Parents who would like to help their children learn how to stop procrastinating and start achieving their greatest goals are invited to share this article with them, and chat about it, too. It’s written to help children and teens understand and manage their avoidance behaviors. Hopefully it will generate positive changes for families now, and throughout the school year.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” — Nelson Mandela
Do you sometimes procrastinate? Be honest. Everyone does. Maybe you put things off when you’re overwhelmed with too much to do, or when you’re distracted, upset, tired, or uncertain. Maybe you need some help with organization, time management, prioritizing, or setting goals. Or maybe you need more encouragement, assurances, or direction in order to move forward. We all procrastinate at some point. But when does procrastination become problematic for kids—or for adults? How can we help children learn how to stop procrastinating so they can achieve their greatest goals?
Sometimes procrastination is a reasonable response or means to an end— it’s “acquired time” that’s useful for gathering resources, engaging in creative thinking, enjoying quality time with family and friends, or doing something else you really want to do. If what you’re engaged in is planful, preparatory, or productive, it may not be procrastination. That’s the upside.
However, there’s a downside to putting things off. Procrastination is a form of avoidance behavior. It can short-circuit motivation and forward momentum. It can also interfere with learning, happiness, success, relationships, and overall well-being. When that happens, it’s important to find ways to reduce procrastination’s hold and potential impact.
Each person is unique, and so are the reasons for behaviors and attitudes. That means each of us learns how to stop procrastinating in different ways! As I discuss in my new book, Bust Your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate, procrastination is complex because there are many possible reasons for it (or BUTS), and many possible consequences, too. And, it’s not just a matter of saying, “I’m going to stop procrastinating!” and then you will, and that’ll be that. It’s not so simple. Certainly, you need to decide to change, and to have support and encouragement. However, you also need good strategies and self-awareness, including an understanding of what’s causing the procrastination in the first place.
Why do you procrastinate? When thinking about why, you might also want to determine when, and what. Perhaps you can identify a pattern (morning? evening?), or a trigger (certain emotions? types of tasks?), or a particular distraction (tech devices? snacks?). It may also help to consider how you spend time during the course of the day. Do you have sensible routines in place? Do you do things logically or randomly? It makes good sense to think about how you use (or waste) time, and how you can become more efficient, and less inclined to procrastinate. Asking these kinds of questions is critical to shedding the role of “procrastinator.”
What’s the most important strategy for overcoming procrastination? That depends on what underlies your avoidance behavior, and how committed you are to dealing with it. A first step is essential.
Here are five tips to help you learn how to stop procrastinating: Take that first step, tap into your capacities, and embark on action!
If procrastination is challenging—if you find it’s impossible to get started, or difficult to advance, or stay on task—it’s generally helpful to begin by doing what is “necessary.” That is, what’s essential, urgent, or required.
So, what is necessary? What comes first and foremost? For me, it’s maintaining family ties. Safety. Physical and mental health. Personal integrity. Happiness. Creative expression. Friendships. That’s just a short list. What’s necessary for youto look after? Create your own list (it will differ from mine in content and length), but once you figure out your priorities you’ll be primed to move forward from there.
The eight compass points on the Roots of Action site are excellent springboards for positive action and accountability. Knowing what you have to pay attention to now, rather than later, can lead to more steps and possibilities. Think about what you might require, and who can help you as you aspire to be the best you can be.
What you accomplish today, tomorrow, and afterward is ultimately up to you. Once you rise to the occasion, begin to manage your procrastination, and start to move forward, you’ll be motivated to keep going. And, that’s the power of possibility!