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How do you limit procrastination?

I think this has been an issue tons of people have because procrastination makes us lose some big opportunities. What are some tips that could help out with procrastination and increase my motivation to work?

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John’s Answer

Erica when trying to avoid procrastination, a great way to start is by setting goals. Once you are aware of your goals, you can go about setting a time frame in which you wish to achieve them. Without specific parameters in mind for achieving a goal, it can be very easy to fall back into bad habits. When you're setting goals for a test or exam, think carefully about the outcome you wish to achieve and how much time you have to make it happen. From there, you can start creating a plan that will help you prepare in the best way possible.

I hope this will be helpful Erica

John recommends the following next steps:

Life can keep you busy at times, which can make reaching your goals seem unattainable. When this happens, it's important to develop a strategy that will keep you from becoming overwhelmed by the work that it will take. It's not necessary to have a detailed plan right from the beginning, and you don't need to work on everything at one time. Just start with small steps that will get you going. For example, when you're studying, consider setting goals that consist of smaller achievable tasks. You can do this by separating the material into subjects, choosing a block of time for each, and then breaking this information down even further by topic. Having an appropriate strategy can go a long way in determining a positive outcome.
Always keep your future in mind. When working on your goal becomes difficult, and you find yourself beginning to slide backward, think about what your future will look like once your goal is accomplished. Think about how it will affect your life and the people around you. This can keep you going when you're finding it hard to continue. For example, when you're preparing for exams, think about how you can improve your studying techniques for next semester and avoid procrastination from the very beginning.
An important step in avoiding procrastination is making sure you hold yourself accountable. One great way to achieve accountability is to find a buddy or group of people who will offer consistent support. Often people like to work with groups that have the same goals so they can all support each other on their journeys. For instance, if you have study goals, you might consider joining a study group that has regular meetings and can provide encouragement when you need it. These people can remind you of why you're working hard, where you're headed, and help keep you on track.
It's vital to always take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating well and taking breaks to clear your mind. Once you feel ready for a test, allow yourself some time to relax and wind down. Taking a moment to de-stress can help minimize anxiety and ensure a better outcome. Reward yourself once the test is completed. Knowing you have a reward planned can help you continue to have something to look forward to while preparing.
Thank you comment icon Thank You Samay. Every person can make a difference, and every person should try. John Frick
Thank you comment icon Thank You Emma. Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. John Frick
Thank you comment icon Thank You Stephanie. Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. John Frick
Thank you comment icon Breaking down big projects into the small in a big one for me! Writing a 7 page essay or reading 100 pages sounds scary but breaking it down by working backwards from the deadline is super helpful. For example, if I have an essay due August 10th and I have a week until then, I'll start on Monday and write a page each day until I'm done. Gurpreet Lally, Admin
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Ayush’s Answer

While I often struggle with the same issue, but over the years I have realized a few things.
First, you are not unproductive or lazy, you are just not able to create conditions conducive to make you productive
Second, just because everyone else is following a pattern or schedule, does not mean it is the best for you
Third, seeking perfectionism is not wrong, but you should seek it only for the most important tasks
Lastly, it will take weeks if not months to overcome this so there are no quick fixes

So, let me share a few suggestions.It is really difficult to change your productivity hours, so don't fight them but create your work/study schedule around them. If you are working, remote work allows you to be flexible so make full use of it and prefer jobs that are flexible. For eg. I am very productive between 8-11 and 5-10, but most jobs are 9-5, so I feel very unproductive during normal business hours. To solve this I only schedule meetings between 11-5 or do my other personal tasks in this time.
Secondly, start small and with boring tasks. Those small wins really add up and give you a mental boost.
Third and most importantly, create a space where you are only with your task. Remove distractions and be strict with yourself for 20 mins, then 30 mins and then an hour. Over time, all of this will surely help you.

The fact that you asked this question means that you are willing to fight this and I wish you all the best!
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Ricardo’s Answer

The best way to deal with procrastination is to know your work/study pattern. Once you understand that you work better alone or in groups, listening to music or in complete silence, early in the morning or late in evening, the next step is to break the activity down into smaller tasks. In my case, I turn my cell down to the desk so I can’t see notifications, put my noise cancelling headset with some music on and open the task with specific goals. It could be reading one page of a document or create a draft of a proposal. Usually, once I get traction, then everything flows naturally. You can also reward yourself if you achieve your goal.
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Raisa Anan’s Answer

Hi Erica!

