How to Stop Procrastinating: 4 Steps to Finally Getting That Project Done

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We all have items on our list that we dont want to do.

And some projects end up staying on our to do list for weeks or even months.

Here are four ways to help you get that research paper or project done in a timely fashion:

1. Assign a realistic deadline for yourself.
The first step to stop procrastinating is to set a realistic deadline for yourself. Research has shown that our performance to complete a task increases as deadlines shorten, but performance declines if the deadline is too brief (Journal of Management).

So write down a realistic date next to your projects and visualize yourself completing it. Make sure the date you assigned is realistic otherwise youre setting yourself up for failure, which can just drive anxiety up and lessen the likelihood youll actually accomplish it.

Once youve set your deadline, create calendar alerts for yourself and reminders to stay on track. I like to set alerts for myself with Google Calendar to keep my momentum going.

2. Break-up big projects into tiny ones.
One reason we dont work on a project is because some are too big (and so we keep pushing it away hoping it will go away). However, just by breaking a big project into small projects can help you build momentum and motivation for finishing.

For example, if I set a goal to write a book in 6 months, it can seem like a difficult project to achieve. However, if I plan on writing just one page a day, I could have a 180 page book done in 6 months easily. Thinking about accomplishing a small task each day is a better way to think about finishing a large project.

3. Ask others to get involved.
One way to spur you further and to ensure youll accomplish your goal is to get another person involved. Have someone check with you to see how youre project is going.

The idea that you need to report on your progress can give you just the right amount of motivation to keep moving on your project. So bring another person in if youre very serious about accomplishing a big goal on time.

4. Reward yourself for accomplishing projects.
One key to helping you complete a task that has been stuck on your to do list is to motivate yourself to get it done. Reward yourself in some way for accomplishing the goal and consider even writing the reward next to the due date. Giving yourself a reward can provide just the push you need to help you achieve your goal and stop procrastinating.

According to Harvard Business Review, Regina Conti, an associate professor of psychology at Colgate University and an expert in motivation, provides the example of doing your taxes. A person may want to complete their taxes to avoid the legal penalties of not doing so, but because those penalties are far in the future and the task is a boring one, they will not have much incentive to get started with the project, she says.

To make a task feel more immediate, focus on short-term rewards, such as getting a refund. Or if there arent any, insert your own. Treat yourself to a coffee break, or a quick chat with a co-worker once youve finished a task.

So what about you? How do you fight procrastination and achieve your goals?

Let me know what works for you.

Further Research on Procrastination:

How to Fight Distractions: 4 Mindful Ways to Stay on Task

Its easy to get distracted especially when youre juggling a lot of projects.

The secret to staying productive is recognizing the moments of distraction and immediately getting back on track.

Theres always an email to read, a text message to send, a Facebook stream to read, etc.

You see, there are distractions all around us and there are plenty of excuses on why were not finishing up a project that has been sitting on our to do list.

So how do we fight distractions and stay on task?

Here are four ways:

1. Know what distracts you.
What keeps you distracted? Keep a list of items that trigger distractions for you (e.g. clicking a web browser, visiting Huffington Post, reading email, etc.). Keep this list top of mind so you recognize the trigger that is leading you to distraction. Identifying distractions is key to stopping them.

2. Set daily goals for yourself.
If you want to stay focused on your projects, you need to set goals for yourself with specific time-frames. Not setting specific goals within a certain time-frame is the reason why we end up with items on our to do list that we never accomplish. And not having concrete goals makes it easier to get distracted. So set your goals and accomplish them. No excuses.

3. Zone out everything else.
Once you know what distracts you and have your set goals its time to get hyper-focused to accomplish your projects. For me, this means putting on ear phones and listening to sounds of the ocean or rain (to block out all external noises). Second, it means turning Outlook off and closing down all windows except for the one program or window I need. Third, it means putting my phone in a drawer so that I dont see any text messages or know that anyone is calling. The only way to get in the zone to accomplish your goals is to zone out everything else.

