How to stop procrastinating

Deadlines slipping? Essays always late? Never enough hours in the day? The Mix tells you how to stop procrastinating and manage your time.

Girl with clock

If I hide behind this clock, maybe the deadline won't find me?

What is procrastinating?

It’s simply putting off all the stuff you need to do by doing something pretty useless instead. Like browsing the internet for ten hours instead of writing that essay. Time management is a way of organising your time through planning, scheduling and prioritising. It sounds difficult, but it isn’t. Its purpose is simply to help you sort out what you have to do and how to arrange your time so you can achieve your goals.

How will time management help me not procrastinate?

It’s easy to keep putting things off until later, or to get distracted from the task in hand. Having too many things to deal with at once can also feel very overwhelming, but learning to manage your time will help you to feel more in control of your workload. It will also reduce the anxiety that comes with avoiding what you know you have to do, so learning how to stop procrastinating can boost your mental health.

Is time management just about working?

Effective time management will improve all areas of your life. You’ll be able to manage your work more effectively and achieve a good balance between working, studying, seeing friends and your hobbies.

What do I need to know before I start managing my time?

It can help to be aware of how you use and waste your time. Think about:

  • What’s stopping you from working? Most of us don’t have problems finishing projects or reports – but we do have problems starting them. So think about what’s holding you back and work on that. Is it fear? If so, ask for help. Is it the size of the task? If it is, then break daunting projects into manageable chunks.
  • Think about how long it takes for you to become restless when working. This will help you to work out when you need to schedule breaks (see below) to avoid getting distracted or ‘burning out’. Most people find they can work for 50 minutes then need a five-minute break to improve their concentration.
  • Find out what distracts you from working – is it your phone, your email, Facebook or domestic tasks? Work on minimising these distractions. Try checking your emails only once an hour, set your phone on silent and remember the housework can wait until you’ve finished!

How do I start managing my time?

Get organised

Most of us panic and waste time because we are unclear about what we have to do. Start by writing down all your tasks and create a to-do list. Next to each task write down when each piece of work is due. Lastly, prioritise this list in order of importance, with the most urgent deadline at the top of your list.

Make a plan

Using a diary or calendar, look at the time you have available each day (be realistic or your plan will fail) and allocate blocks of time to your tasks starting with the most urgent. From this plan create a daily to-do list. Include the work you have to do for the day, social events, meetings and essential tasks. This list is key to getting used to managing your time on a daily basis.

Motivate yourself

There are different ways of doing this. You could promise yourself a treat when you finish a piece of work, such as going out with friends, or focus on the fear of what will happen if you don’t complete it. Negative motivation doesn’t work for everyone, but it can help drive some people towards their goals.

Photo of clock girl by Shutterstock

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work tips

By Anita Naik

Updated on 29-Sep-2015