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This Week in Wellness: How do you beat procrastination?

Photo by Rylee Dolezal.

By Eva Hill


Last week, while talking with a friend at dinner, we discussed our similar experiences having difficulty getting started on homework and attending review sessions, even though there was not necessarily something else to do instead of schoolwork. I decided then — Wednesday of last week — that I wanted to write this week’s column on procrastination. I planned that I would do the research on Thursday and Friday, and then have the whole weekend to prepare my article (you can probably see where this is going).

It is currently 10:40 p.m. on Tuesday night (The S&B copy is due on Wednesday). I have just finished taking a break from working on the previous paragraph to write the recipe below, which really is very good — making and eating it this weekend provided a great excuse for me to put off my work. I like writing this column a lot; I can think of many worse jobs than researching and writing about topics that I find interesting. So why do I have so much trouble getting started?

Psychology Today suggests that there may be several different causes of procrastination. One source of procrastination may be fear of failure, resulting in a form of self-sabotage. Other possible causes include fear of success and the ensuing responsibility given to a person who has shown they can excel and paralysis brought on by worrying about the project not turning out perfectly.

A 2016 Forbes article cites a 2015 study where people were instructed to think of the time they had left until future events in different divisions of time (i.e. years, months, days, etc.). The study found that people who thought of the time until the events in smaller intervals considered them to be sooner and started preparing for them earlier than the people who thought about the time in larger intervals. Based on these results, the article’s author suggested using the time-interval method and thinking about the happiness your future self would feel to have the task done, rather than your current desire not to do the task. Would it have helped me to think about the due date for this column being in 168 hours, rather than in a little less than a week? I’m not sure, but it seems like a reasonable strategy to try for my next installment.

Another strategy that may help with reducing procrastination is dividing your work up into smaller, more manageable chunks, so that each time you think about starting the task, it’s not the whole thing you’re starting, just a small piece. Dividing up your work this way can have unforeseen benefits as well: you may find that there are parts of your work process that are redundant or unnecessary (if you notice I haven’t written a book and music recommendation this week, it’s because I realized that removing those two sections would help fix two problems I’ve had in the past: struggling to come up with good recommendations each week, and having to shorten the main section of the column in order to make room for them).

The most helpful strategy I’ve ever been taught for procrastination, however, is much simpler than any of the above: instead of procrastinating, take a designated break from your work. Tell yourself that you are free to do whatever you want for a certain amount of time (make it a substantial amount, maybe an hour or more) without any guilt about not doing your work. When the time is up, you’ll have spent the time during which you would otherwise have been guiltily procrastinating by having an actual mental break without the stress of wanting and not wanting to do something at the same time.

This week’s recipe:

Beef and bowtie soup

My take on this recipe is closer to being a stew, or maybe a pasta-and-sauce dish, than it is a soup, so if you prefer your soup to have more liquid, use a larger pot and add another can of broth. The vegetables I’ve listed here are more guidelines than requirements — I’ve seen variations of this recipe with spinach, corn, or mushrooms, for example.


1 can beef broth

1 can diced tomatoes

Garlic salt

½ lb. ground beef

2-ish medium-sized carrots

Approximately ½ yellow onion

About 1 cup farfalle pasta

Olive or canola oil

Parmesan cheese


1. Dice the carrots and onion.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine broth and tomatoes. Add carrots and pasta (not onion), cover, and leave on high heat.

3. While pasta and carrots cook, in a frying pan, sauté the ground beef and onions in oil until the onions are translucent and the beef is completely browned.

4. When beef and onions are cooked, add to saucepan. Make sure to also transfer the leftover beef fat, to increase the flavor of the broth.

5. Add garlic salt to taste and cook until pasta is al dente.

6. Serve hot with freshly grated Parmesan (keeps well in fridge for 2-3 days and can be reheated).

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    KarlaFeb 26, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    Your article on procrastination is right on. Author Agatha Christie said her house is never so clean as when she is writing a book. Thanks for the helpful strategies Eva.