Sunday, 17 August 2014

How to stop procrastinating

I have just read an article in Ideas Tap on how to stop procrastinating. I try to warn my students about the daemon procrastination, but I always have to admit that I can also succumb to it at times! There is a good piece of advice in the article (written by Stephanie Soh), from writer Simon Whaley about breaking things down into smaller chunks and this advice is true of any piece of creative work and also for essay writing:

Break it down“Often we procrastinate because the job that needs doing is too big, or feels like a lot of work,” says Simon Whaley. “The trick is to break it down into more manageable, bite-size chunks.” He uses the example of writing a short story to illustrate this technique: “If you sit down to write a 5,000-word story then the task will overwhelm you. You will procrastinate because you’ll be trying to write the perfect first word, followed by the perfect first sentence, followed by the perfect first paragraph. Perfection is created during editing, but you can’t edit a blank page – you need to write something. Break down the task: think about a plot, or the basic premise. Don’t think, ‘I have 30 minutes, I’d better write the first 500-words.’ Just think, ‘What's my story about?’ You can worry about characters and writing your story for the next session.”
Another bit of good advice is to write down the consequences of procrastination, when you see this written down, you will feel the need to crack on with things sooner! It is so true that procrastinators will put work off until the point of pain, it is only when it is so last minute that we finally take action!

Realise the consequencesWe all know that good things happen when we meet deadlines, finish early and generally get things done. So why do we go to such lengths of put off our work? Michael Heppell believes that “People will do more to avoid pain than they will to gain pleasure. They’ll put work off until the point of pain, and that’s when they’ll suddenly take action.” What we need to do is make ourselves fully aware of the negative consequences of procrastination: “Write a list of the benefits of getting busy with what you want to do, but also a list of the pain if you don’t do it,” advises Michael. “And don’t just note one or two things, write down 10 or 15 things: what people might think about you, what it might cost you, your stress levels, your health, what it might mean to your relationship, having to stay behind at work... Big things, little things, get them all on. And by capturing it on paper, you’ll be much more inclined to do something, rather than just think about it.”

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