How to Stop Procrastinating


Sophie Kadan, Staff Writer


Many of us procrastinate, despite our best efforts not to. After all, it always seems easier to complete those assignments later, or perhaps when it’s more convenient. When that time never comes, we regret those decisions, scrambling to turn something mediocre in at the last minute. Here are a few tricks to help you avoid this trap in the future.

  1.   Remove nearby distractions, including your cell phone

This one’s a bit cliché, but it really does work. Studies have shown that turning off your phone and setting it face down drastically improves focus, retention, and understanding. In fact, even setting it on “Do Not Disturb” is better than nothing. It is important to remember that everything will still be there when you get back, and removing these distractions early on allows you to return to them later with more energy and less stress.

  1.   Start it, even for five minutes

Doing unfavorable tasks is hard: each has an “activation energy” that we must overcome to complete it.  Luckily, the hardest part of completing a task is often just starting it. This means that if you commit to doing something for only five minutes, you’ll likely work more productively on it for much longer.

  1.   Predict for failure

As you set your goal, think about what is going to stop you from completing it. Predict how you may fall short. Doing this helps you recognize your bad habits, preparing you to overcome them in the future.

  1.   Create accountability

It’s much easier to disappoint our own expectations than others’. Thus, if you commit to working on a task with a friend, the added accountability will make you much more likely to stick to your plan, and even a higher standard.


5.     Make “friends” with your future self

We often push tasks back, hoping that our future selves will be much more motivated to complete it than our current selves are. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, as we are typically more stressed, time-crunched, and overwhelmed as the assignment due date creeps closer. By over-idealizing our future selves, we fail to recognize the obvious: that they are no different from our current selves. We can remove this disconnect by empathizing with our future selves, completing the assignments that we get at a more manageable rate.

  1.   Reward yourself!

Sometimes, we just need some positive reinforcement to motivate us to do our work. Set a goal and reward yourself when you reach it—no matter how small the accomplishment is.

  1.   Set a time (and commit to it!)

Most of us would consider completing our missing assignments unfavorable, so we sporadically complete them over long periods of time—dragging our feet to complete one here and there. Unfortunately, doing this actually makes the process more unbearable: according to neuroscientists, prolonging unfavorable events prevents our brains from adapting to their unpleasantness. By instead committing to a definite set of time, we can enter into a more prolonged and productive state of mind.

  1.   Put yourself in the right environment

It’s always easier to focus in a silent library than in a chattery restaurant. That’s because we’re more inclined to mimic our environment, to do what those around us are doing. Luckily, if we set ourselves in a motivated environment, we can reap the benefits of our strange psychology. 

  1.   Take breaks

Many of us procrastinate when we feel overwhelmed, hoping to avoid our problems by delegating them to the future. If we instead set a short time to decompress, we can return to our tasks with a fresh mind.

  1.   Make a to-do list

By writing our tasks out on paper, we make them more tangible. When this happens, we become much more inclined to complete them, recognizing their urgency and time-commitment. 

(Not to mention, crossing off those tasks always feels great 😊)

  1.   Finally, make it easy

Make it as easy as possible to access your pencils, textbook, and laptop by setting them nearby. The less work it takes to begin the task, the more likely it is that you’ll complete it.