Student Learning Commons: Procrastination - results, reasons, stopping

What is procrastination?

Procrastination is the habit of putting off/delaying work that needs to get done. For example, if you were given 2 weeks to write a paper and you start 2 days before the deadline—that’s procrastination!

YOU’RE NOT ALONE! Procrastination affects most students at some point during their studies; however, if you feel that this is becoming a problem, due to low grades or stress, this handout is for you!

You might have a habit of procrastinating if

  • You leave important projects to the last minute!
  • You tend to underestimate how long a project will take.
  • You have difficulty starting projects/assignments/etc.
  • You feel overwhelmed by big projects, so you avoid doing them until it’s too late.
  • You think you work better under pressure.
  • You are a perfectionist.

What are some of the results of procrastination?

  • STRESS! If you leave projects to the last minute, you will feel a lot of stress and anxiety!
  • Test anxiety because you know you didn’t study hard enough.
  • Disappointment in yourself because you didn’t try your best.
  • Poor grades. Because you didn’t put in your best effort, your grades may suffer.
  • Low motivation. When you get poor grades, you may feel less motivated to keep trying and this might perpetuate the tendency to procrastinate the next time.

So why do we do it?! Some reasons why we procrastinate

  • Fear of failure (I am afraid I won’t do well, so I’ll worry about it later.)
  • Fear of success (People will always expect perfection if I’m successful.)
  • Fear of separation (Spending time on schoolwork means spending less time with family and loved ones.)
  • Fear of losing control (I’ll decide when to hand this paper in.)
  • OR just because of bad habit, distractions (e.g.: socializing, Facebook, computer games) or laziness

Are you ready to stop procrastinating? Three strategies to get you started!

Mark off the strategies as you try them and keep track of how long you stick with them. REMEMBER: It could take 4-6 weeks for these strategies to become a part of your routine. Don’t give up after just a couple of days!

1. Keep a Journal

The first step in overcoming your procrastination is to figure out why you do it. Keep a procrastination journal and monitor your excuses. Every time a thought like “I’ll do it later” or “I deserve a break first!” pops into your mind, write it down.

Example: August 23: I have an assignment due in two weeks, but I’d rather watch a movie right now.

Tip: When you are in the middle of a thought like the one above, ask yourself:

  • Why am I procrastinating right now?
  • Do I really want to procrastinate?
  • What will be the outcome if I procrastinate right now?
  • Ask yourself: What if I work for 30 minutes on my paper, and then watch the movie?

Remember, getting started is often the hardest part!

2. Create a task-list (or daily schedule)

Create a short task list for things you want to get done every day. Prioritize from most to least important.

High priority: Review lecture note for 15 min.
Medium priority: Read pages 10-15 in biology textbook
Low priority: Clean up study space (10 min.)

Doing 1-3 small tasks every day will help you stay on track. If you do not do the “low” priority item on your list, move it to the “high” priority spot for the next day.

Tip: Try to set a specific (short) time limit for these tasks, because you will be more likely to do them! Challenge yourself to devote even 5 minutes to the task; often once you start working on something, you will continue for much longer.

3. Make use of campus resources

Many students who procrastinate put extra pressure on themselves because they feel that they need to figure things out on their own. Check out these helpful campus resources that can help you get back on track.

Visit the Student Learning Commons to get help with your papers and study strategies  such as tips to help you overcome procrastination! Our excellent peer educators are here to help. Also check out our workshops on time management and effective study strategies.

Health and Counselling - the H&C centre often offers special workshops on procrastination. Check out their website for current workshops, to book an appointment, or for resources on such topics as how to limit your internet use.