Everyone struggles with procrastination, though some are more prone to it than others. The greater your confidence in your ability to achieve your goals reduces the likelihood that you will put off working toward them. Value is a measure of both how much you enjoy performing a task and how much you anticipate enjoying the reward for completing the task. The more you stand to benefit from a task or the reward at the end of it, the more likely it is that you will immediately get to work on it.
Your propensity to become preoccupied with other matters is what we mean when we talk about impulsiveness. Your high level of impulsivity causes you to check Instagram or Facebook rather than doing the work that needs to be done. The length of time that passes between an action and its corresponding reward is referred to as the delay. The longer the delay, the greater the likelihood that you will put off doing what needs to be done because you will convince yourself that it is something that can be handled at a later time.
We want to minimize impulsiveness and delay as much as possible because those factors are inversely proportional to motivation, and we want to maximize expectancy and value because those factors are directly proportional to motivation. Let’s go over some actionable steps on how to turn this equation around and use it to our advantage so that we can beat procrastination.
To begin, the steps need to be broken down. If you need to get something done, whether it’s studying for a test or finishing a project, you should first break it down into more manageable steps. If we do this, we will see an increase in expectancy in our procrastination equation because it seems much easier to complete smaller tasks than it does to complete larger projects. Despite the fact that everybody has their own sweet spot, I’ve found that it’s very helpful for me to be very specific with regard to timelines. For instance, if I need to study for an exam the following week and I have a number of lectures and practice problems to go through, I will take a few minutes to think about which lectures I ought to finish on each day as well as how many practice problems to go through. In this scenario, the exam will be the following week. After that, I entered everything into my preferred to-do list app. It is true that a high level of structure works well for me and the way I am wired, but that is not true for everyone; therefore, you should determine what kind of structure is most effective for you.
Second, try to limit the scope of the work. The hardest part in getting work done is just starting. The Pomodoro Technique is one of my favorite study hacks that can be used to address this issue. In a nutshell, you break up your work time into 25-minute chunks, taking a five-minute break after each block. You limit your attention to a single, manageable task throughout the entirety of each block. And at this point, you might be wondering, how exactly will this assist me in getting started on my work? If I sat down to study with the intention of devoting five hours to the task, it is highly likely that I would become easily distracted in a very short amount of time. If, on the other hand, I tell myself that I only need to spend 25 minutes studying on this one little task, the prospect seems much less daunting, and it is much easier not only to begin, but also to remain focused for the duration of the Pomodoro timer, which is set for 25 minutes.
The benchmark was established at the third spot. This is an additional strategy that can be used to boost the likelihood of a positive outcome in our equation. You should aim for something that is less ambitious than what you are actually capable of achieving. Recently, I have incorporated this into my own personal meditation routine. Although I intend to meditate for twenty minutes each and every day, the reality is that I only manage to do so a few times each week. It just seemed like there was never enough time in the day for me to actually sit down for twenty minutes and meditate, so I didn’t do it very often. Instead, I decided to set more reasonable goals for myself by setting a daily goal of meditating for only two minutes. As a result of lowering the bar, I found that I was meditating on most days, and despite the fact that I set the goal for only two minutes, I almost always exceeded it.
The fourth step is to find ways to make the process of learning more enjoyable. Do you ever feel like studying is boring? What if you don’t actually back the outcomes that will be seen right away from the task? Let us assume that you are unsure of what it is that you want or that your priorities are not entirely clear. These examples all point to low value in our equation; increasing value will help us overcome procrastination because it will give us more to work with. The question now is: how can we increase value? Providing yourself with a reward when you finish a task is one method of doing this. For instance, you could reward yourself by treating yourself to a meal that is both nutritious and delicious or by hanging out with your friends, but only after you have completed your chemistry homework. You also have the option of making the experience of doing the work itself better. The more advanced you get in your medical education, the more the work you do will revolve around topics that you actually find interesting. On the other hand, in the beginning, it’s possible that you’ll have to slog through topics that aren’t particularly interesting to you. You can make the experience of studying more enjoyable by varying the environments in which you do your studying or by listening to music that is specifically designed for study.
Use Parkinson’s law to your advantage, which brings us to point number five. The idea that you can finish your task at a later time can demoralize even the most productive people and bring their productivity to a standstill. Parkinson’s law states that the amount of work will increase to fill the amount of time that is allocated to it. implying that if you give yourself two hours to complete a task that should only take you thirty minutes, you will spend the entire amount of time that you set aside for the task. I make frequent use of this strategy by setting arbitrary deadlines for myself, which compels me to complete my work in a more timely and effective manner. Due to the fact that these artificial deadlines reduce the amount of delay in our motivation equation, the likelihood of procrastination is also reduced. The key is to keep your timelines realistic without being overly aggressive, as this can cause unneeded stress for you. You will gain experience and become better at estimating how long a task will take and learning how to use Parkinson’s law to your advantage as time goes on.
Be thoughtful about the environment in which you study, which brings us to point number six. Distractions are, without a doubt, one of the most significant factors affecting how productive we are, and we can all agree on this point. Willpower alone is unlikely to prove fruitful over the course of a longer period of time when it comes to avoiding distractions. Instead, take a preventative stance by ensuring that your working environment has as few potential sources of distraction as possible. By doing so, we are removing impulsivity from the equation that describes our motivation. For me, this means turning my phone onto airplane mode, setting my Mac to a mode that prevents it from receiving notifications, and going into full screen mode with the task at hand. If you find that working at home is too distracting for you, you should consider working at a coffee shop or a library instead. Above all, make sure you minimize your digital distractions. My experience has shown me that the notifications that come from your smartphone, smartwatch, or computer are far more disruptive to one’s ability to concentrate than any other type of distraction.
And finally, number seven: be aware of the personality type you possess. The problem with advice in general is that the same piece of guidance can have amazing results for one person while having no effect at all on another. It is highly unlikely that any of the previous six recommendations will not work for you in some way, but I am certain that some of them will work significantly better than others. Understanding oneself is a crucial step in improving one’s life in any way, be it in terms of work output or study routines, diet or physical activity, or any other aspect of one’s life.
One of the pieces of advice that didn’t make the cut on this list, for example, is accountability. The reason for this is that it can be very helpful for some people who have a particular personality type, but it can be significantly less so for other people.