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Have an assignment due very soon and you can’t bring yourself to start it? Or you’ve made a start, but can’t find the energy to finish it even though it’s 90 percent done? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Procrastination is a natural human behaviour and has been going on for centuries. Truly. In fact, procrastination was first described by the ancient Greek philosophers Socrates and Aristotle.

So, what is procrastination exactly?

Procrastination is the act of putting off a task that needs to be done.

Usually the “act of putting off a task” is disguised as doing another task. For example, when you set aside time to study but magically find yourself scrolling on social media, calling a friend, even doing something unappealing like cleaning your room (aka procrasticleaning).

Basically, your brain is trying to do anything but your assignment or study.

Now, the procrastination cheat sheet

Okay, clearly procrastination is sneaky. To beat it, you’ll need to be sneakier. Fortunately, there’s a bunch of tested techniques that can help you stop procrastination in its tracks.

Here are three great options:

1. The Five Second Rule

This may be the easiest procrastination hack we’ve come across – but it’s also backed by science. If you’ve got a task to be done, all you have to do is count down from 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, — and then do it! This fast thinking turns on the prefrontal cortex of your brain and stops you from over-analysing the situation.

2. The Tomorrow List

What’s the opposite of procrastination? As you probably guessed, it’s productivity.

We’re often told that productivity means squeezing the most amount of things into a day. It doesn’t. It means doing a few important things that matter to you regularly.

So rather than saying, “tomorrow I am going to do three hours of study, plus a full day of school, plus sport, plus a part-time job, plus hanging with friends”. Take the pressure off yourself. Instead, ask yourself, “what are the 1-2 most important things on that list?” Then — and here’s the most essential part — prioritise those things.

For example, your Tomorrow List might look like:

  • Catch up with a friend – #4
  • Sports practise – #2
  • Plan your weekend – #5
  • Study – #1
  • Call your cousin – #3

Anything that you don’t get to tomorrow, move that over to the next day’s list and so on. You’ll start to build momentum and consistency and the best part? It won’t feel so overwhelming. Big task lists generally get easier when you break them down into smaller chunks!

BONUS TIP: If you can try and do the top things on your tomorrow list in the morning – you’re more likely to get them crossed off.

3. Hack Your Procrastination Visually

Another way to move through procrastination is to use your environment to support you. For example, placing a post-it note in your study area or making a motivating quote your screen saver can give you a nudge to get things done.

Calendars are also an excellent tool because they are not only a visual cue but they also help you track your progress. A quick look at your calendar and you can see all the consistent effort you’ve put in and if you skip a day, it can be a gentle reminder to get back on track.

Finally, remember that motivation usually comes after you start, not before. There’s no right or wrong way to beat procrastination – so why not give one of these techniques a go!