Studies show that up to 95 percent of students admit to having problems with procrastination, a statistic that has quadrupled in the last three decades. Avid procrastinators have a tendency to put things off until the last minute, sometimes justifying their actions by arguing that they “work better under pressure” or “didn’t have any time until the night before.” While these situations can be valid, procrastination is a bad habit that can become detrimental to your health (and your grades) if you don’t fix it. If you’ve fallen into the pit of procrastination, but aren’t sure how to get back up, you’ve come to the right place.
Procrastination is often the result of a lack of motivation, probably from genuine disinterest. For instance, you are more likely to procrastinate on a dreadful, lengthy paper than you would on a fun movie-making assignment, because you want to make the movie. It is natural to want to do things that make us happy first (we always want dessert before dinner — this is no different), but sometimes this tendency must be overcome.
A great way to motivate yourself to do the less exciting assignment first is to reward yourself for its completion. Promise yourself some ice cream, or a night out with friends, in exchange for completing the paper. Be wary, however: this only works if you commit to your promise, and stick to the deal you made with yourself.
If a post-completion reward isn’t motivating enough, try rewarding yourself during the course of the assignment. If you enjoy being outdoors, spend your time writing the paper outside. Perhaps each paragraph earns you a piece of a chocolate bar. There is nothing wrong with giving yourself smaller rewards along the way instead of one big reward at the end — do whatever works to get the job done.
Another reason for procrastination is simple distraction. With so much to do on our smartphones, tablets, and computers, it can be difficult to pull yourself away. “Just one more video” becomes an hour long YouTube-session, and you can’t afford that time loss. If you procrastinate for this reason, you need to eliminate your distractions. Get a self-control app, or turn off these devices, and give your mind the room to focus. With less to play with, you’ll find that assignments get done faster and better than before.
Perhaps you tend to procrastinate unintentionally. You forget about the assignment until the night before, when a professor reminds you via email. This is all a lack of planning. Maybe you need a better homework tracking system, like a paper planner or an assignment book app. These things will help keep you on track and organized, and make you more successful in the long run.
Even if you already plan ahead, you can use these devices to eliminate your procrastination, too. Instead of simply marking down due dates, create strict deadlines for yourself for each part of the assignment. For your paper, maybe you need to research one day, draft the next, and edit the following day. This keeps you from trying to put everything off until the last night, and makes your assignment better by forcing you to look at it multiple times. You can also pretend the due date is a week earlier than it actually is, so you have time in case the last minute really is the only time you can work on it.
Finally, if you are still struggling to finish your assignments in a timely manner, it’s time to ask someone to hold you accountable. Choose someone whose opinion your respect, whether it’s a friend, family member, or professor. You don’t want them disappointed in you for not finishing your paper!
Procrastination is an easy habit to get into, but a hard one to break. With these tips, you’re on your way to sure success in no time. Stay on top of the game this semester, and don’t put things off until the last minute. If you work on things each day, and finish them early, you’ll have better quality work, more time for fun, and much less stress on your mind and body — all great things for the busy college student!