Overcoming Procrastination Eric Rosenthal, Ph.D. Director, Academic Advising and Counseling Workshop Overview • Introduction and rationale • Causes of procrastination • Cures for procrastination • Cognitive-behavioral solutions ● Procrastinator phrases ● Procrastinator log ● Procrastinator contract • Time management tips Introduction • Procrastination afflicts millions of people and almost always has negative effects on productivity and sense of well-being. • Although everyone procrastinates in his/her own way, it can best be defined as delaying required or desired tasks by choosing other activities. Why Overcome Procrastination? • Putting things off to the last minute almost always reduces your ability to perform at your best. • Procrastinators often never perform the required or desired task (they wait until it is too late). Why Overcome Procrastination? • Procrastination leads to stress and/or decreased sense of well-being and/or self-esteem. ● Last-minute pressure produces stress. ● Daily delaying of required or desired tasks leads to chronic worry. ● Knowing that the task still needs to be done may make it harder to enjoy the present. ● Knowing that you are letting yourself down can impair self-esteem. Causes of Procrastination Although everyone procrastinates for unique reasons or combinations of reasons, the most common causes are: • Rebellion: I don’t want to do it! I don’t have to do it! You can’t make me do it! I won’t do it! • Fear of Failure: I don’t have confidence in my ability, and I’d rather believe ―I didn’t study enough‖ than ―I’m not smart enough.‖ Causes of Procrastination • Lack of enjoyment: I don’t like this class, this book, these problems, this paper. So I turn to more enjoyable, immediate activities such as T.V., the internet, talking on the phone. • Fear of success: If I do well, people’s expectations of me will grow and I won’t be able to live up to them! • Lack of motivation: You may not have enough natural incentive to spur you to action. Cures for Procrastination • Replace ―shoulds‖ and ―fears‖ with ―wants‖ and ―needs‖ ● Ask yourself why you are planning to accomplish something. ● If it’s based on what others expect or fear of negative consequences, you may not be very motivated. ● If it’s based on what you truly want or need, you’re likely to be more motivated. ● Be careful to avoid sabotaging your own wants/needs just because others also think you ―should‖ accomplish something – it’s more important to take care of yourself than to spite others. Cures for Procrastination • Getting a bite sized mentality: When confronted with 150 pages to read or 50 problems to solve, I feel overwhelmed. However, if I decide to study for 20 minutes or read 30 pages I can do that. I can endure for that amount of time. Maybe I’ll even continue on— maybe NOT. The most significant barrier in procrastination is getting started. • Set up a reward-punishment system: If I read for twenty minutes I get to call John – if I don’t I need to do the dishes. These rewards and punishments only matter if I consistently implement them. Cures for Procrastination • Study in a place reserved for study ONLY: Joan always promised herself she’d study in her room after she ate. However there were always too many distractions and she rarely studied in her room. When she went to her favorite place in the library, she was always more successful. • Become a groupie: When possible study with a group of dedicated students. Others can be an inspiration to keep up and learn and support your efforts. Cures for Procrastination • Seek a counselor’s help: Academic Advising and Counseling Center I-117 847-925-6393 Center for Multicultural Learning D-142 847-925-6522 Career Center A-347 847-925-6220 Health and Psychological Services A-364 847-925-6268 • Use online resources Student Counseling Virtual Pamphlet Collection http://ub-counseling.buffalo.edu/vpc.html Cognitive Behavioral Solutions • These are derived from a theoretical model from the field of psychology • Basic idea – thoughts/beliefs cause feelings and actions ● Situations don’t cause feelings and actions – our interpretations of them cause feelings and actions Cognitive Behavioral Solutions • Example: Situation = parent tells you to do your homework Thought Feeling Action Person 1 He’s always Angry Rebellion – bossing me doesn’t do around. homework Person 2 I do want to Energized Does do well homework in the class. Cognitive Behavioral Solutions • To change procrastinator behavior, we must change the thoughts/beliefs that cause it. • First step: identify the thoughts/beliefs. • This is easier if we know what to look for… Procrastinator Phrases • Phrases we use reflect our underlying thoughts. • The following are typical of people who procrastinate: I should … I probably will … I think I could … I shouldn’t… I hope to … I’m going to try to … I have to … Pretty soon I’ll … It’s so hard to … I had better … I wish I could … I need to … If I don’t … Maybe I will… If only I could … Anti-Procrastination Phrases • The following are more typical of people who do not procrastinate: I will … because I want to. I will definitely … I am confident I can… I will start … at X o’clock and continue until… After I … I will reward myself with … Procrastinator Log • Now that you’re aware of types of thoughts that lead to procrastination, we suggest that you keep a log for at least 2 weeks. • The steps: • Whenever you are aware that you are procrastinating, write down: a. The task you had intended to accomplish (e.g. , read 20 pages of History text) Procrastinator Log • The steps (cont’d): • Whenever you are aware that you are procrastinating, write down: b. What you have been thinking/saying immediately