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How To Stop Procrastinating? Helpful Tips for College Students!
Your to-do list is piling up, but you’d rather do anything than start crossing items off your list. From procrastinating studying to procrastinating submitting that assignment, most college students wish they know how to stop procrastinating.
Did you know that there are actual reasons why you’re likely procrastinating? So, if you can overcome these barriers, it may get easier to know how to not procrastinate. We’ll share them so that you can maximize your time management skills and be your best self as a college student.
Why Do Students Procrastinate?
At any point in your student lift, you may find yourself taking longer to get things done than necessary. That will lead you to want to know how to not procrastinate on homework, studying, assignments, and chores.
Let’s first break down the common reasons why college students procrastinate in the first place. Some or all of these reasons may resonate with your own experience.
If you have no clearly defined goals as to what you wish to accomplish, it could be harder to understand why you have to do certain things.
Fear of failure
An all too common occurrence is that those who procrastinate actually are just afraid to fail. So, they’d rather not start to avoid this potentially displeasing sentiment.
If there’s a lot going on in your school life and/or personal life, you may feel unsure how or where to even start.
You could feel worried or anxious about the potential outcomes of whatever you have to get done, be it a homework assignment or test results.
Often in line with the fear of failure comes the idea of perfectionism. When you have the goal of everything being perfect, then you may never want to start something to avoid any flaws or mistakes (which are inevitable).
Lack of motivation
It could be possible you feel a lack of motivation because goals are too far out in the future or are unclearly defined
Perhaps, the most important thing to do is to ask yourself why you are procrastinating in the first place. This could prove to be a useful exercise because you may have to tackle the more deeply rooted issue and the shackles of procrastination will be released.
For example, you could fear that you don’t know how to do something, and to get started, you simply need to know a little more information or ask for help to understand a concept. Once you do that, you could find yourself easily finishing the required assignment.
How to Stop Procrastinating in College
Now that we’ve covered some of the reasons why students procrastinate in the first place, let’s take a look at some best practices to learn how to stop procrastinating.
To avoid the sense of overwhelm of having too much to do or not knowing where to start, organization proves to be crucial. It’s a great idea to use tools that help you stay organized, whether they are calendars or scheduling apps on your computer or the trusted old-school method of writing things down. Consider writing down upcoming assignments and deadlines, estimating how long the task will take you to perform, and counting backward from the due date to give yourself adequate time to get it done.
Of course, it still comes down to you having the motivation to start rather than procrastinate, but it’s easier to do when you have a clear idea of what you need to get done and by when.
Set Deadlines and Reasonable Goals
If you’re a person who procrastinates because your goals seem unattainable, then consider resetting your goals. While you can’t choose when assignments are due, you can choose when you want to have it ready by. In the same vein, you can’t choose when test dates are, but you can choose when to start studying. You can break down these items into smaller, achievable segments so that you can maintain momentum and feel accomplished. For example, if you have a 10-page research paper due, consider setting a goal to finish two pages per day so you can avoid having to write it fast.
Sometimes, the only way to want to get things done is to have no other alternative. You can position yourself for this scenario by removing distractions. Put your phone in another room. Turn off the TV. Tell your friends that you’re busy. Then, you can free up your own time to get your to-do list crossed off.
Getting things done doesn’t have to feel tiring or undesirable. Remember to relieve yourself of your efforts and give yourself breaks. This can also help to increase your motivation to get things done because you can look forward to the upcoming break. And, you can make your break as fun or as relaxing as you see fit. Some examples of break ideas you can try after you accomplish items on your list include: walking, cooking, calling a friend, scrolling through social media, playing with your dog, taking a nap, etc.
In the same way that breaks can serve as rewards and help to boost your motivation, so can actual rewards! Depending on what you enjoy, you can set rewards both big and small accordingly. Say you enjoy food and trying new eateries. Tell yourself that if you ace your next big exam, you’ll treat yourself to a dining experience at the restaurant you’ve always wanted to try. Or, if you like fashion, then buy yourself something new when you finish your semester with a good GPA.
Ask for Help
If you’re struggling to hold yourself accountable, ask your peers or friends for help. You can help each other meet deadlines if you are unable to maintain your own self-control. Having people around you who will support you in reaching your goals and aspirations can help to manage your motivation levels as you are answerable to people besides yourself.
The Bottom Line
While there is no single answer as to how to stop procrastinating for college students, there are different behaviors and habits that you can try to overcome this common challenge.
So, if you’re a constant procrastinator or you find yourself stuck these days more than before, try to figure out why. Then, practice some of the above tips to overcome any mental hurdles.
