Note to readers; if you aren’t reading this on my website you’re probably missing out on the extra content in the embedded links. Read it at studyprof.com to avoid missing out on some spiffy mind candy. In my previous post I started an UNinfographic, turning this infographic–based on Piers Steel’s book, The Procrastination Equation–into something easier to read and apply. Dr. Steel, of whose name I am quite jealous, has done a bang-up job of summarizing all the best research on procrastination and motivation–both of which are vital for study skills and habits. I’m giving you the short and sweet version, with my own additions and insights, but if you want the full scoop check out the book!
In our last installment we looked at ten ways to increase the value of a task thereby forcefully ejecting procrastination from the premises. This time around we’ll turn our attention to another part of the procrastination equation, decreasing impulsiveness. So without further ado, here are ten ways to decrease your impulsiveness and avoid procrastination.
- “Set a Goal.” Nothing new here sports fans. If you’ve every been to one of my study skills seminars you know that setting goals and establishing habits are powerful study skills that help you get things done. That’s why I developed a one-hour video course called How to Become a Super Scholar, that teaches you the ins and outs of setting and achieving goals like a pro. Dr. Steel notes a couple of keys to good goal-setting; make those goals specific, meaningful, and realistic; break them down; concentrate on input rather than output (“I’ll study an hour a day.” vs. “I’ll make an A.”); and concentrating on what you will achieve rather than what you’ll avoid. I give you the step-by-step recipe on how to do these things (and more!) in my training video, How to Become a Super Scholar. Check it out now!
- “Run a Dash.” Set yourself a timer and commit to doing five minutes of whatever it is you’re avoiding. This is, again, old news to regular readers of StudyProf.com. Works like a charm, and it’s way easy. BONUS: Here’s a nice little web app called Routine Trainer to help you with this. There’s no documentation and it’s light on options (which can be a bonus), but I’ve been using it with good results to write this post. My thanks to author, Mark Johnson!
- “Eliminate Temptations.” You “StudyProffers” (“StudyProfits”?) have already heard this one as well; recognize what tempts you to distraction and eliminate or hide it. A bonus from the book; don’t focus on the fun parts of your temptation, rather, key in on the abstract and un-fun. For example; if I’m distracted by the time vortex that is FaceBook, I might focus on how I need to adjust my security settings to keep lurkers at bay and how I hate the layout, rather than thinking about how fun it will be to see which of my frenemies posted the most embarrassing status updates and pics last Friday night.
- “Make Failure Painful.” Make expensive bets with someone about whether or not you’ll get your bugaboo project done. Brag to anyone and everyone about how you’ll be finished by Saturday. Give your roommate your smart phone and tell them not to give it back to you until you can show them your completed project. This is Study Skills 101 for you regular readers.
- “Eliminate Distractions.” Hmmm. Seems suspiciously like number three on our info-graphic’s list, “Eliminate Temptations.” Looks like a distinction without a difference to me, or, at the very least, 3 and 5 coulda’ been lumped together with no damage done.
- “Create Routines and Habits.” This one has been around since the ancient Greeks at least and for good reason! If you can make something habitual–say, reviewing your notes as you walk across campus–your procrastination woes will disappear like pro baseball players on drug-testing day. The example of studying while walking across campus brings out another key point; integrate new habits and study skills (reviewing, in this case) into existing routines (walking across campus). That way it fits into a pre-existing set of behaviors and becomes a habit with much less friction. Dr. Steel also recommends separating work and play. I’ll want to see the research on this one before I go any further, cuz’ I know from my own experience that making work into a game can be very effective, however, maybe the info-graphic just didn’t capture the idea very well. More reading is in order. According to Dr. Steel, you should also schedule your leisure before your work. If you have something fun to look forward to, it transmogrifies painful tasks into a pathway to pleasure.
- “Use Goal Reminders.” That is, give yourself Vision and keep drawing your attention back to that Vision. Example; if you’re training for a marathon you might read inspirational running books and put a photo of someone triumphantly crossing a finish line up on your bathroom mirror. Homework: think of several ways you could do the same thing with your academic goals.
- “Stop Suppressing Thoughts.” That means that trying to force yourself not to think about distractions is often counter-productive. Better: distract yourself from your distraction by using one of your goal reminders from number 7 above. For example; when you are tempted to stop studying and go watch youtube clips of Portlandia, look at that picture you put on your bulletin board of you in your cap and gown graduating magna cum laude. Replace your distraction with your Vision.
- “Make Progress Visual.” Make a chart or graph to make your progress visible! This one has been well known in the literature for a long time, and there are lots of websites and apps to help you do this, but just exing out dates on a calendar (a la Jerry Seinfeld) whenever you engage in your target behavior can be every bit as effective.
- “Use Negative Pairing.” Here’s one I haven’t written much about, but which I use extensively in achieving my own goals. Here’s how it works. Visualize something horrible or disgusting associated with your temptation or distraction. For example, have a tough time not eating all the Oreos in the house (mea culpa)? Visualize smashing up some (forgive me, gentle readers) maggots to make the creamy filling in each Oreo. Visualize it over and over again, in gory and multi-sensory detail, until you can’t stand the thought of Oreos any more. This requires a lot of heavy mental lifting, but it really works. I also pair this with positive imagery. I’ll use an academic example to make it clear. First the negative; I visualize putting down my homework and turning to my computer to open up some heavy-duty time-suck activity or website. As I turn to the computer, I see an image on the screen of something horrific and disgusting (I won’t go into detail, but mine usually involves extreme chunder and two-day-old road kill.) I try to let the horror and disgust really permeate me for a few seconds. Then the positive; I visualize myself turning away from the computer and going back to studying. I feel waves of relief and a pleasurable sense of accomplishment wash over me. I run this mental film strip over and over each day before I begin studying. It’s amazingly and powerfully effective! Give it a shot.
There you have it! Ten More Easy Ways to Kill Procrastination. Add these to your habits and study skills arsenal one at a time.
Next time we’ll look at what Dr. Steel says about increasing expectancy as a way to kick procrastination right in wobbly bits. Don’t forget to share or like this post if you found it helpful. It takes you a measly second to do but gives me a squidgeon of joy and helps others too. Spread the love!© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.