Over Planning = Procrastination
I am making this post based on a request by an anonymous user, but as soon as I heard the idea it really resonated with me. When you are a perfectionist, like I am, procrastination comes very easily. As soon as I have a single doubt about what I am doing, I stop and turn to something else, which leads to a lot of unfinished assignments and unnecessary stress. So in this post, I’m going to give you my best advice on how to avoid this very thing and get back to work!
Methods of Planning
You need to start by addressing how you are organizing you time and if it needs to change.
- Daily study schedule: This is my least favourite, and in my opinion leads to the worst kind of overplanning. This is when you schedule out your time hour by hour, down to what time you will study, eat, workout, etc. I understand that this works for some people and if you find yourself to be very disorganized, it can work for you. However, I personally find (and I think many would agree) that it ends up giving me anxiety and guilt when I don’t do something exactly at the right time.
- Weekly or monthly schedule: This is ideal for people who like to plan ahead a lot, but don’t want to be too constricted to an hourly schedule. This method involves writing down what you need to study each day, but not declaring a specific time that you need to have it done by. I really like to use this for exam periods or before a big test, so I know that all the topics are covered by a certain point.
- Daily to-do list schedule: This works for a ton of people I know, including myself. It is low-key, but also allows you to know what you have to do and actually get it done. This is what most people use in a bullet journal, which is obviously a very successful technique! It blends together the planning of the daily schedule with the fluidity and low-stress of the monthly schedule. I highly recommend this if you tend to overplan!
Overall: You might need to re-evaluate the way that you organize your time and find something that is more productive. My personal favourite is the daily to-do list, but if you need more structure in your life, feel free to look at others.
One big thing that leads to procrastination is not being able to focus on the most important tasks that need to get done. If you put too much stuff on your to-do list or into your hourly schedule, it might actually end up taking away from more important tasks.
Learn to prioritize. List tasks in order of their importance when you are creating a to-do list or other type of schedule. You can use a numbering system, or colour code them if you need more help:
- Red = Extremely important: Things that are due in the next day or two, studying for upcoming tests, steps in a process that needs to get done by the end of the week, bills that need to be paid, chores that have to get done before your home becomes a wreck.
- Yellow = Pretty important: Things that are important to your schedule, but it wouldn’t be tragic if they got pushed off one more day. Re-writing or typing notes, writing out flashcards for a test a week away, working on an application or deadline that is still a while away, chores that aren’t going to affect you if they aren’t finished tonight.
- Green = Filler stuff: Things that would be nice to get done, but aren’t urgent. Cleaning, organizing your desk, finishing a book or movie for pleasure, etc.
After you have organized yourself and prioritized tasks, you need to be able to focus on actually getting them done.
- Set firm deadlines. A lot of times, this is easy because teachers or bosses set them for you. But if they don’t, learn to set your own deadlines and stick to them. Write them in your calendar and make note of them in the days leading up to it.
- Make mini to-do lists for an assignment. If you have trouble following deadlines, or value to-do lists as much as me, breaking down assignments and large tasks into small pieces can be super beneficial. For example, if you have an essay due, create a checklist with the intro, body paragraphs, conclusion, editing, typing, and final draft all as separate tasks.
- Find ideal study setting. A lot of people have trouble focusing on tasks when they get distracted easily. I find it really helpful if I’m in an environment that gets me in a studying mood! Going to the library or a quiet coffee shop really motivates me. Finding somewhere with few distractions, limitations on how much noise you can make, and being able to see other people being productive is the ideal way to focus yourself.
- Avoid social media and TV. This goes hand in hand with #3… Being in front of the TV or the computer (when you aren’t actually using it) is super distracting! Go somewhere that doesn’t have these distractions.
- Start with small tasks. Sometimes, tackling your to-do list is easier if you start by completing a few small tasks. When I’m not in the mood to study, I try to do some household chores and update my bullet journal to get the ball rolling.
- Use the Pomodoro technique, or something similar. Use a Pomodoro timer or another type of scheduling to stay focused when studying and take breaks when needed. If you find that breaking it down minute by minute is too stressful, try setting goals like “as soon as I am done studying this chapter, I will get up and make a snack,” and stick to them!