Kick the Procrastination Habit

Written on by Sheri Shifman

Well, it’s back-to-school time again, which brings with it the looming deadlines of homework and projects.  Are you usually up late the night before an assignment is due? If you answer yes, you just might be a procrastinator!  Here are some common excuses procrastinators use [2]:

  • I have three weeks to get it done; plenty of time!
  • I only need 1 hour to finish this paper.
  • I’ll be motivated to do it tomorrow.  I’ll do it then.
  • I don’t feel like doing it, so I won’t be able to get anything done.
  • When I’m in the mood, I’ll be able to finish it, no problems.
  • I work better under pressure.

These are all myths!  In reality, we are not born procrastinators.  It is a learned habit that starts early in our academic career when we don’t develop good ways to overcome it.  Here are some reasons why we procrastinate [3]:

  1. We don’t believe we have the ability to complete the task
  2. We don’t believe the task will benefit us in the long run
  3. We have a fear of failure

Students typically fall into the first category because they can be overwhelmed when there are many steps to complete a project.  Don’t worry though!  Because procrastination is learned, we have the ability to un-learn it with a little discipline, commitment, and a few short steps [3]:

1. Define your goal and/or vision. 
First thing to do is identify what you’re working towards.  Is it to earn your degree?  Earn 4.0 GPA? Once you determine this, make a visual guide to help you remember.   A simple way to do this is to write or draw your vision on piece of notebook paper.   A more elaborate form of this is the vision board (see here).  The key is to keep this visual reminder in a place where you’ll see it often so you don’t forget.

2. Push past negative emotions. 
Many times we don’t feel like doing the task at hand, so we push it aside for tomorrow.    Other times, anxiety and stress can freeze us up, so we feel inert.    Those emotions may be normal, however, it’s important we recognize it, acknowledge it, and hang in there.  Reference your visual guide from step 1 to help you stick with it and push through.  Even a little progress on your task keeps you motivated for the next step!

3. Identify specific actions to complete the task.
Take a minute to think about the task at hand and write the specific steps that must be taken to complete it. This provides structure so you know exactly what you’ll need to do and, in turn, reduces your stress.

Don’t know how to complete the task?  Check for YouTube videos or online forums on the subject.  There’s an expert out there! Tap into your network of friends and acquaintances. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Feel free to reward yourself as you complete tasks to keep yourself motivated!

4. Reduce Distractions
Yep, this means you’ll need to turn off your phone, close your email, and turn off the TV.  Anything that will pull you away from the task should be put away.

5. Practice willpower.
Did you know that will power is like a muscle?   By exerting your will power, you can actually exhaust it, making you more likely to fall back into bad habits.    So, it’s important to pace yourself [1].  Set aside short periods of time to work on your tasks, and then gradually increase the time you spend on them. Take little breaks when you feel overwhelmed by grabbing a snack, doing some stretches, maybe practicing meditation.  Then, get back on the task.   Another quick way to bolster your will power is to reference your visual guide from step 1.

So, if you struggle with procrastination, don’t give up!  Set your goal, take small steps, and if you fail, pick yourself up and keep going!  As you see how much progress you are making towards your goal, it will serve as motivation to maintain those good habits.    Good luck!

About the Author:
Mindy Haas is supporting the College Plus students to develop a H.A.N.D.® plan.  She works with the College Plus Leader, Caren Noonan, to find creative ways to encourage the students to succeed.

As the College Plus students start or return to Bucks County Community College next week, we hope this article helps prepare the students as well as others!!  

Works Cited

  1. Cummins, Denise Ph.D.  How to Boost Your Willpower. Web. 21 June 2013.
  2. Marano, Hara Estroff .  Ending Procrastination.  Web.  01 Oct 2003.
  3. Pychyl, Timothy A., Ph.D.  I’ll Do It Later: Children’s Academic Procrastination. Web.
    12 Jan 2016.
  4. Pychyl, Timothy A., Ph.D.  End Procrastination: Right Now!  Web. 01 Sept 2009.

    Photo via Pixabay

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