Sand seeping through hands

4 Timely Ways to Overcome Procrastination Quickly

With HUGE delight we welcome our guest blogger, Sonya Kaiser.  Sonya was a high school classmate of my son and has now graduated from University of Pennsylvania in Biological Basis of Behavior with a minor in Psychology.  Sonya is bi-cultural, with a French father and American mother, and has lived on several continents.  She currently teaches in a bilingual pre-school in Seattle, Washington, USA.

It’s a treat to benefit from her scientific knowledge of the brain and its impact on behavior.  It’s also an honor to feature a young woman whom I knew as a teen and is now a colleague.  She’s keeping me on my toes!

Please do let Sonya know what you think of her article! Which of the Procrastination Traps catches you most off guard?!  How do you overcome it? Share your questions about neurology and time management in the comments.

 

Sand seeping through hands
Time running out

We’ve all done it, thought “I’ll do it tomorrow”, left an assignment to the last minute, procrastinated a task for so long that eventually we just forgot we wanted to do it in the first place.

Procrastination is an enemy to many and the best way to handle it is to know your enemy.

Did you know that procrastination can be caused by a few  psychological patterns? Which one of these speaks to you?

Procrastination Causes

Fear of Failure

Fear of failure
“Oops!”

The reason that is most commonly brought up is a fear of failure.

The feelings of anxiety or self-doubt that come over you when you’re unsure whether you can complete a task successfully can quickly become crippling and prevent you from getting started.

Even worse, as time goes by, you can start overthinking and building the task so much in your mind that it becomes harder and harder to overcome that fear.

Self-Defense

Kids in viking costumer with shields
“No way!”

Another possible cause of procrastination is a sort of self-defense mechanism, to maintain a positive view of yourself.

Your sense of self-worth is often determined by your ability to successfully complete tasks. This is why it’s often easier to check easy tasks off your to-do list than more challenging ones, why you might tend to avoid anything with a higher likelihood of failure.

Procrastination can also be a convenient defense if you do end up failing.

If you don’t give yourself enough time to complete the task, you can blame the failure on the lack of time rather than your own lack of ability, which in turn enables you to maintain your confidence in your abilities.

Problem for the “Future Me”

Einstein in color graffiti
“I’ll be smarter later”

Another common reason to procrastinate is the idea that your future self will be better equipped to handle the task. You might think you’ll be in a better mood, less tired, or more emotionally prepared in a few hours or a few days and you leave the burden of your task to a future you.

 

Which of the above have tempted you the most?!  Fear of Failure – Self-Defense – Delegate to “Future Me”

Want help setting up your Pro-Doing-It-Now plan?  Ask your question here.

Strategies to Turn Procrastination Around

Divide tasks into smaller pieces

Watermelon cut into smaller pieces
Chop, chop

This will make them seem more manageable. It’s always less daunting to start a task when you can picture the end of it.

Tips for parents

Instead of writing “clean the house” on your to-do list, try “tidy living room, do laundry, mop floors, vacuum floors, fold clothes”

Tips for students

Instead of writing “write 10-page essay” on your to-do list, try “find topic for essay, research for 2 hours, write an essay plan, flesh out essay”.

Set tangible deadlines

kitchen time
“Driiiiing!” Time is up.

If a deadline isn’t imposed by someone else, try giving yourself one. Self-imposed deadlines are generally less effective than external ones, but they’re better than nothing!

Tips for parents

If you do give your kids a deadline, try using “when” rather than “if”. For instance, try saying “When you’re done cleaning your room, we can play a board game” instead of “If you clean your room, we can play together”

Tips for students

Try setting a timer to encourage yourself to work for a specific amount of time without stopping or getting distracted.

Block access to distractions

Fence with this way sign
Stop. Turn. Go.

It’s so easy to let your attention wander. As an adult, the main culprits are often distracting websites like social media or streaming services. But kids can be distracted by anything that moves, anything that makes a noise or even by their own exciting inner lives.

Tips for parents

Try keeping your kids’ attention focused on boring tasks, like putting on shoes and coats, with a little song that you can all sing together.

Tips for students

There are a few great apps that can help you block websites in a more effective manner than just self-monitoring, like SelfControl and StayFocusd.

Find joy in the task itself

Boys in garden
“Joie de vivre” – Contagious joy.

