*This is a sponsored educational article.
I’m procrastinating right now.
Before I tell you how to tackle procrastination, I’m going to adjust the font, style and size of the typeface that I plan to use in this piece. Then, before I actually get to the part where I explain how to defeat evil monsters that stop you from completing tasks, I will lure you in with an unnecessarily descriptive hook, detailing what the experience is like.
But I’m not writing the hook for your enjoyment; I simply don’t want to start writing what my brain considers to be the hard part (aka the important part). I’m procrastinating on writing this piece on procrastination, by writing this sentence about procrastinating, right now. It’s happening right now.
When presented with a job, most people envision the end result.
We picture ourselves finishing a strenuous workout at the gym, handing in a comprehensive report to our teacher or boss, or simply getting in bed at a reasonable hour. The image that dwells in our minds is the destination, and yet it’s the journey that is the actual task.
We can’t complete a major job without completing dozens of mini jobs.
These mini jobs must be completed, one by one, as we venture towards the major job’s completion. Do we think about these mini jobs? Not usually. We’re more likely to focus on, be afraid of, and ultimately paralyzed by the idea of the major job. Finishing the workout. Handing in the report. Falling asleep. Yikes.
Before we can put on a show, we have to build a stage.
The first mini job will likely involve time. We must have a clear sense of when something is due or is supposed to occur, and then we’re going to have to intentionally carve out some time, either in the immediate, near or distant future, during which we can accomplish the mini jobs whose sum will equal the major job. We can’t simply assume that free time will avail itself when we want it to.
Everything takes time; we have to make time for everything
Do we know where our gym clothes are? Are we aware of the details of what our boss or teacher assigned? Does my bed even have sheets on it? These are simple mini jobs to complete, and we’re not usually afraid of them. In fact, it’s actually because we’re not afraid of them that we don’t make space for them in our plans, which leads to poor time management.
Don’t worry about creating a forest; just plant a tree. And then another…
If we only consider the destination, which is massive and far away and frightening, we lose the ability to impose our will on the moment. Articulate each necessary step (yes, write out a list), and then we will be less likely to skip any of the vital, yet feasible, mini jobs.
Let’s make sure we know how to get to the gym, and then let’s take that trip. Let’s make sure we understand the expectations of the assignment, and then let’s create a rough outline. Let’s make sure we know exactly what we need to do before we go to sleep, and then let’s start chopping away at the list. One by one.
Take pride in the completion of each mini job, without taking a break
We often sabotage ourselves by creating false finish lines and showering ourselves with undeserved praise. Should we pat ourselves on the back for arriving at the gym, creating an outline or putting a fitted sheet on the mattress without that one annoying corner threatening to tear itself free? Yes, but without stalling our progress or diverting our focus.
Does the following sound familiar? You write sentence, and then check your phone. You write another sentence, and then check Instagram. You write a third sentence, and then check the fridge. You write a fourth sentence, and then check your phone again. Somehow, it’s taken you a half hour to write four sentences. This is an absurd, yet incredibly common, scenario. We should stay focused on the one mini job that’s next, not on all of the mini jobs that lay in our wake.
Think about the next step, not the final step.
Alright, so your warm-up at the gym is complete! You’ve finished the intro paragraph of your report! You’ve had dinner and did the dishes! What’s left? A lot! And that’s OK. If we look back, we’ll see that we got to this position by rather effortlessly accomplishing a number of mini jobs. Although they’re great in number, the mini jobs that await are just as manageable, as long as we approach them individually.
Let’s figure out what our routine in the gym is going to be, and then head to our first station and knock it out. Let’s write the topic sentence for the first body paragraph. It’s just one sentence! We can do that. Let’s find out if the dog has in fact been walked today, because, yeah, someone definitely needs to do that before we can get to sleep. “OMG I need to get to sleep!” Nope. Find out if the dog has been walked, and if not, walk the dog. One step at a time.
If you’re only reading the large print of this piece, hoping to finish as quickly as possible, then you’re beautifully illustrating the point.
