A former colleague told me a story one time about a friend of his, a school teacher, who left school early on the last day of the school year to buy wallpaper and paste, so he could decorate a room in his house at a leisurely pace over the summer holidays. Two months later, on the last day before term started, he was rushing to start and finish the job! An example of procrastination at its finest?
Of course, he is not the only one. There are many examples of this type of procrastination and once you have sighed and blushed over these, I will give you Just One tip on how to avoid being one of these stories.
A recent study was run on “procrastination in schools” and the results were remarkable. Over 90% of students suffer from procrastination whether it involves tests, assignments, or exams. This tends to get worse as they grow older and does not fade away. This is often known as “student syndrome”, where the project has been given plenty of time for preparation, so the student puts off starting because they have “plenty of time” but of course, that time slips away. There is a book written for procrastinators in upper school and College for writing essays and even pulling an overnighter but you will need to know the material, unless it is a pure conjectural or fiction type of essay. I wish I had known about this book when I was in school but the author wasn’t even born then. It’s an excellent book and will only take about 2 hours to go through. You can even download it to a Kindle so you can get stuck in straight away. I have read it and used it during my doctoral studies but it is also useful for school pupils writing essays. It is called “Don’t Panic: The Procrastinator’s Guide to Writing an Effective Term Paper” by Steven Posusta.
There are a select few who can overcome this problem and continue to improve as students. The rest struggle and these bad habits continue even into academic life. Some academics in University seldom publish papers in journals (as they are required to do), they just don’t “get round to it”. There is a useful book available for them too, on writing a journal article in 12 weeks, based on a paper or essay they have already written, no matter how poor. Again, this is an extremely useful book but is aimed at academic journal articles in all fields. This book is called “Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success” by Wendy Belcher.
Biggest examples of procrastination?
Does it happen elsewhere? You KNOW it does!
Let’s take a peek at a few more stories.
1) Work Assignments
There is no better example than the employee with a major presentation coming up, and who delays preparing for it. After all, in the US, people are said to be more frightened of speaking in public than of death! You might feel comfortable about your knowledge on the topic and prefer to put off preparing. This happens all the time because people don’t want to do the work. You might know the topic, but is that a good reason to delay preparing? What if there are hitches along the way? Procrastination could lead to serious trouble, and it often does. Remember that old adage – To fail to Prepare is to Prepare to Fail.
Cleaning is another example of procrastination at its finest. People might have spring cleaning around the corner or just a general day where the rooms have to be vacuumed, and the dusting has to be done. Well, they will delay it to a point where the house is a mess, and it is hard to move around. The same goes for those who leave the dishes to the end of the night rather than doing them along the way. This leads to a pile of dirty dishes no one wants to look at.
There is a “Just One” tip below to help with this.
Ever felt like a person was bullying you? What about those were not doing their end of the bargain on a group project? It happens all the time, and certain people put off tackling it because they feel it will turn into confrontation and those repercussions can require further attention which frightens them, so they deny it is happening.
What To Do?
These are all examples of procrastination at its finest. There is a lot of risk attached to putting things off for so long, and it is rarely the right option. So what can you do?
My preferred option is doing “Just One” and I apply it to everything where I am likely to procrastinate. Just One, means exactly that. If I am procrastinating on putting the laundry away, I tell myself, “Just one item” or sometimes “just one minute”. I put away one item as I pass the laundry drier on the upper landing, even if it is only a hanky. It’s only one item BUT, it’s done, it’s away and I can do another one next time I pass. If it’s an essay, then “Just One” might mean “one minute”. I can pin a piece of paper to my noticeboard and write down 5 questions about the subject in that one minute. If someone is not pulling their weight on a project, I ask them for one minute of their time and say what I am doing, then ask for their comments. There is no confrontation and because the intervention happens with plenty of time before the project is due, it gives them a chance to overcome THEIR procrastination.
When you are confronted with a big task that you don’t know where to start, Do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, just do something, JUST ONE. You will feel freer and an awful lot better. That dread in the pit of your stomach will start to lift and you will see a way through to completing it. Maybe not right away but you will find that path towards completion.
Carrying Through a Long Project
If you need to carry through a long project with several steps, you may find this new post on how to stop procrastinating helpful. It includes a visual tool for comparing what you have done with what still is left to do and because you stick it up somewhere you will see it every day, it provides a visual reminder of the undone project, rather like a Daruma doll, only it shows you what steps to take.