Self-Help: Procrastination Prevention
Putting off unpleasant or overwhelming tasks is a normal human reaction. However, chronic procrastination can result is wasting essential time and energy. Procrastination seems to be a particularly challenging problem for many college students.
Why is it so prevalent and what can be done to prevent or manage it? People who procrastinate often are accused of being lazy, but it is usually not so simple. What are some of the common causes and possible cures?
Being overwhelmed by the size of a project. Try to assess realistically how long it takes to complete assignments/chores.
Break down large projects into smaller, more manageable sections and work on them one at a time. Post your deadlines on a calendar in a prominent location.
Fear of the unknown. Do you feel unprepared or incapable of completing new tasks? Do you feel the expectations are ambiguous? If so, you may want to seek guidance, support or a new perspective from someone familiar with the task.
You may gain clarification from speaking with the professor or other students who have completed the task. Remind yourself you tend to get nervous when trying a new skill but you have learned new tasks and information in the past.
Being overextended. It is important to assess your obligations to check if it is humanly possible to complete them? College students have numerous responsibilities, often including class attendance, homework, a job, numerous clubs or organizations, and a social life.
Many students inadvertently assume too many responsibilities and literally do not have enough minutes in the day. If this is the case, remember you are not the first to over-commit yourself. However, you may need to omit or reschedule some of these obligations.
Poor time management. Prioritize your homework and chores 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 priority items can bring a sense of accomplishment. If you continue to struggle with time-management you may benefit from attending a Counseling Center time-management workshop.
Surrounding yourself with distractions. Beginning an unpleasant task is tough, particularly when we give ourselves easy excuses to procrastinate. College students often have numerous distractions in their rooms including televisions, video games, a computer and more.
Arrange you work space exactly the way you like it and work at times when you are most energetic. Set up the environment with as few distractions as possible (i.e. only watch television in the living room).
Lack of "down" time. Some students don't allow themselves any legitimate relaxation time; therefore, they "steal" it from their study time.
Incentive to work increases when there is the prospect of a good reward at the end. Scheduling regular breaks and recreation helps keep a busy life balanced and the mind refreshed.
Perfectionist expectations of oneself. Don't avoid getting started due to worry about how good your results must be. A reasonable amount of interest and effort almost always ends up in a satisfactory outcome.
Remember it often feels worse to not do a task at all instead of doing it in a less than perfect manner. Taking the first active step to begin the project will increase your motivation and confidence in your ability to complete the job competently.
Fear of evaluation. Often we are concerned with how others will respond to our performance. Try to evaluate the total impact this one reaction/grade will have on your life.
Remember no one performs highly all the time, or in every area. Focus on completing a task to lessen your workload and anxiety, regardless of the evaluation.
Following someone else's goals instead of your own. People rarely are inspired to work diligently for a cause that has little meaning for them. Examine your choices and motives, particularly if you feel that you "have to" do something.
It is common for students to try to please others, particularly family. Explore if the task is relevant to you personally or to your future goals. Explore how you might include or pursue goals that are more meaningful to you.
Some counseling may help you develop a strategy to spend more of your time and effort on goals that you fully endorse.