4. Recognize the moments you get distracted and get back on task.
Look, youre going to get distracted no matter how hard you try to stay on task especially if you work in an office. Your office phone can ring, employees can drop by, etc. Even while writing this article, my Outlook program alerted me to an email that looked interesting enough to start reading it. Within 15 seconds of reading it, I realized the distraction and got back to this article. The key is recognizing the distraction and getting back to work.

How do you fight distractions? How are you staying hyper-focused to finish your work? Let me know.

Group Projects: How to Deal with Different Personality Types

In this guest post, GreekForMe.com provides tips to help students deal with different personality types in your school group projects.

High school teachers and college professors just seem to adore group projects, don’t you think? After all, there’s nothing like teamwork!

Well, if you’ve been part of a group project, you know they’re a lot harder than they look. Working as team is a challenge, and not just for the work involved – the hardest part is juggling all the different personalities.

We have a hunch that learning to work well with our peers might just be the real reason why teachers on insist on group projects. Long before we found ourselves pursuing our dream jobs in the Greek Clothing industry, we were high school and college students just like you, and our experience taught us a thing or two about those faces you’re seeing around the library table.

Larry The Leader
Every group has a Larry. He’s that guy that just seems to take control from the start, saying hello to everyone, reading the project directions, and starting to divvy assignments. Let Larry do his thing, but understand that most Larry’s have a details problem. He’ll happily work out the big picture and be the spokesperson of your project, but you need to help him out by laying out specific roles, deadlines, and the small details of the projects. He (or she!)’s natural habitat is the head seat at your gathering spot.

Introverted Isabella
Isabella is a major asset to the group, so don’t take her quiet demeanor as lacking any group qualities. Sure, she may not want to be the one presenting the project or speaking up during group meetings, but assign her a role and task, and she’ll run with it and get it done. Make it a point to specifically ask her for her opinion and ideas, rather than expecting her to pipe up. She might blush, but she’ll be thankful you sought her opinion – and so will you!

Cooperative Chris and Carrie
You’ll usually have a few of this type, which is great, as they’ll make up the backbone of your group and are the easiest personality type to deal with in a group setting. Chris and Carrie will share their ideas and understand your vision, and although they may not always create new ideas, they will certainly carry out the group’s plan and get it done on time. These two do need to be challenged, so give them the rough plan, and allow them to run with it and put their own stamp on it.

Free Riding Randy
Uh oh. Randy is that guy or girl in your group who either really doesn’t care, or has so much going on that they just don’t have that much time to invest in the group. If he or she is of the not caring type, take the (often frustrating) time to continually remind him or her of meeting times, speak directly to Randy at meetings, and specifically ask for task updates. It’s never fun to have to be someone’s source of structure, but Larry the Leader will need to be just that for Randy. If Randy simply has too much going on to do much for the project, instead of overwhelming Randy will large tasks, give him a series of small tasks. This presents itself as more doable in light of his busy schedule, but still equals out to someone with a more extended task.

These are just a handful of group personality types what kind of group project personalities have you had the opportunity to get to know? How did you deal with them and make that personality type work for your group? Share the nitty gritty with us!

5 Effortless Steps to Seminar Success

Wouldnt it be great to shine as the top student in all your seminars – winning attention from professors (who might well be writing a reference for you in the future) and getting a high grade?

And wouldnt it be even greater to manage this without doing a ton of extra work?

Heres how to succeed in seminars – effortlessly:

1. Read intelligently beforehand

Of course, youre already doing all the assigned reading for your classes. (If not, thats a good place to start!) But rather than just skimming over the chapter youve been given, read intelligently. Pick out a couple of points in the chapter that you could disagree with, or that relate to something the class has already studied.

When it comes to the seminar itself, going beyond the usual bland points will really make you stand out as someone whos not just read the material for the class, but who has thought about it too. Professors like to see students using their brains – its what youre at college for!

2. Volunteer to go first in the semester

Will you need to give a presentation as part of this seminar? If so, volunteer to be the first one in the running order for the semester. Your professor will be impressed that youve got the courage to go first, plus youll get an easy time of it because you wont have had so long to prepare as other students.

Youll also find that its easier to work on producing a great presentation at the beginning of the semester, when you dont have any other deadlines, instead of towards the end when assignments are piling up.

