I’ll do it tomorrow... procrastinitis – part 1

“The clock’s ticking. The day’s nearly over and I haven’t got anything done again... But I made time to get it all done... If I sit down right now, at least I’ll be able to do a couple of pages... But somehow that doesn’t make sense either, I need more time... Damn, why didn’t I start right after breakfast?... I’m so tired today and I can’t concentrate... Maybe I’ll be in better shape tomorrow if I go to bed early tonight... Yep, that’s a good idea, I won’t get anything done today anyway. I’ll get up bright and early in the morning and get started straight away...”

Hello everyone!

Sound familiar? You have something that you need to get to work on: writing a paper, revising for an exam or preparing a presentation.

And after wrestling with your conscience for hours and ultimately fighting a losing battle, you make a firm resolution to get stuck into it tomorrow with all the energy you can muster – relieved that you can forget all about it for now...

Welcome to our four-part tutorial on doing the work that you can’t face doing!

We all know this pattern, to varying degrees – and it even has a scientific name: procrastination, which comes from the Latin word ‘procrastinatus’, meaning ‘to put off until the morning’.

Do we alternate between good intentions and procrastination again and again until it’s almost too late? Do stress and apprehension take away any chance we have of winding down? Do you often only get things done under huge time pressure, when stress levels are high – and then wind up dissatisfied with the end result?

On the face of it, an approach that makes sense when the deadlines are stacking up, allowing us to take a breather from time to time, turns into a torment once it becomes a habit and then a behaviour.

A chronic tendency to put off work is probably one of the most widespread and persistent problems that affect students – but not just students.

Have you often tried to get work done in good time and take a more laid-back approach – only to fall back into old behaviour patterns again and again? Are you having trouble understanding why you always end up falling into the same traps?

When it comes to dealing with work, it’s never just a matter of the task itself. Besides your mind and your abilities, strong emotions that drive our behaviour are also part of the equation – we’ll take a closer look at this topic next week.

But there’s one thing you need to know right now: if you want to overcome your tendency to procrastinate, you need to be patient with yourself and be prepared to take part in a few small experiments – but it’ll be worth your while!

The following approach has proven effective even in stubborn cases. So why not join me and try out some of my suggestions as I work through this tutorial over the next four weeks? We’ll start with part 1 today, followed by parts 2, 3 and 4 at one-week intervals.

Part 1: Take the first step... preferably right now!

Part 2: Warming up – building on the momentum from your early successes

Part 3: Take off in your mental helicopter and find the approach that’s right for you

Part 4: Give the busy bees a chance – developing a new self-concept

Part 1: Take the first step... preferably right now!

Did you know that the probability of actually turning good intentions into actions is higher if the gap between making a resolution and taking the first step is shorter?

So let’s start right away and think of a recent example of a situation where you procrastinated – maybe a seminar paper that you’ve been putting off, exam revision that you should have started ages ago... A project that’s been nagging in the pit of your stomach, but one that doesn’t have to be finished by the day after tomorrow. As I said, we’re going to need a bit longer than that.

Plan in 25 minutes to spend on the project on each working day over the next week (don’t forget to include at least one day off). It’s only 25 minutes, but set aside a specific window, for example 15:30-15:55 on day 1, 14:00-14:25 on day 2, and so on. Make a note in your calendar, set a timer, it’s totally up to you – but make sure that you set aside exactly 25 minutes specifically for this purpose.

For the first 20 minutes, spend time on the project you can’t face dealing with – it doesn’t matter what you do: open a file that you would normally steer clear of and have a look at the contents, look for or read a bit of the required literature, write down some keywords, format the table of contents, rewrite a few sentences, things like that.

No matter what you do or how worthwhile it appears – the main thing is that you keep working on the project. Make sure that you stick to the schedule and stop working when 20 minutes are up.

For the last five minutes, make a note of everything you did in the previous 20 minutes – so you build up a record over the course of the week. Keep this record safe for later.

That means you’ve done everything you needed to do this week, so now you can relax!

Check my blog next week for part 2: Warming up – building on the momentum from your early successes

If you have any questions or would like to arrange an appointment, you can reach me at angelika.groh@fh-vie.ac.at.


Contact:

If you have any questions or would like to have a consultation, please contact me at:

Groh, Angelika

Psychologist

+43 1 720 12 86-13

angelika.groh@fh-vie.ac.at