How to avoid the avoidance habit

Tips from the Metro Writing Studio and the Academic Support Center on maximizing productivity and minimizing procrastination

Sticky post with handwriting the word Later stick on alarm clock on solid yellow background with copy space using as procrastination, self discipline or laziness concept.

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March 25, 2021 — Time feels different in a pandemic, with some days slipping idly by, others racing to the finish line. Stuck in this mindset, it’s easy to go into procrastination mode, no matter whether the looming project or deadline is work or school related!

“The best way to combat the snowball effect of procrastination and avoid the stress of deadlines is to develop a realistic plan and adhere to it,” says Darshan Shah, director of disability support and academic support.

Here’s how —

Keep track.

Create a semester calendar. Keep it visible to stay aware of upcoming workloads and assignments. The calendar, and the deadlines noted on it, can be a useful guide for making each day’s to-do list.

Handwrite that to-do list. There’s something about writing out a list that makes it easier to remember, follow and realize. Use color-coded notes to manage daily tasks.

Check off items as you complete them.

Start small.

Start early on larger assignments like research papers or lab reports; procrastination causes anxiety.

Don’t put off something even if writer’s block rears its ugly head. Commit to writing one sentence. Then another. Then another. Sometimes forcing yourself to begin a task gets the ball rolling.

Schedule productivity.

Study every day. In other words, do a little every day to keep your workload manageable.

Design a schedule that provides a balance of work time and relaxation time — some of each for every day — and then do what it takes to stick to it. For example: on Monday afternoons, complete biology lab homework, on Tuesday mornings, write essays for literature class, on Wednesday mornings, do yoga.

Minimize distractions …

During those “on” hours, get in the habit of turning off notifications and moving devices out of sight. Schedule time for emails and social media breaks, and if you’re still tempted, consider blocking website and app access. Practice some tough love.

… But take breaks.

Slow down and take breaks during study or writing sessions. Skip all-nighters. Additionally, don’t try to write something big, like an academic essay, all at once. Break this important work up into meaningful parts.

Try the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer and work in 25-minute increments. Take a five-minute break at the end of that session, and then continue studying. Breaking work into blocks helps make assignments manageable and guarantees breaks.

Recognize achievements and reward yourself when you hit milestones. Listen to music; cook; spend time with friends; take the dog for a walk; or go for a bike ride. Anything you like!

Set expectations.

Itemize goals — be it setting up a study group, committing a certain number of study hours per week, reviewing notes at a set time every day, or devising and revising a course outline — and understand the assignment. Talk to a professor or boss about what’s expected in the course or on the project.

Imagine having already completed a difficult assignment with a winning outcome. That is, stay on it and don’t give up. Some experts suggest creative imagination is the number one key to overcoming these kinds of work challenges.  

Seek support.

Visit the Metro Writing Studio — tutors will teach students how to draft and to revise papers for academic success. The studio provides virtual tutoring and also hosts academic workshops and seminars on critical writing, avoiding plagiarism, conducting research and more.

At the Florham Campus Academic Support Center (ASC), undergraduate and graduate students can sign up for one-to-one and group tutoring. Talk over assignments and schedules with an objective third party to generate enthusiasm and ideas.

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