3. Speak in the first 10 minutes

If you can speak up in the first ten minutes of your seminar, itll be much easier to remain an active participant throughout. Its so easy to sit there silently, trying to work up the courage to speak – but the longer you wait, the harder itll be.

Its also a good idea to answer any easy, introductory questions that come up at the start of the seminar; that way, your professor wont be picking on you for the difficult questions later on. Whenever youre confident of an answer, put your hand up; youll reduce the risk of having to stumble through a response when the professor decides its about time you spoke up.

4. Keep the conversation going

One thing most professors hate is a long silence during a seminar. If you can, do your best to keep the conversation going. That doesnt just mean answering questions when no-one else is volunteering, it also means listening carefully to the points that other people are making, and then chiming in with something that offers a new angle on what theyve said, or that takes their point further.

Dont be afraid to disagree or offer an alternative point of view – but dont ever suggest that fellow students are being stupid. A seminar is a safe environment for you and your classmates to learn and explore ideas, and your professor will appreciate it if you help foster that supportive atmosphere.

5. Thank your professor

It might seem a bit like sucking up, but why not thank your professor at the end of the semester? Yes, youll look weird if you send a hand-written missive after every class saying how grateful you are for their seminars but a short, sincere thank you email after the last class is a nice way to put a smile on your professors face.

You might be surprised how few students ever bother to thank their professors – taking ten minutes to do so could make all the difference when it comes to asking for a reference, or negotiating an extension to your essay deadline.

Are you a seminar super-star? What are your top tips on being a great member of the class?

Guest Writer: Ali Hale is a freelance writer and postgrad student in London, UK. She launched the blog Alpha Student – helping you get the most from your time at university.

How to Make Your Commute More Productive – 7 Tips

Its amazing how much time we spend commuting to school.

As an undergrad, I would walk for almost 30 minutes just to get to my classes.

And as a grad student, I had a 30 minute commute by car – and then another 10 minutes to find parking.

I would literally spend about an hour a day commuting back and forth to campus.

And thats why I tried various ways to stay productive.

Here are 7 productivity tips for your daily commute:

1. Listen to audiobooks or podcasts to expand your mind.
One easy way to stay productive while driving is to simply listen to audiobooks or podcasts that interest you. Expose yourself to new ideas and new subjects. You can also polish your foreign language skills by choosing podcasts or audiobooks in that language.

2. Review flash cards.
When I was an undergrad, my walk from my dorm room to my classes was nearly 2 miles. I spent this time reviewing flash cards for my classical Latin and Greek language courses. Here are some great websites to download flashcards:

3. Set your goals for the day.
Take a few minutes to think about your goals for the week. If youre driving, you can record your goals on a digital voice recorder, or use your phones voice mail system.

4. Critique and proof your papers.
If you take public transportation, pull out a paper youre working on and start proofing. Dont just look for grammatical mistakes, but also analyze the argumentation and structure.

5. Review class notes.
Its difficult to get any serious reading done while commuting, so thats why skimming class notes is a great way to stay productive. This is only recommended if you walk to class or take public transportation.

6. Return phone calls and/or text messages.
If you owe anyone a phone call, then you could use this time to make phone calls. You could also take this time to call up classmates and set a time to study.

7. Practice breathing exercises.
An easy way to help you reduce anxiety and stress is to practice deep breathing. There are a number of other benefits like helping you feel more awake, and helping you think more clearly. Its a perfect way to spend your commute.

How do you stay productive during your commute?

How to Set Realistic Goals this School Year

As the new school year is beginning, its important to start setting goals for yourself.

The following guidelines will help you to set realistic goals:

State each goal as a positive statement.

How often have you been excited to accomplish a goal that didnt even sound good when you brought it up? If you are not comfortable or happy with the goals that you have set, the likelihood of succeeding is pretty low. When you are beginning to set your goals, it helps to state your goal as a positive because it will have others seeing it as a positive as well.

Be precise.

Set a precise goal that includes starting dates, times and amounts so that you can properly measure your achievements. If you do this, you will know exactly when you have achieved the goal, and can take complete satisfaction from accomplishing it.

Set priorities.