In high school, my habit of procrastinating was at its worst. I still procrastinate now, but it's far less severe than it was back then. I followed these steps to improve:
1) Organize your work into categories and put clear labels on them. Organizing my tasks was a massive factor in limiting my procrastination. I realized I used to procrastinate through this type of thinking pattern: "Oh, I need to start the maths homework that's due in two days. But before that I should complete the literature homework and - oh, I forgot to do research for it!" Yes, it was like that. After I begun to organize, schedule and label my tasks, it became more clear, assured and simple.

2) Start to work from the day you've been assigned with any tasks. Oftentimes, due dates can give the impression of a lot of time in your hands. Instead try to think the whole period - from assigned date to the due date - is meant to be utilized.

3) Positively think about the free time you'll have if you finish before the due date.

4) If you are working in a team and the other members of the team are procrastinating, try your best to not give in to do the same. Instead finish your part on time and remind others to do the same.

5) I have found that whenever I talk to a classmate, who is further ahead in their work than I am, I'll be motivated to work harder!

6) Make your work more enjoyable. For instance, whenever I research any topic, I'll take short breaks during which I'll look up memes, share my progress with my sister, or doodle at the edges of my notebook.

Hope that helps :)
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Maeve’s Answer, CareerVillage.org Team

If I am procrastinating a task, I always procrastinate by scrolling on social media. If this is something you relate to, I recommend that you implement screen time controls on your phone. I have found that setting boundaries for how much time I can spend on certain apps REALLY helps prevent me from procrastinating more important tasks. It is easy to set up a screen time limit. Once you hit a certain amount of time on an app your phone will lock you from opening it for the rest of the day. Something else that helps is setting aside breaks where I allow myself time to go on social media. For example, I will designate 25 minutes for work time, followed by 5 minutes on instagram. The little scheduled social media breaks in between more focused periods of work time helps a lot!
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Samay’s Answer

I feel as if procrastination for me has always stemmed from a fear or anxiety associated with starting a daunting task. In college this looks like waiting last minute to finish a big assignment, study for an exam, etc. I think the tipping point for me to confront my procrastination was when I had to pull a few all nighters back to back to catch up the work/studying I had been procrastinating and suffering a lot that whole week because of the consequences of my actions. It was then I prioritized starting early no matter how afraid I was of failing or not understanding the task at hand. It was nothing compared to the anxiety I built up waiting last minute. Once you accept you are in control and responsible for how you respond to difficult situations you can be the one to progress towards better habits--and its rewarding on all ends.

Not only will starting earlier give you the chance to see if the task is really as hard as it seems (which it usually isn't), but it also allows you time to engage with your work relatively stress free and clear minded because of how early you approach it. I think just starting is the hardest step with procrastination, it feels as if it's the last thing you want to think about. However, the sooner you start the less your future self has to suffer-- and that mentality of caring for my future self and starting early led to better results, better mental health, and gave me confidence to start a lot of things earlier. The sacrifice in the present moment builds towards a greater goal and long term gratitude and allows you time to consult your TAs, professors, etc. if you need the help. It is a mental battle but one that can be consciously fought and conquered.
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Marcus’s Answer

Hi Erica,

The most important thing I can tell you right off the back is to start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. I find that many of us cling to comfort too much and we tend to only want to do what makes us feel safe or what is more fun/entertaining. This is where I believe procrastination comes into play because rather than going out and doing something that is truly impactful to our lives we can sometimes feel intimidated or bored with it so instead we put what makes us feel safe first and we put it off the things that are really good for us and our futures.

I challenge you to start going outside of your normal day to day activities and let hard work and productivity take the wheel. This means using your phone to answer emails or apply for jobs/college/licenses/scholarships instead of being on social media so much and turning down invitations to hang out with friends and studying instead. I know this is easier said than done but the journey of a million miles begins with one step. You can do it I promise you can and you will be so happy that you did once you begin to receive all of the rewards from your hard work and your excellent time management skills!
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Amy’s Answer

I've spent a lot of time browsing Google search results for "how not to procrastinate," or watching Ted Talks on procrastination-- often, ironically, as a mechanism to procrastinate.

I've tried a lot of things -- breaking goals up into smaller tasks, making to-do lists, finding a quiet environment conducive to work. These did help, but personally, one piece of advice I came across stood out to me in particular. I can't remember where I read it, but it was an article that said that what was difficult about doing work wasn't necessarily doing it, but rather building up the motivation to get started.

