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Avoiding Procrastination

List Of Hints To Help You and Your Teen Break Out of Procrastination

We've all been plagued by procrastination at one time or another. For some, it's a chronic problem. Others find it hits only some areas of their lives. The net results, though, are usually the same: wasted time, missed opportunities, poor performance, low self-esteem or increased stress.

Procrastination is letting the low-priority tasks get in the way of high-priority ones. It's socializing with friends when your teen knows that important paper is due soon or watching TV instead of doing household chores.

We all seem to do fine with things we want to do or enjoy doing for fun. But when we perceive tasks as difficult, inconvenient or scary, we may shift into out procrastination mode. We have very clever ways of fooling ourselves. See how many of the following excuses hit home for your teen – and you:

  • I'll wait until I'm in the mood to do it.
  • It's OK to celebrate – besides, I'll start my diet tomorrow.
  • There's plenty of time to get it done.
  • Why does the teacher give us so much to do? It's not fair.
  • It's too hard to do. I don't know where to begin.
  • I work better under pressure, so I don't need to do it right now.
  • I've got too many other things to do first.

Once exposed, these self-defeating statements don't sound so convincing, but when we privately tell ourselves these excuses, they seem quite believable. Don't be fooled by how innocent they sound. They get us to postpone important tasks and duties.

Procrastination is a bad habit. Like other habits, there are two general causes. The first is the bad thinking we employ to justify our behavior. The second source is our behavioral patterns.

A closer look at our bad thinking reveals three major issues in delaying tactics: perfectionism, inadequacy and discomfort. Teens who believe they must turn in the perfect report may wait until all available resources have been reviewed or endlessly rewrite draft after draft. Worry over producing the perfect project prevents them from finishing on time. Feelings of inadequacy can also cause delays. Teens who "know for a fact" that they are incompetent often believe they will fail and will avoid the unpleasantness of having their skills put to the test. Fear of discomfort is another way of putting a stop to what needs to be done. Yet the more we delay, the worse the discomforting problem (like a toothache) becomes.

Our behavioral patterns are the second cause. Getting started on an unpleasant or difficult task may seem impossible. Procrastination is likened to the physics concept of inertia – a mass at rest tends to stay at rest. Greater forces are required to start change than to sustain change. Another way of viewing it is that avoiding tasks reinforces procrastination, which makes it harder to get things going. A person may be stuck, too, not by the lack of desire, but by not knowing what to do.

Here are some things that will help your teen – and you – break the habit:

  • Think positive. Instead of putting things off, motivate yourself by thinking: "There's no time like the present," "The sooner I get it done, the sooner I can play," "There's no such thing as perfectionism. It's an illusion that keeps me from doing what I have to do right now" and "It's cheaper and less painful if I do it now rather than waiting until it gets worse."

  • Don't create catastrophe. Jumping to the conclusion that you will fail or that you are no good at something will only create a wall of fear that will stop you cold. Recognize that your negative predictions are not facts. Focus on the present and what positive steps you can take toward reaching your goals.

  • Design clear goals. Think about what you want and what needs to be done. Be specific. If it's getting that paper completed by the deadline, figure out a timetable with realistic goals at each step. Keep your sights within reason. Having goals too big can scare you away from starting.

  • Set priorities. Write down all the things that need to be done in order of their importance. The greater the importance or urgency, the higher their priority. Start at the top and work your way down!

  • Partialize the tasks. Big projects feel overwhelming. Break them down into the smallest and most manageable subparts. You'll get more done if you can do it piece by piece. Partializing works especially well with the unpleasant jobs. Most of us can handle duties we dislike as long as they're in small increments.

  • Get organized. Have all your materials ready before you begin a task. Use a daily schedule, and have it with you all the time. Check off the tasks when you have completed them.

  • Use prompts. Write reminders to yourself, and put them in conspicuous places like on the TV, refrigerator, bathroom mirror, front door and car dashboard. The more we remember, the greater the likelihood we'll follow through with our plans.

  • Reward yourself. Celebration has a powerful effect on developing a "do it now" attitude. Pat yourself on the back, smile and let yourself enjoy the completion of even the smallest of tasks. Don't minimize your accomplishments. Remember, you're already that much closer to finishing those things that need to be done. Go ahead, get started...NOW!

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