When you have several goals, give each a specific priority. This helps you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by too many goals, and helps to direct your attention to the most important ones and follow each in succession.

By doing the most important first and moving to the least important in succession, you are enabling each task to be easier than the last. It causes the accomplishment of each task to get easier and easier, which will encourage you to complete your goals.

Write goals down.

In writing your goals down, you are better able to keep up with your scheduled tasks for each accomplishment. It also helps you to remember each task that needs to be done, and allows you to check them off as they are accomplished. Basically, you can better keep track of what you are doing.

Keep operational goals small.

Keeping goals small and incremental allows you more opportunities for reward. Derive todays small goals from the larger ones you hope to achieve.

Set performance goals, not outcome goals.

You should take care to set goals over which you have as much control as possible. There is nothing more dispiriting than failing to achieve a personal goal for reasons that are beyond your control. These could be bad weather, injury, or just plain bad luck. If you base your goals on personal your performance, then you can keep control over the achievement of your goals and get satisfaction from achieving them.

Set realistic goals.

It is important to set goals that you can actually achieve. Thats why its better to work on smaller goals that lead to big goals.

Do not set goals too low.

Just as it is important not to set goals unrealistically high; do not set them too low. People tend to do this where they are afraid of failure or when they simply dont want to do anything.

You should set goals so that they are slightly out of your immediate grasp, but not so far that there is no hope of achieving them. No one will put serious effort into achieving a goal that they believe is unattainable.

Achieving your Goals

When you have achieved a goal, you have to take the time to enjoy the satisfaction of having done so. Absorb the implications of the goal achievement, and observe the progress you have made towards other goals. If the goal was a significant one, you should reward yourself appropriately. Think of it like this, why would you choose to ignore any accomplishments that you have made? In doing that, you are downplaying your accomplishment which will convince you that it wasnt that important in the first place.

With the experience of having achieved each goal, you should next review the rest of your goal plans and see them in the following manner:

  • If you achieved the goal too easily, make your next goals harder
  • If the goal took a disheartening length of time to achieve, make the next goals a little easier
  • If you learned something that would lead you to change other goals, do so
  • If while achieving the goal you noticed a certain lacking in your skills, decide which goals to set in order to fix this.

You should keep in mind that failure to meet goals does not matter as long as you learn from it. Feed lessons learned back into your goal-setting program.

You must also remember that your goals will change as you mature. Adjust them regularly to reflect this growth in your personality. If goals no longer hold any attraction for you let them go.

Goal setting is your servant, not your master. It should bring you real pleasure, satisfaction and a sense of achievement.

Student Blogger Directory

I compiled a list of student bloggers who are focused on writing about college life and student productivity.

This list will continue to grow, so please feel free to email me if youd like to be added.

Please note that Im only listing student blogs that are updated regularly and focused on student productivity and/or life hacking tips.

Ive also linked to this directory of bloggers on my homepage (on the left-hand side).

Top 20 RSS Feed Readers You Should Know About

Now that the school semester just ended, its time to catch up on some reading.

Im a big fan of Google Reader, but there are a bunch of other great RSS readers out there.

Heres a nifty collection of RSS readers you may not know about:

Alertbear
Desktop-based feed reader for Windows.

Alesti
An RSS reader based on Ajax. Very simple, clean interface.

Bloglines
Organize, save, and share all your favorite feeds and its completely free.

Fastladder
Fastladder claims to help you read the most amount of feeds in the shortest time-frame.

Fav.or.it
Allows you aggregate RSS feeds like a typical reader – and allows you to leave comments on blog posts without leaving the site.

FeedDemon
Get your RSS feeds sent directly to your Windows desktop. Requires Microsoft Windows.

Feedreader
A desktop-based feed reader. Its like a feed reader in Microsoft Outlook.

FeedShow
Free online feed reader that lets you save items locally and covert posts to PDF or print format.

GoogleReader
Organize your feeds into folders, share with friends, save your favorites, and add notes to any post you want. My favorite.

GreatNews
It automatically stores all your feeds locally, so you have access to the feeds even if the site is down. It also integrates nicely into Bloglines.com.

GritWire
Its a personal page like Netvibes that has a SpeedFeed Reader application.

