Procrastination Prevention

Procrastination seems to be a common problem for many University students. Why is it so prevalent and what can be done to prevent or manage it? People who procrastinate are often accused of being lazy- but it is usually not so simple. What are some of the common causes?

Following someone else's goals instead of your own - Students rarely feel motivated to work steadily for a degree or goal that has little meaning for them. Examine your choices, particularly if they are ruled by "shoulds". Instead, clarify what is important to you and then aim to spend more time and effort on goals that you truly endorse.

Being overwhelmed by the size of a project - Start to assess more realistically how long it takes to complete assignments/tasks. Break down large projects into smaller, more manageable sections and then work on them one at a time. Post your deadlines on a calendar in a prominent location.

Poor time management - Prioritise your academic work and other responsibilities so that the most important things get done first. Try to resist the temptation to distract yourself with a trivial task instead of beginning the real work. Even a modest amount of work on one of your priorities can reduce procrastination.

Lack of “down” time - Some students don't allow themselves any legitimate relaxation time; consequently, they ‘steal’ it from their study time. Your motivation to work increases when there is the prospect of a reward at the end. Scheduling regular breaks and recreation helps will help keep your life balanced and your mind refreshed.  

Perfectionist expectations of oneself -  A vow to work “to the absolute best of my ability” on every single task is an unrealistic goal. Instead, take the first step to begin a project, then slowly build confidence in your ability to complete the job competently. Learn to accept that a satisfactory outcome on certain projects is good enough.

Take control of distractions - Email, MSN, text messages, and the internet are all fuel for procrastination. If you are particularly susceptible to online or electronic distractions, try changing your work setting, your location, or temporarily reduce your access to such diversions.

Use rewards, not bribes - Rewarding yourself after you have completed a task is an effective motivational strategy; bribing yourself with a treat before you have even begun is counter-productive.  So stick to rewards and then sit back and enjoy your well-earned treat without feeling guilty.