10 Tips to Help Yourself and Your Kids NOT Procrastinate and Parkinson’s Law
We all go through times of procrastination and get frustrated by our kids as we watch them procrastinate. I have recently learned about Parkinson’s Law and although it’s really common sense, I found it fascinating.
There are concrete steps we can take to NOT procrastinate… Interestingly some of the reasons why people procrastinate are connected to anxiety but first, let’s discuss Parkinson’s Law…
What Is Parkinson’s Law?
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”
~ Cyril Northcote Parkinson
This makes so much sense! I’ve explained Parkinson’s Law to my kids and now when I see them taking a long time to complete a short task, I remind them that Parkinson’s Law is playing out! I also take note of when it’s happening to me!
However, we can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage and this is one of the ten tips to not procrastinate…
10 Tips to Not Procrastinate
It’s not enough to write a “to-do” list, it’s much more effective to write out (the night before, or at the start of the day) a schedule for the day with time blocks. Within the time blocks write down which tasks you plan to complete.
To take advantage of Parkinson’s Law, half the time you thought you would need… This even works with young children.
If you’ve asked them to clean their bedroom and it’s taking forever, let them know that you’re taking them to the beach at 10:00am and that their bedroom needs to be done first. By giving them a shorter amount of time to complete the task, it will actually be done quicker. The excellent visual Time Timer that I’ve mentioned in a previous post is a great tool for setting deadlines. The red arc shrinks as time goes by and children and teens can see how much time they have left to complete a task in a visual format.
One of the “mind tricks” of anxiety is to catastrophize – make things seems bigger and worse than they are. When we can recognize that we are caught in this thinking trap, we can be more objective and use facts and evidence to analyze the situation vs. doom and gloom thinking.
Focus on Benefits:
When we think of the benefits of completing the task and try to find some personal meaning connected to the task, it will help us be more motivated to stay on task.
Set Up for Success:
If you know you/your child is more of a morning person, try to accomplish more in the morning and vice versa if evening is the productivity time. If you/your child focuses better after a snack and in a quiet, unstimulating environment, then create the setting in this way. For others, listening to quiet music can help with motivation. Brain fm has positive anecdotal reports for good music to listen to that increases focus.
This is a word that is often used by teachers and it means to break projects down into smaller parts. We all know how overwhelming some tasks can feel, but if we go step by step it becomes more manageable. This is an important life skill for all kids to learn.
Setting a deadline on a calendar, or telling someone that you are going to complete a task by a set date and time, creates accountability and motivation.
Reduce Tech Distractions:
Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for kids and adults to be on their computer with several screens open and have their phone by their side buzzing and pinging! To get focussed and not procrastinate we need to switch our phones to “Do not disturb” and turn off Skype and Instant Messaging. Chrome also has a free app called StayFocusd which controls what happens on your computer. You can personally set it for the amount of time you want to be distraction free. It has 4.5 star reviews with over 5000 reviewers.
This connects to tech for many people. For you/your child set a period of time that you’re going to focus on the task and then reward yourself by letting yourself check your phone for 5 minutes or play Candy Crush! This is called the Pomodoro effect. Fun fact: It’s called this because of the manual kitchen timer that looks like a tomato! Pomodoro is Italian for tomato! You can use the time timer for this too. (The time timer has the option of ringing a bell when the red arc disappears, and it’s recommended in the Pomodoro technique to have the timer ring so it’s associated with a sense of completion.)
The traditional Pomodoro technique is to work for 25 minutes, give yourself a check mark, and take a 5 minute break. Do four of these sets/intervals, called Pomodoros, and then take a 25 minute break. You can adjust the time based on the age of the child. This works well for homework completion too.
Another “mind trick” of anxiety is self-bullying. Self-talk such as “I’m such an idiot for not doing this sooner”, “I always suck at doing projects” etc. Instead, we need to teach positive self-talk, and remember that Parkinson’s Law can work in our favour so instead of thinking “I’m an idiot for not doing this sooner”, reframe this to: “Now that the deadline is closer I will actually work quicker and better”.
Another “mind trick” of anxiety is perfectionism. (I’ve written a specific article on perfectionism and anxiety). No one is perfect! It’s better to get it done than to do nothing. As one of my perfectionistic teen clients said: “If I can be 80% happy with something, then I have to remember that’s good enough because other people will probably think it’s better than 80%”. Getting started also connects to another psychological concept called the Zeigarnikeffect which states that once we’ve started a project, our brain will keep on remembering that we need to complete it and give us little prompts which is why it’s important to just get started 🙂
I hope the summer is going well for you and that Parkinson’s Law can be used in your favour,
PS. Registration is open for Summer Anxiety Management Groups (held at the ABLE Clinic in W. Vancouver) for children ages 7-9 yrs. and 10-12 yrs. To view the flyer with more information click here and to register online click here and then go to “upcoming groups/events”.
PPS. To receive my free ebook on The 8 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Your Child Is Anxious, click here.
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