Do you put off getting ready for the school year until the last minute? People vary in how and when they procrastinate, but it’s a common behavior with complex reasons such as fatigue, distractibility, perfectionism, boredom, hatred of the task, and a heavy workload.
According to author Caroline Webb, “we all tend to struggle with tasks that promise future upside in return for efforts we take now.” Our brains are programmed to procrastinate because it’s easier to process concrete (immediate tangibles) rather than abstract things (unknowable, uncertain future benefits).
Avoid the back-to-school procrastination struggles. The upside of preparation is a more relaxed atmosphere to welcome students. Overcome last minute preparation with the following strategies.
- According to lifelong procrastinator Tim Urban, making progress on a task produces positive feelings of accomplishment and raises self-esteem. “Once you get 2/3 or 3/4 of the way through a task, especially if it’s going well, you start to feel great about things and suddenly, the end is in sight.” To get through the task, avoiding distractions is a must. That’s really difficult so. . .
- Reward yourself after working for a set length of time. To avoid distractions, set a timer for 30 minutes of focused work. When the timer goes off, feel free to go on a short walk, check your phone, eat ice cream or whatever reward system works. Increase the time as needed, but don’t forget to reward yourself.
- Break big tasks into smaller tasks: For example, don’t build an entire lesson plan calendar, or reorganize all your files. That’s overwhelming. Tackle one section of the calendar or organize one drawer. Refer to the previous year’s calendar and only prepare for the first few days. It’s summertime – don’t overdo it! Start with easy goals to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Unpacking your bookbag is a good start.
- Calm a whirling brain by writing a list of everything that needs to be accomplished. The simple act of writing things down calms an overwhelmed mind. Next, cross off all the less-than-urgent items.
- Do one thing at a time, one small step at a time, and it doesn’t have to be perfect.
- Team up with someone. The process of working together fuels task completion.
- Sometimes creative minds must take a break from productivity to daydream. If you need lots of daydreaming time, so be it. That’s how new teaching ideas and techniques emerge. Psychologist Daniel Goleman says “the time a distracted brain spends tackling tough challenges makes up for diminished productivity.” Benefits of mind wandering include, “generating future scenarios, self-reflection, navigating complex social situations, and incubating new ideas, to say nothing of giving your brain a rejuvenating vacation.” All are valuable benefits every teacher needs.
- Make a list of all the ways you procrastinate. Are some activities healthy ways to decompress? If yes, keep up the good work.
How do you avoid back-to-school procrastination? It’s almost August, so share your tips with us soon.