It always helps productivity and mood to think of tasks as things that you want to do or get to do, rather than things you have to do. Try to make tasks either positive, worthwhile or entertaining in some way.

Tips for parents

Add a sense of competition to dull tasks like getting ready for school. The first person who’s completely ready gets to ring a little bell! Ready, set, go!

Tips for students

Instead of sitting down or pacing while studying some flashcards, put on some music and have a little dance party!

 

smiling teenager with parents

10 Skills Teens Need to Succeed

When your child leaves home, replacing the school book bag with the briefcase, what skills do you want him to master?

French boys off to school

Probably reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Yet when we ask this question in our Positive Discipline parenting classes, moms and dads don’t even mention the 3R’s.  Parents focus directly on the Soft Skills like

Confidence.

Search for excellence.

Tolerance.

Wise Decision-Making.

Where are the Teens with Skills to Thrive?

Employers agree these are the traits that lead to success.  They also lament that entry level students lack Soft-Skill-Savvy.

PayScale, the largest salary level database in the world, reports a major disconnect between what employers seek in their entry level students and what universities teach.  A whopping 50-55% of college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed!

The skills employers seek are the hardest to find as per the Employment Gap study by Millenial Branding & Experience, Inc.

Employable skills, where art thou?!

Students may have mastered Algebra and Molecular Biology, but they’re tottering in Teamwork and Self-Management.

Teens are concerned and so are their parents.  That’s why Harvard Business School alumni who are also parents listened in on Marie Schwartz, founder and CEO of TeenLife, as she presented the 10 Skills Teens Need to Succeed.  (The slide above is from her material)

Here is Schwartz’s list of Skills to Succeed:

  1. Drive/passion
  2. Independence/Self-Management
  3. Time-Management/Prioritization
  4. Interpersonal Skills
  5. Cultural Awareness
  6. Verbal & Written Communication
  7. Teamwork & Collaboration
  8. Critical Thinking/Problem-Solving
  9. Technical Know-How
  10. Grit/Determination

 

How will our children learn these skills to thrive?

The way you and I parent matters.

Even with the best intentions, we moms and dads can alienate our teens (and teach them to reject our values)…or we can connect with them and give ourselves a chance to keep training our kids in positive skills.

Our parental responses teach our kids.  What will they learn?

Teen lessons: “I better not get caught next time.” & “Am I REALLY capable?”

OR

smiling teenager with parents
Teen lessons: “I am loved even when I’m not perfect.” & “I’ll do my best to be worthy of their trust.”

 

I don’t have time to teach these skills!

Too much on your plate already?

It’s not a matter of “adding to your plate.” Try doing some of the same tasks DIFFERENTLY.

Here’s an example (and one day I will write 5 ways to Teach Teen Skills without Taking more Time)

    1. Build Confidence through a Household Chore
      The children are needed and the family counts on them. “Darling, I NEED my table setter to do his job BEFORE the beans burn!”
    2. Teach Respect & Humility through another Household Chore (!)
      It’s hard to treat Mom like the maid when the kids vacuum too!
    3. Practice Teamwork through…a Family Team Clean!!! (on the SoSooper App)
      Intentionally develop a culture of collaboration. “Family helps family. It’s what we do.”
    4. Encourage Love of Excellence & Self-Evaluation by Inspecting the Household Chore
      “An O.K. job of cleaning the sink is when there are no pink toothpaste smudges. A super clean sink has shiny chrome.  What quality job have you done?”
    5. Instill Self-Management by kindly and firmly insisting on Household Chore…
      “Sweetheart, we said you may play with you friends WHEN the laundry is folded. How is the laundry now?  (in the dryer) Then you know what to do.”

    (You guessed that I believe in inviting the children to participate in household tasks.)

    Transmitting life skills to kids requires parent passion and grit more than it requires money or even time.

    Transmitting life skills to kids requires parent passion and grit more than money or even time. Click to Tweet

    Where and how to start?

    That’s where parent coaching can come in handy

    • To identify the family-helping tasks that truly make life easier for the parents AND are age-appropriate for the kids
    • To share ways to on-board the children so that they feel engaged and want to participate
    • To get YOUR reminders remember to follow through the children
    • To learn tools to present your requests so that children listen
    • To follow through effectively and avoiding power struggles

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