Tactics for Solving the Problem of Paralyzing Procrastination

For a lot of students, Online School has been problematic. It’s hard for a lot of people to live, work and learn in their own bubble, seemingly separate from everyone else. For me this spring, my procrastination grew from a problem that I could deal with to an all-consuming void that stopped me from doing any work for hours as I just sat around with my laptop nearby. I managed to get through the year, but it was an uphill battle against my own apathy. I had a harder time doing work because anything I did felt so separate from any other humans.

In physical school, the work would be for a teacher that I would see every day and feel bad about missing work every time I saw them, while during virtual school I never actually saw the person I owed work to, so I didn’t feel as bad about not doing it. This spiraled out of control and kept me from doing much at all.

Now I’m mentally preparing myself to go back into that bubble, which for me is the one room on the third floor of my house that I turned into a space to work last year and will probably use again in a month. If you are anything like me and have a hard time working with fewer motivators than usual, I’m going to try and give some advice that I figured out while trying to deal with procrastination last year. These are the three main things that helped me: Switching up where you do school work every time you feel like it’s getting much harder to work; go outside at least once a day; and try to organize the work you need to do. 

The first tactic was something I did twice over the online portion of this past school year. I started in my room and then when I stopped being able to reliably do work there, I moved up to the third floor. That worked well until it started to get much hotter in that room in the afternoons, and I started to procrastinate more. So, at the end of the year, I switched to a table on the first floor. That worked out well for the rest of the year.

Switching places is good because if you start to procrastinate, you will begin to think of that space as a place for relaxation, not work. Then if you move, you wipe the slate a little and can reclaim your area as a work area. It’s also a good idea to not work in the place you relax normally, like in your room or a TV room. When you work in those kinds of places, it’s much easier to get distracted by other things in the room, plus you should be able to move around more with a purpose, and having a space that you never leave because it has everything you could want to do in it is not good for your mental health.

Going outside is slightly related to the first tactic. Taking walks around the area where you live is good for mental health (just remember to socially distance and be safe). There have been many studies that show that even a brief walk can help reduce the likelihood of getting depression by 30 percent. It’s also far healthier to walk than to sit around watching TV when you need a break. Instead of giving up on your work and retreating to the safety of your phone screen, you can give yourself a productive walk break every day. Leaving the house to take a 15-minute walk allows you to clear your mind and think about what needs to happen next. It’s much harder to clear your mind when you’re right next to the problem.

The third tactic was the one that worked best for me last year. Oftentimes it’s hard to do work when you feel like you have more to finish than you can possibly do. Sometimes you don’t realize how much work you have, and it becomes even more difficult to manage it all. The way to stop this from happening is by carefully keeping track of your assignments or goals. I used a program called Trello to keep track of all my work, and even though I never forgot anything, the program still reminded me when due dates were coming up. When you think about the work you need to do, you can’t properly visualize the amount of work, but when you write it down somewhere, it can help you realize what really needs to happen. It doesn’t have to be a website or a special program, you could just write things down on a piece of paper or some sticky notes. Writing down what needs to be done is also helpful in the same way walking is helpful. It helps you do something without feeling like you're slacking off. It removes that nagging feeling in the back of your head while still giving you an opportunity to step back and reassess.

I understand these things may not be as effective for other people as they were for me this past school year, but I hope that if you are having trouble with procrastination you can use something I’ve said to help you get through this next round of online classes. It’s also important to improvise and come up with ways to help yourself. If you feel something is hurting your ability to work or helping your ability to work, you should try to change accordingly.

There is one last thing to remember that will always help you out no matter what. Even if you don’t procrastinate, this is the most important thing to remember. Even though it may feel like you're in a bubble that’s cut off from the rest of the world, you aren’t. You can always reach out to other people, and you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for help. If you feel like you can’t solve a problem and you’re at your wits end, you should always talk to parents, email teachers, ask friends how they solved the problem, or work on the problem with friends. Teachers are especially good resources because they want to help you, and they are in the same shoes as you. This is a new routine that nobody is particularly comfortable with, and so the best way to move forward is to work together.

So stay focused, get some fresh air when you need it, don’t hesitate to ask for help, and let’s crush this next round of online school.