before you began to procrastinate c. Your current behavior (e.g., watching Oprah) d. Your current feelings (e.g., guilty) Procrastinator Log • The log will allow you to see patterns. Once you are aware of these, you will be more able to apply appropriate ―cures,‖ such as: • Change procrastinator phrases to anti- procrastination phrases. • Add positive reinforcement to provide incentive. • Break a large project into manageable tasks. Procrastinator Log • Once you make some positive changes, continue to keep a log to see patterns of improvement. • Based on what you see, fine-tune your plan as needed. • Using this approach, you will likely reduce procrastination and feel more in control of your own behavior. Procrastinator Contract • For large projects such as a term paper, it often helps to create a specific plan. • Breaking it down into specific, smaller tasks is helpful. • Building in rewards for short-term accomplishments increases motivation. • The following format is suggested… Procrastinator Contract • I am going to … Because …(Source of Motivation) • Requirements needed to complete this activity: • I will start this project on …(date) at …(time) • I will continue this project on …(dates) at …(times) • I will complete this activity by …(date) • When completed I will reward myself by … • If I don’t complete the activity, I will punish myself by … Signed: _______________ Witness: _______________ Completed: (date) _______________ Time Management Tips Now that you’ve learned strategies specific to overcoming procrastination, try these general time management strategies. They often help prevent procrastination… Time Management Tips Step-by-Step Game Plan • 1st step = assessment of current patterns. Record activities for last 2 weeks on calendar grid. Include classes, job, meals, sleep, showers, studying, exercise, socializing, TV, etc. • 2nd step = use ―ABC‖ priority system: rank items as ―A‖ (high value items that must get done), ―B‖ (important but not essential items), or ―C‖ (items that are of low value and can be easily discarded). • 3rd step = design balanced schedule, including reinforcement system (rewards for daily accomplishments). Eliminate ―B‖ and ―C‖ items as necessary. • 4th step = try out schedule for 2 weeks. • 5th step = fine-tune schedule/reinforcements as needed. Time Management Tips Rationale for Scheduling 1. Increases efficiency, so actually provides more time for fun/flexibility. 2. Gives you a better sense of control and balance, so stress and depression are less likely. 3. Allows for self-pats on the back (positive reinforcement). 4. Less chance of forgetting—so less worry and allows enjoyment of recreation. Time Management Tips General Guidelines • Try to study when you are most psychologically alert (this is between 8am to 4pm for most people). • When you have a free period of 3 or 4 hours, break it up by studying 3 or 4 different subjects. If possible, study your least favorite subjects first, followed by your favorite subjects (this makes use of the ―Premack Principle‖ – less desired activities are more likely to occur if followed by more highly desired activities). Time Management Tips General Guidelines (cont’d) • A good general strategy is to reward yourself for each 50 minutes of study with a 10-minute break, during which you may choose to relax, exercise, call a friend, or just ―veg.‖ • Leave some free time each day and call it ―flexible time‖. This is time you can use to take care of emergencies or unexpected catch-up work. If these do not occur, it can be used for pleasure! Time Management Tips General Guidelines (cont’d) • Be sure to plan a good balance of activities, including time for recreation, exercise, small study breaks, eating, and adequate sleep. • When planning your schedule, use your prior experience to estimate the amount of studying you will need to get the grades you desire. • While you study, observe and write down your behaviors, their consequences, and the environments you are in. This will help you become aware of the factors that facilitate and interfere with your ability to study more efficiently. Time Management Tips General Guidelines (cont’d) • It is important to be aware of whether you have ―bitten off more than you can chew‖ when you planned your academic and work loads. If you find yourself unable to find time for your ―A‖ items despite eliminating most or all of your ―B‖ and ―C‖ items, you may need to consider dropping a class or working fewer hours. • If you find that the reading is too plentiful, you may ―share‖ the work with other trusted students. Each student is responsible for reading and summarizing/outlining a subset of the material. Time Management Tips General Guidelines (cont’d) • When planning your schedule, be aware of the schedules/habits of others in your life (such as significant others or roommates) who may influence your ability to achieve your daily goals. • It is often a good idea to plan a long-term project at the beginning of the semester and break it down into smaller weekly tasks. This allows you to ―make a mountain into mole hills‖ and reduces end-of-semester stress (e.g., Week 1: decide on topic; Week 2: do computer literature search; Week 3: find and photocopy 10 articles; Week 4: read and highlight 5 articles, etc.). Need more help…? • Although the information in this workshop may be all you need, you may benefit from working one-on-one with a professional counselor. • Feel free to call 847-925-6393 to set up an appointment. • Please mention that you completed this online workshop. Thank you! Thank you for participating in this workshop! We wish you the best of success in overcoming procrastination and achieving your dreams!