How to Overcome Procrastination

“Let him who would move the world first move himself”


Procrastination is a terrible feeling. It hinders our ability to do anything productive, haunts us from having fun, and takes away our free will. It may sound like a hyperbole, but it’s not! Every procrastinator knows the feeling intimately well. You feel incapable of doing the task, so you may want to take advantage of that time by hanging out with friends, only… you’re not really hanging out with your friends. You’re thinking, in the back of your mind, that you need to get that project finished, or start that reading, or buckle down and write that paper.How to Overcome Procrastination

Even when you’re trying to have fun, you can’t. What’s worse, this is not a disease that merely plagues students, it plagues humankind and unfortunately, the “solution” from any non-procrastinators’ perspective tends to be, “Just do the task,” but procrastinators know it’s not a simple matter of willpower. Willpower is great and all, but the fact is, you may clear your desk, turn off your phone, unplug your internet and throw on noise cancelling headphones with nothing more than the sound of silence – literally, not the Simon and Garfunkel song – and yet… you still cannot write a single sentence.

Why? You’re seemingly doing everything right; you’re seemingly “doing it” as non-procrastinators would say, but you’re not getting anything done. That’s the rub of procrastination right there because other people will view that behavior as “lazy,” but you’re not lazy, you’re trying to get the task done, your brain feels like it’s not working. You’re frozen; you’re paralyzed. So you spend your thoughts on worrying how this task will ever get done since you’ve done nothing. How do you overcome that?

Forget Willpower

“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.”
-William James

Don’t blame yourself or your willpower, it will just bring you down and you don’t need that. Self-discipline is great and, like any muscle, it can be learned, exercised, and improved upon, but it’s not dependable. So much of your willpower to do a task is dependent on your motivation which fluctuates based on your mood and daily circumstances. As a result, how can you rely solely on self-discipline to get the job done for you? The reality is, you can’t.

Make it Easier

“Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible.”
-George Claude Lorimer

Often, the biggest cause for procrastination is the volume of work that’s needed. It’s not simply that you don’t want to do it or even that you’d rather be doing something else, it’s that you need to read 200 pages by tomorrow, or get a 20-page paper done tonight.

These tasks are daunting because of how big they seem. So ultimately, you need to trick your mind into letting you do them. How do you trick your mind into scaling the Mount Everest of tasks? Let’s insert another shameless quote:

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Convince your mind that the task isn’t this monolithic thing you’re scaling. Instead, tell yourself that you’ll write 1-page of your 20-page paper tonight. Odds are, you’re going to write more than that, but don’t think about that. You’ve made a commitment to write one page, anything more than that is just a fortunate consequence, but it’s not what you’re setting out to achieve. Similarly, you have 200 pages of reading, choose to read 10 pages, that’s doable; maybe you’ll find a rhythm and do more, but you’ve mentally prepared for ten, that’s all you need to do.

This is the key to overcoming procrastination. It’s doing a little at a time, frequently. This sounds infinitely easier than waiting until “crunch time” and powering through, making your well of willpower run dry – that’s not helping, in fact, it’s literally doing the opposite. There’s an interesting parallel between procrastination and anxiety attacks that reinforces this point.

Anxiety attacks make people feel like their world is crumbling around them and their body reacts accordingly. Their body gets icy cold, trying to keep their primary organs functioning optimally because the anxiety is making the brain believe that it’s in real danger. The unfortunate thing is, when the anxiety attack passes, the brain thinks it’s because it reacted this way, so it reinforces the anxiety attack to happen again! That’s a cycle. In order to prevent that cycle from happening, one of the best things you can do is talk yourself through your anxiety attack, surveying your environment and telling yourself that you’re not in real danger. It’s hard, it’s not easy, but it helps to ward off reinforcing your anxiety.

Similarly, most procrastinators only “feel” procrastination when the task is due within 24 hours. As a result, that crunch time stress is reinforced rather than abated. Unconsciously, you’re reaffirming procrastination by procrastinating because you’re showing your brain that you can complete a task with 90 minutes to spare. That reinforces procrastination. As a result, you should almost treat this as a disease. It’s not something that happens once in a while, but rather, procrastination is perpetual and by waiting until the last minute, you’re treating the symptom, not the disease.

