Ask the Experts

Dear Organizing Coach: The No Motivation, All Procrastination Problem

“I always, always end up postponing assignments until one day before the deadline. When I do try getting things done it’s like I feel a physical reaction from inside myself to stop? I guess it’s my laziness. I feel stuck most of the time. Now I am failing my classes… I am failing my parents’ expectations, and I don’t know exactly what can help me.” — StrugglingDesignStudent

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Hi StrugglingDesignStudent:

Always relying on our own internal motivation is exhausting. So use the external motivation of your environment instead.

Environment plays a huge role in how we get things done. Are you tactile? Do you need certain pens or paper to get you going? Do you respond to color? Paint your room your favorite color or surround yourself with colorful objects. Do you have a favorite food? Sometimes pairing something we desire (frozen yogurt would be my choice) with the undesirable (like homework) provides motivation.

[Free Guide: 10 Solutions to Disorganization at School]

Have you tried a study soundtrack? Music helps the brain plan, focus, and initiate. Create a 30-minute play list of music you love. The key is to play the same playlist every time you sit down to work. Eventually the music will act as a motivator; when you hear the music, it will signal your brain that it’s time to get work done.

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Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

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2 reviews

  1. Oh man, I feel ya on that.
    I love the playlist idea. If you have Pandora, ITunes, they all have specific study playlists. I did better with classical music because it was noisy enough to help me focus but not so noisy I couldn’t.
    I also used the “Pomodoro” method, where you work in 25 minute spurts with 5 minute breaks in btween, then a longer break after a few cycles. There are free apps that help.
    Those breaks really helped.
    You can also reward yourself based on how much work you got done- so for every 4 25 minute cycles I completed I would reward myself with a treat, or after a lot of them I would buy myself something small.

    1. I love all your suggestions and suggests those to my students as well. I’m a big believer in rewards. Frozen yogurt or a big glass of my favorite ice tea works for me!

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