Dealing with Procrastination
One of the biggest shocks students face in college is realizing the considerable discipline required to get everything done that needs to get done each and every day. Part of the adjustment process each semester is learning how to stay focused and making the best use of your time. How can you avoid some of the pitfalls of falling behind in your studies?
Keys to Success in College:
- Having clearly defined goals
- Setting priorities
- Having the motivation and discipline to follow through
- Reinforcing your desire to achieve
Goals are your desired achievements and the purpose toward which your work is directed.
Priorities are what are of greatest importance to you.
Motivation is the commitment to accomplish something and to keep going even when things get difficult.
Discipline is the systematic intention and conscious choice to focus on accomplishing your goals.
Each of these leads to the next:
Goals »» Priorities »» Motivation »» Discipline: a constant desire to achieve
Even if you are clear about your goals and priorities, your motivation and discipline can be adversely affected by procrastination.
What is Procrastination?
Procrastination is the needless postponement of completing tasks, especially out of habit. It is a complicated human behavior that everyone has experienced at some point in our lives. For some people it’s a minor irritation, for others it’s a way of life that produces a lot of stress and anxiety.
Some individuals thrive on the pressure of tight deadlines, but procrastination is about more than just time management. It is often about a false sense of security and lowered expectations. It is therefore very important to realize how counterproductive procrastination can be in an environment where you must stay motivated in order to accomplish your goals. So why do people procrastinate?
Four Simple Reasons for Procrastination
- Overload and inability to prioritize
Your assignments may seem too difficult and you might begin to look for ways to avoid them. Your to-do list keeps growing and you start to feel overwhelmed. Whether it’s college life or work life, it’s common to feel swamped and to feel like you’ll never catch up. And then you start to panic and don’t know where to start. Suddenly you realize that you are falling so far behind that you are tempted to give up. This cycle can become paralyzing.
- Poor time management
The task may seem too time-consuming so you put it off until “later.” You may be overconfident and underestimate the actual time needed to complete all your obligations. You may think about your time without taking into account ongoing new assignments, extra time needed to seek help, fatigue or short breaks needed to refresh and keep your mind working at its peak.
- Fear of failure or fear of success
Fear is a very strong driving force, be it fear of failure or fear of success. Sometimes we're afraid we'll fail at something that is very important to us; sometimes we're afraid we’ll succeed. The outcome is the same: fear of what will happen scares us so much that we don't work to achieve the things we want.
Your assignments may require knowledge or skills you don’t think you have, so you fear facing them. People who are afraid to fail are afraid to even try to attempt the task. It’s easier to rationalize failure by neglecting assignments rather than on a lack of skills.
Fear of success comes from a fear of change or fear of stepping out of what is familiar to us. We might fear new expectations. We might feel happy with where we are, even though we know we are capable of doing better.
You may also choose to procrastinate because the work is not challenging enough to hold your interest. This attitude affects your ability to concentrate on the task. But keep in mind there are ways to push yourself to make your work more challenging. Focusing on the outcome, the bigger picture, will also help keep up your motivation to do the work.
The Dangers of Procrastination
Procrastination feeds into feelings of low self-confidence and low self-esteem. The stress of not keeping up with assignments and not accomplishing tasks on a daily basis will damage your sense of achievement and well-being.
- Using procrastination as a coping mechanism
It might feel like you are coping with pressures by delaying action, but you are actually adding to your stress level and making it much more difficult to feel good about managing your work load. Procrastination becomes a very inadequate way to cope with the pressure of completing your assignments on time and adds to your sense of guilt.
- A false sense of your ability to learn effectively
Procrastination seriously undermines your ability to do your best. Once you’re on the merry-go-round of procrastination, you really lose sight of what you’re actually learning because you’re so worried about keeping up. You are bombarded with distractions, which affects your ability to finish assignments and learn the material thoroughly and reliably.
You will begin to feel like you have no control over your ability to get things done. This will seriously affect your commitment to stay motivated and accomplish your goals.
- Procrastination can interfere with opportunities
When all your time and energy is consumed with avoiding work, you are not acquiring the training and skills you need to succeed and you are likely feeling guilty about it. Precious new opportunities may be passing you by.
Unlearning the Tendency to Procrastinate
Have a Positive Attitude
One of the greatest blocks to overcoming procrastination is a negative attitude. Be positive and open minded about your assignments. Begin to build your confidence and sense of satisfaction by sticking to your daily study routine and finishing your tasks for the day. Most importantly, get the help you need from faculty, teaching assistants, tutors, classmates and study groups.
Take Small Steps
If you find your work too challenging, take small steps. Break up the work into smaller and more manageable components. Be organized and learn to plan ahead. Put together your work schedule so that each day you’re accomplishing a bit more. Take pride in each day’s achievements.
Don’t procrastinate dealing with your procrastination! It can be easy to tell yourself you’ll face up to the issue tomorrow or the next time. But it’s very important to make every day count. Remember, the only way to break a bad habit is to start breaking it. The end of the semester comes very quickly and you will have to live with the results.
You may have a dozen tasks to complete, but you need to put them in order of importance. Avoid always choosing the easiest task first because that will most likely lead to procrastination. Be efficient with your time and allow for breaks, which are very important to ease your stress level.
Be aware of your choices
When you are given an assignment, pay close attention to your immediate response and your attitude. Be aware of the choices you make right away and do your best to fight the urge to avoid the work. Notice how you feel when you choose to tackle the work and get things done.
Make a list your responsibilities and be clear about where you need to take care of business. And remember, there are several important considerations for balanced living. How you manage class time, study hours, your job, recreation, socializing, household chores, personal errands and rest will be the key to staying happy and healthy. Set a goal every day. Be realistic about how much time each task will take. Keep close track of where your time goes and how to spend it more efficiently and productively.
Be sure you identify your ideal study environments and eliminate distractions. Once you’re able to truly focus your attention, you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done.
The Benefits of Overcoming Procrastination
There are many benefits of kicking the habit of procrastination: peace of mind, a feeling of strength and purpose, a healthy feeling of being in charge of your life. Remember, procrastination is self-reinforcing - every time you put off doing what is important, it reinforces your negative attitude toward that task. Every time you put off something you dislike, you strengthen the habit of not doing what you need to do.
Now that you see how procrastination works and how you can greatly reduce its influence in your life, you'll experience a greater sense of freedom and personal satisfaction. Keep working on it. You may still procrastinate once in a while, but now you'll be much more aware of it and be able to resolve the situation much more quickly, which in turn will build your self-confidence. When you do succeed, take time to enjoy it and remember it the next time you need encouragement.