If we focus exclusively on the end result, we are less likely to complete the major job. And if we don’t treat each mini job along the way with care and attention, we are not only likely to perform poorly, but we will also find the experience less fulfilling, even if we do eventually complete the major task.
Lastly, if you’re only reading the large print, then you’re ignoring the gorgeous font and style that I worked so hard to select for the smaller print, and that hurts me.
“I’m not enjoying these mini jobs…so, I don’t really care about finishing the major job anymore.”
There is presumably something positive to be gained by completing the major job; otherwise, we wouldn’t be doing it. It’s a means to some end, and it’s likely that we do care about that end, even if the journey to achieving it is perhaps dull, difficult or uncomfortable. We have to remind ourselves of the value of the big picture, while actively piecing that picture together by completing the annoying mini jobs.
A productive day really begins the night before.
So now, everything is in full swing. We’ve completed the first half of our mini jobs, and have built some great momentum along the way. The second half is usually less arduous, as we have the positive sensations of completing the first half within us, and the true finish line is in sight.
But let’s not lose focus! The fourth quarter is when games are often won or lost, so let’s be sure to finish strong. Let’s make our last set on the bench press an inspired one. Let’s make sure we proofread and revise our paper to near perfection. Let’s put ourselves in the best position possible to have a restful, restorative night’s sleep.
If we’re well rested, we have a much better chance of successfully tackling tomorrow’s jobs, of which there are certain to be many, both mini and major.
In what arenas can kids employ these ideas/strategies?
- Writing a paper
- Studying for a test
- Working on a long-term project
- Memorizing mass amounts of information
- Prepping for standardized tests/admission exams
- Balancing extra-curricular activities
- Sticking to a consistent schedule
- Helping out around the house
- Adjusting routines
In order to approach a task in a timely manner, we can all benefit from following ten simple rules:
- Figure out how much time is needed to complete the major job.
- Intentionally set aside the time necessary to complete the major job.
- Break up the major job into many mini jobs, and write out each necessary step.
- Focus only on the next upcoming mini job.
- Don’t be intimidated by how many other mini jobs lay waiting.
- Remind yourself how simple and manageable each mini job is, individually.
- Take pride in knocking out each mini job, but don’t elaborately celebrate after completing each one.
- Be aware that there is something positive to be gained by completing the major job, and that this benefit is only made possible by completing each mini job.
- Be present and attentive during each mini job.
- Keep in mind that a productive day usually begins by preparing the night before.
Hartman Tutoring is a small, family-owned company based in lower Manhattan, proudly celebrating its 30th year of providing New York City’s students with one-on-one academic guidance and test preparation. Alice began teaching in 1966, and was one of the founding teachers at the Village Community School in Manhattan.
After her second child was born in 1986, Alice left the classroom and began her tutoring practice, soon to be declared the “Best Tutor in Downtown Manhattan” by The Downtown Express. Her son Jesse, who has twenty years of tutoring experience himself, became the co-owner and managing director of HT in 2004.
Together, Alice and Jesse now manage a team of ten experienced, passionate tutors who, along with the mother-son duo at the helm, comprise Hartman Tutoring. The company was recently recognized, for the second year in a row, as one of New York City’s “Top Test Prep Companies” by Expertise.com.
At HT, we combine traditional methods of education with innovative teaching techniques, crafted specifically for one-on-one enrichment, test prep and mentoring experiences. While helping students improve their grades and preparing children for entrance exams are vital components of our work, our approach to tutoring is uniquely comprehensive.
We supply families with an experienced tutor who will provide personal coaching for homework help, general educational guidance, executive functioning tutoring or test preparation for admissions tests. Our standardized test prep programs include consultations, group practice tests, mock interviews and guidance throughout the application process. Sessions can be held at your home, at one of our Manhattan offices or via Skype.
Standardized tests that we prepare students for include the ERB, ISEE, 3rd-8th grade NY State Tests, LAB, Salk, Nest, Hunter (for four-year-olds and for 6th graders), MAT, SAT, SAT II, ACT, SSAT, SHSAT, OLSAT, BSRA, G&T exams and more.
Visit www.HartmanTutoring.com for further details, as well as coupons for back-to-school discounts.
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