Three Ways to Stop Procrastinating

This tip for improving your SAT score was provided by David Greenslade at Veritas Prep.

“Well,” you think, “I’ve done it again!” You have once again put off studying for the big test until the night before. You look down at the pile of notes in front of you and realize that the chance of your effectively getting this information from the page to the brain is next to zero. “Why do I keep doing this?” You lament as you check your e-mail for the 16th time in an hour. If this in any way describes you, there is help. With just a few simple steps, you can get past procrastination and still have time to live your life.

Eliminate distractions
How many times have you sat down to do real work and then thought you would just check your e-mail first, then Facebook, then you HAVE to check out this video of a news anchor freaking out during a tornado? Before you know it, an hour has passed and you have to get ready for dinner. We distract ourselves because we feel overwhelmed by the task we have taken on, or just by the act of working. Turn off EVERYTHING, including your phone. Remember that the act of starting something is often hard, but the act of doing something is usually much easier. I remember I used to hate mowing my lawn—I would put it off until it was a veritable jungle in my yard—but the moment I started the task, I’d find that I rather enjoyed it. I would listen to music and enjoy the satisfaction of the un-mowed portion of the lawn shrinking. Doing is often not nearly as bad as the fear of doing. Just get started.

Break it down into small tasks
Again, a big part of what prevents people from beginning their work is that the enormity of a task is overwhelming, though nearly every difficult task is just a series of simpler tasks stacked on top of each other. Start by giving yourself five minutes of work (memorizing 10 vocabulary words or doing four math problems are good five-minute tasks). There is no excuse not to do five minutes of work. After the first five, make a plan to do another five later. You will probably find that once you start, you will not mind the idea of continuing. Make a schedule to do your tasks and give yourself rewards when you complete the tasks. If you don’t, do not beat yourself up or give up. Every day is a new day and a new opportunity to conquer procrastination.

Get a group and do it together
Having someone to hold you accountable for the work you are supposed to be doing can be just the motivation people need to stay on schedule. Not only does it give a set time for work to be accomplished, it provides a framework to keep you accountable for the work you are supposed to be doing. Group members can help motivate students to stay prepared, and it gives you an opportunity to act as teacher to your peers,  which is one of the best ways to learn. I always recommend picking a section and then teaching the group how to do the section. Both the deadline and the pressure to help your peers can be a powerful motivator to get you working.

The final piece of advice is to make a schedule and stick to it. This was mentioned before, but the simple act of doing is the hardest, most effective way to combat procrastination. You have the power at every moment to choose to begin, so begin now. You may find that once you start, everything else doesn’t seem so hard. You can combat procrastination. Fight the good fight, friends.

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