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Procrastination | How to Overcome It with Action

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Photo of Alison Smith
Updated | 4 min read

Are you the pro in procrastination? You can always rely on Ellen to make you smile…

Teacher friends, procrastination is real. Humans have been procrastinating for years.

There’s something comforting about knowing that even the classical Greek philosophers, Aristotle and Socrates suffered from it too. They called it akrasia and defined it as the state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgment through the weakness of will.

Procrastination is delaying, avoiding and or postponing tasks that are important to us. It’s that all too familiar scenario when you do one thing even though you know you should do something else. Procrastination is the ultimate time waster. Procrastination seems to tag along as an unwelcome guest much of the time, especially during the school holidays when your time is so precious.

So, why do procrastinate? How can we stop doing it? How can we get more stuff done, achieve our goals and get the most out of our time? It’s time to get stuff done and smash your goals…

The Science Behind Procrastination

Procrastination comes down to how our brains are wired. When it comes to making decisions our brains have a natural tendency to value immediate rewards more than future rewards.

Perhaps the best way to understand procrastination is to imagine that you have two conflicting you’s: Present You and Future You:

  • Your Future You is the side of you that loves to set goals for the future such as running a marathon in 12 weeks, completing your termly planning during the school break or losing weight. Your Future You can see the future value of achieving your goals and the negative consequences of not achieving them.
  • Your Present You can not see the value of future goals in the same way. Your Present You prefers to make decisions based on the present moment and seeks immediate gratification.

Your Present You holds the power because only your Present You can take action.

So here lies the conflict of interest and the internal battle that is known as procrastination.

The Procrastination Action Line

Procrastination comes at a cost to you. It feels terrible. Procrastination often comes with a heavy load of worry, anxiety and self-loathing. The task that you are not doing is like a black cloud that follows you around and drizzles on whatever it is you are doing instead.

And then, there’s a moment and BOOM! It’s action time.

The point of action often happens because the deadline that was a long way off is now imminent or the feeling of worry has become strong enough to do something about it. In this action moment, there is a shift because the future consequence of not getting the task done, moves into the present moment and your Present You decides to take action.

Stop for a moment and consider what a monumental waste of time procrastination is and how you can avoid feeling lousy by taking action. Wouldn’t it be so much better for you if we could skip the procrastination stage?

Stop Procrastination and Take Action

You can’t escape procrastination without taking action.

The trick to avoiding procrastination is to move your Future You goal into your Present You world and to take action every day.

Taking action, however big or small moves us forward in the right direction. Taking action get the wheels turning, creates traction and builds the momentum that we need to achieve goals and to get stuff done.

Just a make a start!

Make your WHY Big Enough

Work out your WHY?

Why do you want to go to the gym three times a week during the school holidays? Why do you want to finish your term 2 planning before the last weekend of the school holidays? Maybe you want to get you planning and programming done so that you can relax and go out with your friends during the last weekend of your school break?

Often, when we’re stuck in the depths of procrastination, taking time to connect with WHY we are doing what we are doing can help to see past what’s hard in the present.

Our ‘why’ gives us a healthy perspective when we need it the most.

Surround yourself with reminders of your goal and your WHY. Cover your mirror in sticky notes, photographs or pictures that inspire and motivate you to achieve your goal!  It could be as simple as putting a picture of you and your friends on the fridge door to motivate yourself to keep your last weekend of the holidays open for socialising.

Even the most enthusiastic teachers experience procrastination. For inspiration defining your WHY read our blog Knowing Your WHY as a Primary School Teacher in which Tanya of @littlemiss_teacher shares what keeps her going each day.

Procrastination and Overwhelm

New Year's Resolutions - 5 Tips for Teacher Wellbeing

Procrastination is often born out over overwhelm. When you are feeling overwhelmed try one or all of these actions:

Looking after yourself in moments of overwhelm is vital. While I am not advocating procrastination, read our blog World Mental Health Day | 5 Tips for Teacher Wellbeing.

Be the ‘Pro’ in Productive.

Be aware of when procrastination is creeping in and take action. Share this blog with your friends and colleagues and together we can unfriend procrastination.

Share your productive wins on Instagram to support your tribe in the battle against procrastination #teachstarter



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