I had a student who wanted to quit studying for his SATs because he just never felt like studying and so he thought he was a “bad student” and not cut out for attending a well regarded university. He thought that he was the only person who procrastinated and didn’t feeling like studying, and wasn’t passionate about school work.
In the class were 8 other hard-working, excellent students who sacrificed time and energy to prepare for SATs, SAT Subject tests, AP exams, IB exams. I asked them if they ever were excited to start working. Nope…nobody. Certainly, there are some subjects more enjoyable than others. But overall, nobody is thrilled to do schoolwork. So of course, your brain tries to trick you into doing anything (ANYTHING) else. Scrubbing the bathroom floor seems infinitely more enticing than starting the research for that Hemingway essay.
To beat procrastination (with a great big stick) you need to understand how you procrastinate and build walls to stop it and use a combination of will power and motivation. Now will power is great, but you have a limited supply of it. If you are currently using will power to not eat a bag of chips and to not phone your ex-girlfriend, then will power may be exhausted already and won’t have the energy to help you put your butt in your seat and get to work.
So you need to understand how you procrastinate and what motivates you. Less procrastination and more motivation.
1. Understand your procrastination
How do you procrastinate? Social media? Youtube? Netflix? Cleaning? Eating? There are as many ways to procrastinate as there are people. Understand what your go-to methods of procrastinate and build in time to do those things in your schedule. Something simple like a sign over your desk that reminds you that you are supposed to be working and not watching just 1 more video. These apps can help you shut down social media for a time, so you are less tempted.
2. Identify what motivates you.
Some people are motivated by rewards, others by accomplishments, others by praise, others by the fear of disappointing someone else. Whatever your motivation is, create a system to motivate yourself to do what needs to get done every day.
- If you are motivated by rewards, plan your rewards and post them on your wall. If I finish all of my work today, I get to …
- If you are motivated by accomplishment, have a paper calendar on your wall that gets a stick (star) every day you finish your work. When you have a streak of stars, try not to break the streak.
- If you are motivated by fear of disappointing others or praise, have a daily check-in with your accountability partner.
This is not easy and everybody struggles with it, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you mess up. Just make a better effort now.
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