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Are you procrastinating?

Where does procrastination fit in your life?

Procrastination is such a powerful thing. It can come and go through all stages in life in different forms, and it’s often difficult to break that habit. How does it affect you? Where does procrastination fit in your busy life?

As always, let’s define what we’re talking about. What is the definition of procrastination? Procrastination is “the action of delaying or postponing something”. A very self-explanatory definition, isn’t it? We delay something until the last minute, which often puts us in a stressful situation. Why do we keep doing it? How do we tackle it, so we can break the habit?

Let’s put this in a case study, but with you as the main character.

You are a university student and as the life of a student, you know you’ll have assignments, projects, and exams piled on top of you. As expected, when you receive all the syllabi for the term, you find deadlines shoved together and you dread those periods of time.

By the time the deadlines approach, you do everything you can to avoid doing whatever task is closing in. You clean your room, you play games, you start learning new hobbies—you do anything so you don’t have to study or write that paper.

The night before comes and you’re cramming everything at the last moment. You write your paper, you study, you send e-mails to your project mates—it’s a chaotic mess because you procrastinated. You’re stressed and you’re not sure if you’re doing anything right, but you’re going to do something so at least you tried. When everything is completed, you feel a weight off your shoulders, but you’re feeling the exhaustion after having done everything in one night. You go on saying you’ll break your procrastination habit, but you never really do because you don’t know where to start.

This case study is something almost everyone goes through as a student. Even not as a student, people avoid tasks until the last moment, but why? Why do we do it and why do we let it be a huge part of our life?

Studies have shown that when we procrastinate, we engage the part of the brain that registers pain. When we see something that we do not want to do, that part of our brain lights up and our body believes that we’re in pain. Then, our mind tells us to do whatever it can to get away from the pain—to neutralize the threat to ourselves. Therefore, we procrastinate and do other things.

Then, how do you beat procrastination? I believe the best way to beat procrastination is to start working as soon as possible. Within the first few minutes of thinking about doing anything, just do it. Focus on the task at hand for at least half an hour and then take a short break. Do not take the break for longer than needed or you will procrastinate! The break is there to recharge your mind and body and give yourself a small reward for accomplishing the work you’ve done.

The method I mentioned is my interpretation of the Pomodoro technique. Pomodoro’s technique is as follows:

  • Make a list of the tasks
  • Decide the task that needs to be done
  • Set a timer – 25 minutes
  • Work on the task for the set amount of time
  • End work when the timer goes off and put a checkmark per item you’ve finished
  • If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break of 3 to 5 minutes, then restart the timer
  • After four checks, take a 15 to 30-minute break, then reset the entire process again

Most people want to break their habit of procrastination, so I say tackle it head-on. It’s difficult to say there is a way to ease yourself out of the habit, so go forth and deal with it immediately. The faster you handle it, the sooner it’ll be broken.

Remember, we procrastinate because our brain believes we’re in pain, but we’re not. We merely dislike the situation or task at hand, so we avoid it. Avoidance can only spell trouble because from experience it can lead to high stress in the end or long overnight study sessions. The key is to act immediately and focus. Give yourself small rewards after certain periods and complete what’s needed of you. Don’t let procrastination rule your life.

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