I’m in high school and I always find myself procrastinating on assignments (especially important ones) to the last minute by procrastinating too long and not getting a great grade as a result.
What can I do to make sure I get my work done sooner and motivate myself to do it instead of procrastinating?
Eleanor says: Listen, I’m an Olympic-level procrastinator. I’ll take the toaster apart, polish its parts, and put it back together before opening my emails for the day. I will read the footnotes of the footnotes on a Wikipedia page about the screws they use in Boeings. I’ve seen lists that you wouldn’t believe.
This is what I know.
We procrastinate because we are trying to avoid the way working makes us feel. It is not because we are lazy. If your parents or teachers act like you are lazy, you can act like they are wrong. We do it because working makes us feel bad, down to the bone. Determining exactly what “bad” taste your job makes you feel will help, but the basic structure is that we are running away from a feeling by running away from work.
The things we run to have a pattern worth learning. If you can spot it, like the stripes on a poisonous snake, you can avoid mistakes that some of your friends will spend years making. The pattern is: we run into things that promise a feeling and actually undermine it. In procrastination, the feeling is fun. (Drinking can be freedom; playing can be carefree).
We want fun in the workplace, and procrastination offers it, but the catch is, we never get a fun day off, Ferris Bueller-style. We just do endless non-work stuff within plausible reach of the computer strap. Then when we come out of the bliss of self-erasing, we find that we have very little time left for any work. or fun.
Accordion Procrastination-Ruins Your Time; It robs you of the hours you need to do what really feels like fun.
The first is habit. Start as small as you can. Don’t directly fight with big purposes like “I will do all my homework every day.” Just promise yourself something small to start with: I’ll ask a homework question first thing in the morning when I get home. Only one. Practice being happy with yourself for sticking with that habit. A swim coach I once knew liked to say: You are faster than people who didn’t show up.
The second basic idea is calm. When work is going wrong, and sometimes it will, practice responding to it naturally. So you got a bad grade, you put off something important. Happens.
We avoid things when we find them intolerable, so if you find your mistakes intolerable, you will avoid them, which means you will avoid correcting them. That can get messy. I know someone who moved to another country to avoid a delayed assignment. But the more you can tolerate, the less you will avoid. So practice tolerating the fact that you procrastinated. Say “I’ll recognize it and try again.” This could involve resisting the pettiness or panic of an adult. It’s fine. You can tell them that it is more helpful to point out what can still be fixed than to dwell on what cannot be changed. And you can tell them that I said to ask if they were ever behind on their taxes.
Try not to beat yourself up for needing to run away from things that make you feel bad. You are designed to have it, it keeps you safe. But try to have habits that prevent you from running, and if you’re going to run, at least do it to make it really fun.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism