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Counseling Center

Procrastination

"I know I should do it, but I just can't seem to get started."

"This is stupid! I wish I did not have to do this dumb job."

"Let me check FB or Twitter one more time - then I'll get going."

Sound familiar? Almost all of us procrastinate some of the time about some things. We all have our list of things we try to avoid doing (term papers, the laundry, studying for an exam, etc.). Putting off doing tasks we do not like is normal, but if procrastination gets out of hand, we end up wasting a lot of valuable time and energy.

Here are some suggestions to beat procrastination:

  • Recognize when you are procrastinating.   Often we doodle, dawdle, daydream or otherwise side-track ourselves without realizing it. Become aware of your favorite procrastination tactics and learn to catch yourself as soon as you wander off.
  • Break inertia.   Ever watch a freight train start to move? That first forward jolt takes the most energy; keeping the train rolling is much easier. Do some small things to get your task started (e.g., write the first sentence of the term paper). Then pace yourself. You'll probably find it's much easier to keep rolling along at a comfortable clip. 
  • Divide your project into small, manageable pieces.   Take one step at a time and don't worry about reaching the ultimate goal.  Make use of small chunks of time.  Writing a few lines of that paper before dinner may inspire you to return to the paper later.
  • Set reachable sub-goals that are specific.  For instance, "Read 20 pages of Chapter 5 by 8:00 tonight," rather than "Do some studying later." This helps you gain a sense of accomplishment from having reached your goal.
  • Don't sabotage yourself.  Set up your environment with as few distractions as possible. Face it; getting down to an unpleasant task is tough enough without giving yourself easy excuses to procrastinate.  Arrange your work space just the way you like it, and work at times when you have peak energy.
  • Reward your non-procrastinating behavior.  So you finally made a dent in that chore you've been putting off. Great! Give yourself a little something special as a reward.
  • Enjoy your freedom. When you complete an unpleasant task, take a moment to feel how nice it is to have it over and done with. No more nagging yourself to do the job, no more feeling like there's a weight on your shoulders. ENJOY!

*Adapted, in part, from How to Beat Procrastination, UW-Stout