MSN Start
A typical personalized page (a la iGoogle) where you can add feeds of your favorite sites.

My Yahoo
A personalized page that allows you to add your RSS feeds.

Netvibes
A clean-lookin personalized page that allows you subscribe to feeds. I have several friends who like using Netvibes because of the sweet interface.

NewsAlloy
A web-based feed reader that is Mobile/PDA enabled.

NewsGator
The site offers a free web-based RSS feed reader – and a desktop version that integrates into Microsoft Office.

Rojo
A simple RSS reader – similar to Google Reader.

Sage
A nice lightweight RSS feed reader extension for Firefox.

Shrook
A free RSS feed reader for your MAC desktop.

Voyage
Visually-appealing RSS feed reader that lets you scroll through feeds with your mouse wheel.

And if you dont know how RSS readers work, heres a great video that shows you the benefits of subscribing to your favorite web content:

Please let me know of any others that I missed.

Ill be glad to add them here.

How One Student Earned 2 Bachelors Degrees in 3 Semesters with a 3.9 GPA

I hope final exams and papers are going well for everyone. I havent posted this last week because Ive been busy with finals too.

I read a fascinating article this last week from Steve Pavlinas blog on how he managed to earn two Bachelors degrees in 3 semesters, while maintaining a 3.9 GPA.

Here are some highlights from his article that focuses on time management:

  • I believe that having a clear goal is far more important than having a clear plan. In school I was very clear about my end goal graduate college in only three semesters but my plans were in a constant state of flux. Every day I would be informed of new assignments, projects, or tests, and I had to adapt to this ever-changing sea of activity. If I tried to make a long-term plan for each semester, it would have been rendered useless within 24 hours.
  • Instead of using some elaborate organizing system, I stuck with a very basic pen and paper to-do list. My only organizing tool was a notepad where I wrote down all my assignments and their deadlines. I didnt worry about doing any advance scheduling or prioritizing. I would simply scan the list to select the most pressing item which fit the time I had available. Then Id complete it, and cross it off the list.
  • If I had a 10-hour term paper to write, I would do the whole thing at once instead of breaking it into smaller tasks. Id usually do large projects on weekends. Id go to the library in the morning, do the necessary research, and then go back to my dorm room and continue working until the final text was rolling off my printer. If I needed to take a break, I would take a break. It didnt matter how big the project was supposed to be or how many weeks the professor allowed for it. Once I began an assignment, I would stay with it until it was 100% complete and ready to be turned in.
  • To work effectively you need uninterrupted blocks of time in which you can complete meaningful work. When you know for certain that you wont be interrupted, your productivity is much, much higher. When you sit down to work on a particularly intense task, dedicate blocks of time to the task during which you will not do anything else. Ive found that a minimum of 90 minutes is ideal for a single block.
  • During one of these sacred time blocks, do nothing but the activity thats right in front of you. Dont check email or online forums or do web surfing. If you have this temptation, then unplug your Internet connection while you work. Turn off your phone, or simply refuse to answer it.
  • You can probably find numerous opportunities for multitasking. Whenever you do something physical, such as driving, cooking, shopping, or walking, keep your mind going by listening to audio tapes or reading.
  • If you want to master time management, it makes sense to hone your best time management tool of all your physical body. Through diet and exercise you can build your capacity for sustained concentrated effort, so even the most difficult work will seem easier.
  • While in college I could not afford to let my enthusiasm fade, or Id be dead. I quickly learned that I needed to make a conscious effort to reinforce my enthusiasm on a daily basis. I would listen to time management and motivational tapes. I also listened to them while jogging every morning. I kept my motivation level high by reinforcing my enthusiasm almost hourly. Even though I was being told by others that I would surely fail, these tapes were the stronger influence because I never went more than a few hours without plugging back in.

Read the full article . . .

When Do You Study Best?

My best time to study is early in the morning.

I usually get up at 5 a.m. and start studying – and drinking coffee – by 6 a.m.

I can study straight until 3 or 4 p.m. – with brief breaks for stretching and snacks.

I then have the rest of the evening to relax and plan for my next day.

Whats your ideal study time?