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Never do tomorrow what you can do today…

“Or is this always true?” asks many a procrastinator.

Most children, especially teenagers have mastered the art of procrastinating – a big word for putting off everything that seems like work and rather spending time on electronic devices.

According to Tim Pychyl, a Procrastinating Researcher at Carlton University, Ottawa, Canada, it is quite simple: People procrastinate to do tasks that they find aversive.

Tasks are generally considered aversive if they are:

Boring or mundane

Children will usually find tasks boring if it is below their level of skill or not challenging enough.

Frustrating

A child with poor fine motor skills who for example have to lace small beads on a string will most probably resist.

Difficult  

Just as tasks should not be below a child’s level of skill, it should also not be too difficult. “Fear of Failure” is a powerful form of procrastination. “I will rather not start than show you that I cannot do it.”

Not interesting or fall within their specific interests

Children have different talents and we all like doing the things that we like and are good at. A child will happily prepare for the exams for a subject that they find interesting, but will avoid the subjects they don’t like.

Unstructured

This one is for the teachers and parents. Children thrive in structured environments where they feel secure. They are therefore more likely to complete tasks that are well structured.

Having said all of this, we all know that unfortunately, some tasks just need to be done, whether you find them boring, too difficult or are not interested in them. Studying for exams comes to mind…

Don’t despair. Here’s a few tips that you can use to help your children (and yourselves) to “grab the bull by the horns” and get it done.

  1. Just start

The most important thing is to start. No wonder Nike chose ‘just do it’ as their payoff line. A child that is not willing to start studying will do anything to delay the start, from cleaning their own rooms to sharpening pencils …

A good rule to help your child start is to select the task that takes the least time to complete. If your child for instance has to write an essay on Global Warming (boring!) and have ten math sums to complete, rather start with the math. Completing a task gives a sense of achievement.

“When you start entertaining thoughts such as: ‘I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow,’ ‘I work better under pressure,’ ‘There’s lots of time left,’ I can do this in a few hours tonight’, let that be a flag or signal or stimulus to indicate that you are about to needlessly delay the task, and let it also be the stimulus to just get started.”  David Allen “Getting things done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity”

  1. Turn a boring task into a little competition or game

Practising mental math, for example, can be boring for someone who only likes to do problem solving.

Compete against your child to make it fun. For example: How many times tables sums can be done correctly in two minutes?

  1. Break challenging tasks into smaller chunks

That essay on Global Warming is quite challenging as it involves research, drafts, searching for images, actually writing or typing it and making a list of references.

If you break this one task into five more doable tasks, it will not seem that daunting. For this method to be successful though, you have to start in advance and then complete only one or two of these tasks per day.

  1. Make a “To-Do” list

Ticking off a task that has been completed gives an enormous sense of achievement.

With exams approaching, the “To-Do” list will be the study schedule, with small tasks for every day, that can be ticked off.

  1. Remove all distractions

Nothing distracts from a task at hand as interruptions. We are all guilty – checking the phone every time it peeps, constantly checking new emails, having the TV on in the background and the list goes on …

Allow breaks after every 20 minutes for “distractions”, but be careful to break for too long. After a ten-minute break the enormity of the task at hand will return and the vicious cycle of procrastination will start again.

It is true that some of us work better under pressure (i.e. an excuse for procrastination), but if a child understands the value of tackling tasks head-on early in their lives, they will be saved from many stressful hours meeting deadlines later in life.

So, before you put off another task – remember what Anthony Robbins said: “The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.”

Information adapted from: http://alifeofproductivity.com/why-you-procrastinate-10-tactics-to-help-you-stop/

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