Urgent Support

Don't procrastinate reading this!

Every time a new assignment came in, Rahul would think to himself, 'I have loads of time! I'll definitely start tomorrow'. Later when he would sit down to work on it, he would first feel like watching his favourite TV series and would say to himself that he will start working, "just after this one episode". However, cut to one day before the submission deadline, he would find himself doing all the familiar- pulling an all-nighter, wondering how he found himself in this position all over again! He feels like he is caught in the middle of a cycle of 'If only I had started earlier!' and 'next time will be different'.

As students, most of us have often found ourselves in similar situations. It is after all not an easy loop to break out of!

Initiation
Procrastination!

Procrastination is when you delay completing important tasks and instead engage in something more pleasant but of lesser importance, even after knowing that there will be negative consequences. Remember that procrastination is not simply 'laziness'.

Can you think of a couple of instances where you may have done so?

Why do I procrastinate?

There are many reasons why people procrastinate. Which of these sound relevant to you?

  • The task is too difficult and you feel overwhelmed.
  • The task feels like a burden or something you "have to" do and not "want to" do.
  • You find it too boring or unpleasant.
  • You have too many things to finish and you're not sure where to start.
  • There are too many distractions in your environment.

While it is natural to feel some discomfort when faced with important tasks, like an exam, it can be made worse because of some deeper, less obvious factors like not feeling confident enough, worrying about perfecting the task, or being scared that you will fail. In an attempt to dodge the resulting unpleasant emotions (like insecurity, frustration, anxiety), we often engage in other pleasurable activities instead (E.g. Internet surfing, YouTube and gaming). While we feel better in the short run, there are other consequences too, like feeling guilty and more discomfort later, that lead to the continuation of the procrastination cycle.

Coping Mechanisms

How Can I Tackle Procrastination?

Procrastination can affect your productivity and prevent you from doing your best. It may appear to be difficult, but, like most other habits, one can make changes with some continued effort.

Here are some techniques you can use:
Write down your goals and create a timeline

Being clear about what you want to achieve will help improve your productivity.

  • Think about exactly what your goals for this week/month are and simply list them down on a piece of paper.
  • Prioritize your goals in the order of urgency/importance and break them down into smaller individual tasks that you will have to complete to achieve them. Set a definite timeline with deadlines and sub-deadlines for each of the smaller tasks within a broader goal. (see the worksheet below)

If you have limited time (the exam is in a week! I can't sit and write goals!), simply write down a list of things you need to do in the order of importance and set a timeline for the same.

Plan rewards

When you make a list and tick off tasks you have accomplished, it can be a visual symbol of your progress and provide positive momentum. But it is also important to have actual rewards for yourself. These rewards are often the same things that we engage in while procrastinating (using social media /snacking/taking a nap etc.). The trick then is to use them instead as pre-planned breaks (with predefined limits) and thus engage in them guilt-free.

Perfectionism - Worksheet
Take immediate action

Something of primary importance once you have a plan is to take action and begin immediately.

  • The '5 minutes rule' is a simple but effective trick to use at such times. Make a decision to do whatever it is that you would otherwise avoid for 5 minutes only. At the end of these 5 minutes, assess if you can spend another 5 minutes on the task, and so on. In case you want to stop, you are free to do so. Most people find that once they have actually started something, it’s easier to continue and are more inclined to finish it.
  • Alternatively, you could also have set time limits. Set aside a specific amount of time and stick to it. Start with smaller periods like chunks of 15-20 minutes.
Focusing

In case you are feeling unsettled while beginning a new task, take a moment to practice some deep breathing. Use your breath to settle and focus before returning to the task.

Find more information on deep breathing and other relaxation techniques you can utilize here.

Use this table to create your own action plan:
GOALS FOR THE WEEK/MONTH OF
Time Required
To be completed by
My Reward
Reward Limits(e.g. time limits, quantity limits, etc.)
Goal 1
Task 1. a
Task 1. b
Task 1. c
Goal 2
Task 2. a
Task 2. b
Task 2. c

Challenges/Distractions I may face:

What I'll do to overcome them:

Tips and tricks

Practice being in the moment and tolerating the discomfort arising when faced with a task instead of engaging in alternate activities.
Find more on mindfulness here

Create the right environment by unplugging and removing all distractions. Figure out your most productive hours (early morning/night time) and use your natural patterns to your advantage. Plan in advance how you will deal with potential distractions and challenges. Adding a delay before indulging in your impulses can also help (example: put a lock on the apps you tend to use)

Make the tasks more enjoyable. Use flashcards, turn it into a game, challenge yourself.

Tackle smaller tasks as soon as they arise to prevent them from building up.

Tell some trusted person about your plans. This will not only make you more accountable but you can also rely on this person for support in tougher times.

Hold yourself accountable for your actions but don’t be too hard on yourself for the times you have procrastinated in the past. Practice Self-compassion. Replace your self-critical thoughts with something more helpful (E.g. I am upset I didn't do any work today; what can I learn from what didn't go well so I can try not to repeat it tomorrow?)

Emotional Time Travel: When you recognize that you are procrastinating, try thinking of yourself in the future and imagine how nice you will feel once you finish the task. Through your imagination, let yourself experience the success of accomplishing a task and use it as a motivator to begin work now.

Seek help

If any of these don’t seem to be working, please reach out!
  • Procrastination, like other habits, can be overcomed with sustained effort. If you require assistance with the same, please reach out for support.
  • For academic concerns, the Faculty Advisor could be your first point of contact. You may also have specific queries about your different courses, in which case you can talk to your respective course instructors. The DAMP mentor (if you have one) would help you out as well.
  • Your ISMP/ ISCP mentor is your go-to person! It could be about procrastination or any other factors, your mentor has been there, done that. Do not hesitate in talking to them.
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed and nothing seems to be helping right now, talking to a counsellor at the Student Wellness Centre could give relief and provide guidance about what you can do.
  • Last but certainly not the least, your parents are just a phone call away. Don’t hold back from contacting them even if you just want to unburden!