them. Below are some steps and self-assessment that I find to be helpful in recognizing, accepting, and addressing procrastination in my life, and hopefully in your daily routine as well.

I will start with the first step and argue that it is the most important step in overcoming procrastination. First one must recognize the habitual patterns of procrastination. It may be best to make note of procrastinating patterns in your day-to-day activities. They may be subtle, such as putting off small daily tasks during the week, which then become overwhelming to address during the weekend. Or, it could be something greater, such as putting off a big class assignment for the last minute and performing poorly.

Procrastination may look different for each and every one of us. But the root of the problem may be poor time management or feeling intimidated by a given task. Here are some tips in addressing procrastination and taking the lead to overcome it.

  • Acknowledge that you are feeling stressed and take a moment to see if you can rationalize your stress. Explore the cause of your procrastination and what it could be rooted in. Is it self-sabotage? Fear? Or something else?
  • Once you have developed an overall understanding as to why you procrastinate, figure out what is your ideal style of work and working environment. Do you like working in a coffee shop? A quiet library? Or in the privacy of your own home?
  • Develop a routine for different activities and goal settings. Hold yourself accountable for the routine that you have set for yourself and be sure to enjoy yourself in the process.
  • Recognize both progress and regression! Being aware of how far you’ve come in breaking a bad habit, such as procrastination, will ensure that you are on track to reaching your goal. Establish a reward system that would work best for your routine and not deter your productivity.
  • Prioritize your tasks; this could entail setting daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, etc. Create a timeline and fill it up with goals and expectations of where you would like to be in given time may be helpful. This is a great way to visualize your plan, but be sure that your goals are realistic and reflect your current abilities. Setting goals that may be too far out of reach may set you up for failure and be discouraging in the long run.
  • When working on any given task, break it down to smaller pieces and stay consistent while tackling them; consistency is key in any form of success. Multitasking diminishes productivity causing brain exhaustion – avoid it!
  • And remember, goals are not actions; you have to hold yourself accountable to the goals you have set, and if some are far too out of reach, try break them down into several smaller goal steps.
    • If you ever feel intimidated by your goals, remember this sentence and fill in the blank. “I can do this because ___________.”
    • For me, “I can do my masters because although it’s a new field and without a doubt a challenging one, I find joy in what I do, and I pride myself in my ability to face adversity in every which way.” OR “I can pass this exam because I know the material, I attended the class, and I will push through.”

Find resources and utilities that can help you establish a routine and keep you on track. Be sure to pick only a few tools and stick with them, do not waste too much time looking at all of the options available as they may be too overwhelming.

Procrastination reaches us beyond the school environment, it can affect our success in our personal life, financial goals, and overall quality of life. Do not let this bad habit hinder your happiness. Procrastination is a habit, and with any bad habit, consistency is key to breaking it!

Below are also some university resources that you may find helpful in your academic and professional career.

Mason ResourcesWebpage
GMU Learning Services https://learningservices.gmu.edu/
Academic Success Workshops https://learningservices.gmu.edu/academic-success-workshops/
Academic Coaching Program https://learningservices.gmu.edu/academic-coach/
Academic Success Certificate Program https://learningservices.gmu.edu/academic-skills-certificate-program/
Counseling and Psychological Serviceshttps://caps.gmu.edu/
Student Support and Advocacy Centerhttps://ssac.gmu.edu/

Best,

Yasamin


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