If you need to go for a run -- don't force yourself to go for a run. Instead, tell yourself you're just going to go to the door and put on your sneakers. Once you're there, it's a lot less intimidating to walk out the door. If you need to finish a school assignment, just tell yourself you'll take out your pencil and paper and put them on your desk. Once they're there, it's not much of a leap to finish the first problem.
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Kruti’s Answer

What helps me is committing to the task and focusing on doing it, not avoiding it by writing down the tasks that need to be completed, and specify a time for doing them. Crossing off tasks on my to do list give me a sense of accomplishment.
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Scott’s Answer

Something that helps me is breaking down my tasks into simple steps, assigning due dates and/or priority, and reviewing my list daily. Also, please remember we are all different so once thing that works for one person may not work for another. Keep trying various things to see what works best for you!
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Ethiopia’s Answer

This may seem like a lot at first but it makes life easier afterwards. While I was in college, at the beginning of the semester, I would take all of the syllabi from my classes and create a document based on the due dates and how much time I know that I need to complete assignments. I would either do it by week but I specifically did it by day and write down just exactly what I was going to so that day/week and specifically stick to that list. No more and no less and that way I know that if I complete that work, then I have paced it out so that I can get everything done without stressing at the last minute.
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Scott’s Answer

Something that helps me is breaking down my tasks into simple steps, assigning due dates and/or priority, and reviewing my list daily. Also, please remember we are all different so once thing that works for one person may not work for another. Keep trying various things to see what works best for you!
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Divya’s Answer

Hello! This is such an important topic to discuss. Procrastination is something that most people inevitably end up doing, including myself. Some ways I try to overcome this problem is to break down the large task into smaller mini tasks. After completing each mini task or milestone, I would reward myself. By rewarding myself after each completion of a task, I feel more motivated to continue since I am constantly progressing. A lot of people feel overwhelmed to start such a big task which is why they procrastinate so they can worry about it later. However by breaking the task up, the burden is lessened and we end up doing more than we realize. Next time when you face an issue with procrastination, please try this technique out. It helps me immensely.
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Davis’s Answer

Hi Erica,

This is a great question that people of all skill levels, ages, backgrounds and experiences effects, including myself. I'd like to acknowledge the plethora of great answers in the thread, as well.

I find that setting goals and being able to track them, whether it's on a computer, calendar, whiteboard, or daily planner, is an effective way to mitigate procrastination. Procrastination, in my view, is a habit, and habits can be changed. By writing down what you need to accomplish, and checking it frequently, it keeps your goals and tasks at the front of your mind, and you are subsequently more apt to complete them. For myself, it feels good when I know I've completed a task, whether it be during work, or my home life. Procrastination also adds unnecessary stress to your life, and if you can overcome procrastination, then you will lead a more balanced and happy life, in my view.
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Piara’s Answer

Setting realistic time amounts to complete each task at hand and rewarding yourself with something small but meaningful upon completion within the time amount allotted - helps ensuring you stay motivated and creates a feeling of accomplishment as well.
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Cooper’s Answer

I think staying organized and prioritizing your day is very important to staying focused. I really like creating a check list of things that I need to do on a given day according to the time sensitivity of each task and marking them off once I complete them. It gives me a small sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that makes me want to move onto the next task as quickly and efficiently as possible. I would also recommended limiting your social media exposure. I think social media has a time and place but not during working hours as it can be extremely time consuming.
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Brandon’s Answer

Hi Erica,

When it comes to working through or trying to eliminate procrastination the solution varies from person to person, so if one method/solution doesn't work for you do not worry. As was mentioned above creating or assigning certain environments towards work/study and to relax/chill is something personally that helped me out quite a bit. Reducing the amount of time you spend on your phone or tablet with either social media, games, online shopping, can also make a difference too. Look into options with your phone to set it into a work mode or study mode where you can only receive messages or notifications that are important and filter out the rest, this has helped me tremendously when trying to maintain my focus during studying. Hope this helps!
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Joanna’s Answer

I think you can start to weave in steps slowly to offset your procrastination. It can depend where your procrastination is coming from. Is it because you're easily distracted by email, work chats, your personal life, phone, etc. or you have a never ending to do list that overwhelms you? Consider creating a to do list but be realistic with yourself - what must get done and what can wait until the next day or next week - a more manageable list can make the tasks feel less daunting.

If you find you get distracted easily, consider blocking off time in your calendar to get a specific task done and turn off everything else - close email, chats and put your phone away. Give yourself that uninterrupted time to work on a specific activity. Maybe start with one 30 minute block in your calendar each day, try to do that regularly and then expand to multiple blocks per day for a maximum productive time.
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Alyssa’s Answer

Hi Erica,

Procrastination can be hard but here are a few tips that I think may help!

