Beating back procrastination part 2: smoothing out your workflow

Start Now Finish LaterOne of the most effective strategies to defeat procrastination that we have used with students in our A+ Club academic program is what the procrastination experts call “just getting started.”

As posted in “Beating back procrastination pt 1,” the benefits of “getting started” include:

  1. Breaking down / overcoming barriers to work
  2. Identifying needs & concerns
  3. Identifying time required for task completion
  4. Makes getting started next time easier

“Getting started” can be so hard. We know that we should get to work on something, but our emotions get in the way because it can seem so big, and so far away, and, well, it’s easier — and makes us feel better for now — to put it off until later.

Smoothing Out the Workflow

When students “cram,” they are letting the final deadline motivate them whereas they couldn’t bring themselves to get going on it earlier on their own. The deadline becomes the final trigger to get to work, thus the all-nighter and often rushed, incomplete work.

As seen on this chart, if an assignment will take 5 hours work, by starting earlier, the student has to spend less time just prior to the deadline than if cramming:

Just a little work a day over several days yields far less time required to complete the assignment at the deadline. Here’s another look at the same workflow, this time as a bar chart that emphasizes how little time “getting started” really takes in order to make progress on a project:


So the obvious benefit to “getting started” is that it leaves more time to complete a large task prior to the deadline. But there’s more to it than that.

Cramming Actually Uses Up More Time

“Cramming” actually creates a negative starting point for when the student finally gets to work.

In other words, if the student hasn’t already started earlier, when the deadline hits the student has to overcome a larger deficit, as seen in this trendline chart of hours worked spread across the work week:

Looking at it this way, “cramming” actually takes more time to get the same work done, as by the deadline the student has to overcome the negative inertia from not having started earlier.

Or, we could say that “Getting started” actually reduces the amount of time required to complete the project.

Above all, when cramming, the student is unable to spend time on anything else:

While cramming may allow for more time for other things earlier in the week, since cramming is a habit it is unlikely that that free time has been used constructively.

“Smoothing out your work” makes room for all necessary tasks, and, especially for additional time if needed to get the best grade possible.

Smoothing Out The WorfklowAs discussed in “Beating back procrastination pt 1,” the key to it all is “getting started.”

Fight the urge to get it all done at once and just get started a few days earlier. The benefits are huge. Your life will be so much easier once you learn to “smooth out” your workflow!

– Michael