Tackling your tasks a little at a time, frequently, is how you cure the disease. It’s constantly warding off procrastination and reinforcing positive habits. The more often you do this, the more your brain is retrained. It stops thinking about this Everest of a task, and starts thinking, “You’ve been reading 10 pages a day in no more than 10 minutes. So you have, 90 more pages of reading to do, that’s an hour and a half, you can do that.” The tasks eventually “look” less daunting, making you feel more capable of tackling them. A 20-page paper is nothing if you have two weeks to do it because your brain is accustomed to doing a page a day.




Where Should You Go to College?

Choosing a college is an important decision, and far too many students make a decision based on a single factor. They might choose the college that seems the cheapest or the one that’s closest to home without really looking at the college as a whole. These things don’t necessarily mean a good fit. If you want to be happy with your decision, carefully consider your options. Look for a school that’s going to be right for you in all the ways that matter most to you.Where Should You Go to College?

Close to Home or Far Away?
For many students, college is the first taste of freedom they get. It’s an opportunity to separate from your parents and deal with adult things like time management and paying bills on your own. This leads some to look for schools that are far away from home. For example, students in New York might try applying to universities in Oregon or New Mexico. If a school far away sounds pretty good to you, think first of the travel costs and whether you’ll feel lonely when you can’t make it home for Thanksgiving. A school within driving distance might be a better compromise.
On the other hand, you might feel better about going to a college that’s closer to home. Living at home while you take classes could be a good way to save some money on your education, particularly if you have a good school nearby. However, you’ll also probably have the option of living on campus even if your parents are just 20 minutes away. This will give you some independence along with the ability to be close to family when needed.

Student Population
Look at the number of students in each class to decide whether this will give you the experience you want. Large universities often have very large class sizes, particularly in the introductory classes. This might make it difficult to develop a close relationship with your professors and get the personalized experience you prefer. Of course, some people love being part of the crowd and appreciate the opportunity to meet many different types of people. As you go deeper into your college major, the class sizes are bound to get smaller, and you might be willing to wait a few years to develop relationships with your professors.

Look closely at the academic offerings the school provides. If you already know what you want to do after graduation, you’ll want to be sure that the college offers a program that sets you on that path. For instance, a Bachelor’s degree from any college is a good first step on the way to becoming a teacher, but if you want to be a radiology technician or a computer programmer, you’ll need a school that has courses and certifications in these areas. You’ll also want to find a school that offers you a good academic challenge without being too difficult. Get a feel for this by looking at the average test scores for admitted students or by sitting in on a class or two.

College isn’t just about academics. Participating in extracurricular activities is a good way to make friends and gain leadership skills that will help you in the workforce. That’s why it’s important to look into the clubs and activities the school offers. If you join the ski club, you’ll be sure to hit the slopes a few times a year in between classes. If you join a community service organization, you’ll feel joy in giving back to your town. No matter where your interests lie, you want to be sure that the college has an outlet for them. If not, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.

Campus “Feel”
Different types of schools attract different types of people. Some schools are known as “party schools” while others have rules against alcohol on campus. Some schools are known to attract students who are interested in activism, and some schools attract serious students who will always be found in the library. You can go by reputation alone, but it’s hard to get a feel for the school without visiting. If a school makes your short list, take some time to go to the campus and pay attention to how the other students are acting.

Christian vs. Secular
If your Christian beliefs are an important part of who you are, it’s smart to focus your college search on private Christian colleges. Almost all colleges will have small pockets of believers, and you’re sure to find Christian groups on campuses throughout America, but when you attend a Christian college, you can feel confident that all students there share your beliefs. You won’t have to worry as much about peer pressure to drink or to have sex before marriage. It could also be a good place to meet a future husband or wife who you know shares your faith.

Alum Support
Consider what type of support you can find from the school after graduation as well. A college that has a good career services department can help with finding jobs for the rest of your life. Many colleges also have alumni groups that get together in areas around the country for networking or friendship. This isn’t always a deciding factor when you look at colleges, but it’s definitely nice to know that the college offers continued support throughout the years.

The Affordability Factor
For most families, affordability is one of the biggest concerns when choosing a college. State schools tend to have significantly lower tuition rates for in-state students, but they don’t always offer the financial aid that students need. Private schools, on the other hand, cost more but can offer eligible students grants and scholarships to make the school more affordable. As you apply to schools, keep costs in mind, but wait until you get an acceptance letter and the financial aid package before making a decision. Sometimes, when you show another school’s aid package to your first choice school, they’ll offer to match that package for you.

Ultimately, you want to choose a school that has the whole package. This means different things to different students, so keep an open mind as you look at all of the schools available to you.