First, stick to a morning routine. I personally live by this as I think it sets up your day for success if you incorporate an efficient early morning routine. My personal routine is wakeup at 7am, make a coffee, read the daily market news, make my bed, write in my planner and then head out for work by 8am. Having an hour that's standard and I enjoy every morning allows me to be productive the rest of the day.

Secondly, limit tv/phone time to an hour a day and you'll realize how much time is wasted!
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Stephanie’s Answer

Procrastination is something I struggle with a lot, especially working from home. One thing I try to do is work in a designated area, like my desk. When I am at my desk I try to focus only on work, if I want a break I get up and go somewhere else. If you don't have a work area you can go to, I recommend making a productivity playlist. Playing music helps me stay focused and having a specific playlist can help put me in a productive mood.
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Rube’s Answer

We all have to deal with procrastination at some point in our life. I used to be a big procrastinator when it came to projects in high school. This worked out, but that habit stuck in college. I learned hard that this is not the way to do things. I had to pull an all-nighter for a presentation and presented it half asleep. Luckily, I did well, but you never want to go in knowing that you could have done better if you did your part. After that, I started setting deadlines. I set deadlines on everything. Homework was to be turned in on this day, and projects were to be completed and double-checked a week before due dates. This helped a lot. Yes, there were times when I was off schedule, but I gave myself wiggle room because we never knew where we might get stuck. I always ensured I had a break day because scheduling too many things in one week can stress you out, and your health is also important.

Maintaining focus is also a big deal during these periods of work. This may mean turning off your phone and moving away from distractions. I isolate myself from technology if I have a test coming up so that I may study and not be distracted.
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Sean’s Answer

I suffer with procrastination until this very day. The first thing that you have to acknowledge is that everyone struggles with it. Take that burden off of your shoulders. Secondly, procrastination is something to work with and not against. Write, write, write! Make to-do lists, create goals, and jot down soft and hard deadlines. There is power in putting thoughts into words and having a physical reminder to serve as your personal assistant.
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Kyle’s Answer

Different tactics work for different people, and there are many variables to consider when trying to limit procrastination. For me, what tends to work is physically writing out goals or long-term tasks I have on my agenda. Completing these tasks then feels like more of an accomplishment and provides more satisfaction. Also, it is important to learn from your past experiences and make changes as needed.
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Joshua’s Answer

Hi,
I would say this really depends case to case. But is all about how you approach the situation. I think the big thing to do to start is put yourself in a good environment for working and getting items done. When you get an assignment try to do a read through right when it comes out. I know that is easier said than done but I think one big thing is really getting an idea of the scope of work needed for each assignment. When doing that read through take down notes and just do general brainstorming about what you may want to do. This is always a great start because if It ends up being an interesting idea you come up with you might want to start right away. Although not prefect I hope these few ideas can help you out
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Jaquelyne’s Answer

The best way to avoid procrastination is staying organized and maybe prioritizing a to do list. Sometimes, if I have too much to do and don't know where to start, that leads to procrastination.
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Andrew’s Answer

Hi! I've found the best practice to limit procrastination has been a combination of physically moving distracting items into another room and creating daily block schedules to lay out the tasks I'd like to complete that day.
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David’s Answer

Hi Erica,

From personal experience, I can tell you that the biggest way to fight off procrastination is to eliminate distractions. If you feel you have to get something done, eliminate everything else that does not include you accomplishing that goal. You will be amazed in what you can accomplish without attempting to multitask.

Additionally, setting goals and objectives is also important so that you have a clear idea on what to focus your attention on. Sometimes a lack of definite goals promotes procrastination as a whole.
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meredith’s Answer

Hi Erica, good question! One thing that helps me is staying organized- I work remotely and keeping a clean space definitely helps with procrastination.
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Robert’s Answer

Hey Erica! I've definitely dealt with procrastination in the past before too. For me, it was really helpful first outlining my future goals that I wanted to achieve and the steps required to achieve them. These steps don't need to be gigantic, just small, achievable checkpoints towards your overall goal. Most people when they have homework or exams to study for, they study in their rooms. For many of people, like myself, I find that really hard to concentrate as it's too comfortable of an environment. Because of this, I would go out to the library or even coffeeshops. Just knowing that I'm out in public, I can really concentrate on whatever I was working on and maximize my productivity. You really just have to force yourself to make small changes to your daily lifestyle and in the end these will become healthy habits you will continually pursue.
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Brad’s Answer

Hi! Thank you for your question. The best way to limit procrastination is by following a strict calendar everyday to stay productive.
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R’s Answer

Hi Erica! Glad you're seeking advice on this!

There are lots of great advices in the comments - breaking the task into smaller tasks, setting timer, etc, which are all super helpful.

