3 Brain Hijacks to Stop Procrastinating

Natalie Thompson
Natalie Thompson

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You’ve checked your phone so many times that your wrist is sore. So, you take a break, staring at the ceiling. Maybe it’s time for a snack? Maybe it’s time to go to bed early? But maybe, just maybe, it’s time to stop procrastinating on your big assignment. Let’s stop procrastinating for good.

Procrastinating can be a rite of passage, in a way. But, it is very different than a “mental break.” A mental break happens after the work — procrastinating keeps you in denial of it. You check Facebook, take “breaks” from your break, running laps for hours around the work you have to. And the tougher the assignment, the more tempting it is to put it off, which will make it even harder to complete.

So, how do you get over procrastination? Here are three ways to hijack your brain to get over the anxiety and down to business.

1. Set a Timer for 10 Minutes — then Decide

I learned this from a college professor who always delivered nuggets from Buddhist philosophy — this one has always worked for me. She told us that the reason we often procrastinate is because we don’t feel like we’ve chosen the work. The work may feel more like something thrown on us. But really, each time we do an assignment, we are involved — no one really has to do anything ever. We chose. And we chose all the time.

So, this is what you do: set a timer for ten to fifteen minutes (whatever feels like a truly negligible amount of time), and do a part of your assignment. After the timer goes off, you have the choice to continue or not. If you don’t feel like working, then stop. The trick? Most often, you usually end up continuing.

2. Change Where You Study

Maybe your room used to inspire you to work. But now, you just feel bored. The shine has rubbed off. It is probably time to switch environments — at least for a day or two. Research shows that when we are in new places, our brain is primed to pay more attention. New coffee shop down the road? Try it. Study with a friend instead of studying alone? Why not? Now, you can return to your regular work space with a fresh mind.

3. Keep it Simple

When there is a big assignment, we may be subconsciously overwhelmed. This is completely normal — but you need to make it clear to yourself that you can do this. Instead of thinking it as one big project, break it down into concrete tasks, like the following:

1. Research

2. Brainstorm Thesis

3. Write Outline

4. Write Body Paragraphs

Still too vague? Break it down even further:

  • 1. Research
    • — Psychology articles about nostalgia
    • — Historical contexts for nostalgia
    • — Articles about American senior citizen communities and their well-being
  • 2. Brainstorm Thesis
    • — Thesis Idea One
    • — Thesis Idea Two
  • 3. Write Outline
    • — Intro
    • — Par. 1
    • — Par. 2
    • — Par. 3
    • — Conclusion
  • 4. Write Body Paragraphs
    • — Intro
    • — Par. 1
    • — Par. 2
    • — Par. 3
    • — Conclusion

Now, once you’ve done all that, ask yourself this question: which is better, eating crackers on the sofa in denial or the sweet, sweet taste of success?

Questions? Let us know!