One additional thing I think is important is to celebrate every step you take, even if they are small successes. Personally, I set up a Notion page to track all the plans and progress I have, the daily tasks I plan to complete, and I even track the daily habits I want to build.

By the end of every month, I do a monthly reflection to see what I did well, and what I should change.

I found that by documenting the mini-steps you took and the progress you made, it really encourages me to stick to my plans and spend each day fruitfully.

Hope this is helpful for you!
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Jacob’s Answer

As a procrastinator, I have done a few things to at least minimize the impact it has on my tasks (work and college).

First, I eliminate or minimize distractions. In college, that meant stopping my WoW subscription for 4 years and limiting the games I purchased. Since I was living alone I also did not have a tv in my bedroom, where my computer was, to limit the temptation to watch. Since I work from home now, I have turned a spare room into my office, giving me a physical "at work" location that I go to. This helped immensely since it replicated my old drive to the office routine. My office doesn't have a tv and I keep the door closed much of the time to limit interruptions.

The second thing I do is ensure that when I am working on a task I am as efficient with my time as possible. I planned my workflow for the various tasks so that I can quickly work through them without wondering what is next. This keeps me focused since my brain never has the time to drift off. For example, when I was in college, I would store all the references for papers in the same manner in a notepad doc using a simplified shorthand. When the paper was done, I was able to quickly convert them over to proper format quickly.

Jacob recommends the following next steps:

Remove distractions. Either get rid of them or do your work in a different area away from them.
Make your work time as efficient as possible. Plan out and build routines around common tasks so that you don't have gaps of time to drift off subject
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Kristin’s Answer

This may be counterintuitive, but something that helps me with procrastination is allowing myself to, at times, procrastinate. It is ok to let yourself be distracted sometimes! We are not robots, and that is a good thing. We are human! Set aside 5-10 minutes every few hours for you to procrastinate: check social media, online shop, do whatever your mind wants you to do at the time. Listen to your brain telling you it needs a break, and let it have it.

I think of it sort of like eating well: if you never allow yourself to indulge, you may tend to binge and then feel bad about it after the fact. If you enjoy your favorite foods in moderation, you feel satisfied and also good about the decision you've made. Enjoy procrastination in moderation to learn how to live alongside those tendencies, rather than resist them and label them as bad or harmful.

When all else fails, "time box" your task. The discovery of this strategy was revolutionary for me because as a perfectionist, it's sometimes hard for me to begin really big scary tasks or projects for fear of inadequacy. Timeboxing is a time management technique where before you begin, you decide how much time you'll spend on the task at hand. For example, let's say you need to create a marketing pamphlet and you aren't sure how long it will take. Set a timer for 15 minutes, or 30 minutes, and see how far you get. Chances are once you start, you won't feel like stopping, but even if you do, that was all part of the plan! This can be especially helpful for tasks that will take as much time as you give them and could go on forever, like market research.
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Evan’s Answer

I feel like the answer to this is going to vary dramatically person to person. What works for one person may be totally useless for another.

Your best bet is to think hard about what districts you at work. Do you get distracted easily when working from home? Then maybe you should think about going into the office more. Do you get distracted easily by your colleagues in the office? Perhaps it's time to take more advantage of a work from home opportunity or find a quiet seat in your office where you can focus a bit more.

I personally tend to struggle with productivity on slow days. During a holiday week when our volume drops off a cliff it's easy for me allow the quiet environment in the office to drive a more lax approach to my day to day work. On those days I find it very helpful to write down a list of things I want to make sure I do before leaving the office that day. That list could include daily tasks, items I'm otherwise behind on, or even pet projects that I just haven't had a chance to focus on during busier days. By giving myself a defined list of goals I can more easily structure my day and motivate myself to complete the items on my list. That solution clearly won't work for everyone, but I've found through trial and error that it works for me.
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Andrea G’s Answer

Erica, I have so many points of reference! :) I tend to procrastinate when I'm feeling overwhelmed. What works for me is scheduling time to outline a to-do list of upcoming projects and tasks. Scheduling time free of distractions--that includes people, email and social media alerts, is optimal.

It may seem counterintuitive to 'carve' time in your calendar but it helps to understand what's on your plate, the scope of work for each project and the time each task will take. I then rate each task based on its priority. As an example, in any given day I am coming up with story ideas and concepts, researching topics, then writing about the topics and editing the work but also communicating with clients, drafting external marketing campaigns and filing invoices. Priorities shift depending on deadlines made by clients, or professors, but once you get a rhythm for how you work the process can be ritualized.
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