How to Stop Procrastinating Homework
Procrastination creates stress for students and can impact the production of quality work. Putting things off, for all of us, creates an overall feeling of things hanging over our heads and never being free from responsibility.
When students procrastinate, they can create a situation that makes it difficult to self-regulate . When a student is not well-regulated – in other words, they’re experiencing a moderate to high level of anxiety related to homework – it’s more difficult for their frontal lobe to be engaged in thinking and problem-solving.
Want to help your student stop procrastinating homework and reach their full academic potential? This article takes an objective view of homework procrastination to examine the root cause and provides some expert advice on how parents and educators can best help students.
Common Reasons for Procrastinating Homework
So, why is procrastination so common? Contrary to what many might believe, the root cause has nothing to do with students being ‘lazy’ or dismissive about their schoolwork. Rather, some of the most common reasons for homework procrastination include,
- Students may underestimate the length or complexity of a project because they have not fully developed the concept.
- When students feel overwhelmed or become aware of the significance of the project/paper/essay etc, they can ‘freeze up’, rendering them incapable of completing any work at all.
- Trying to accomplish homework with ADHD presents unique challenges for students; students with ADHD often need help further developing essential executive functioning skills .
- Some students may not be getting enough sleep and feel exhausted – both physically and mentally; an exhaustive state robs them of their natural ability to motivate.
- The home environment where students typically complete homework may have too many distractions.
The rule of thumb for parents: perspective is key for parents . Motivating students from a place of shame is a non-starter. Alternatively, parents will have more success when they objectively consider the root causes for procrastinating homework – anxiety, exhaustion, constant distractions, or living with ADHD – and look for ways to help alleviate these common factors.
Homework Tips for Parents : A Word On Motivation
First, motivating students is a misnomer. Students may want to do well, but really do not know how to do well. Others may procrastinate because they’re afraid to fail or not be perfect.
Try following these steps to help your student,
- Begin by asking your student if they are open to help. While students may say no, parents have the ability to respond by saying they respect their position but would kindly ask them to reconsider. In other words, forcing students to comply simply compounds the stress and frustration the student is experiencing.
- Recognize that your student may be more emotional with you than with a tutor. It’s not personal – by keeping your emotions in check, you provide a great example of self-regulation for your student to model. If you need to step away to get a break, do so.
- Model, model, model! Get involved by reading the assignment out loud with your student, and create a schedule of how to do a little each day so the student learns how to complete a little at a time
- Perhaps the most important thing to do: empathize! Kids, just like us, want to be understood and supported. Even as adults, having to do what you don’t like to do stinks – we call it ‘adulting’. Want to shorten the proverbial gap between you and your student? Provide some real-life examples of how you have to do things you don’t like as an adult and acknowledge their feelings. You will become instantly relatable.
Additional Homework Tips for Students
- Start with something easy to help you get going – we call this behavioral momentum. Format your paper, write your name at the top of the assignment, and answer the question you feel most comfortable with – just get the ball rolling.
- After you establish behavioral momentum, tackle something more challenging – but set a timer (around 30 minutes) so you don’t feel like it will take all night.
- Some research shows that individuals are more likely to perform better on an assessment when part of a group. If you have the time and opportunity, join a study group of people who are all working like you.
- Create a work/break schedule and definitely put distractions in another room (phone! Or games/Youtube or other streaming videos).
Creating an Efficient Homework Schedule
Okay, parents – you likely already know how important structure and routine can be for your kids. In helping your student learn how to stop procrastinating homework, creating a schedule can give them a greater sense of autonomy while helping them manage expectations.
In a de-escalated environment, (when things are chill) ask your student to create a homework schedule that he/she would like to implement. After they present it to you, you’ll have an opportunity to give feedback and set up a trial period.
The proposal itself is a plan; the student is evaluating their resources (time) and responsibilities (tasks) and formulating a plan. Ask your student how they want to be held accountable and let them know you want to discuss it with them at the end of the week to evaluate their progress.
With this approach, parents demonstrate trust in their students and give them an opportunity to practice being self-direct. The key word here is practice – so, don’t expect it to be perfect! Over time and with further practice, they will develop these skills.
Academic Coaching with Effective Students
Fortunately, for parents and students who feel overwhelmed by homework or are frustrated trying to help their kids, there is help in the form of academic coaching from Effective Students. Our academic coaching services empower students who may be struggling to manage materials or assignments, apply what they’re learning, transition into a new academic environment (high school to college, for example), and procrastinate homework due to heightened feelings of anxiety, fear, and exhaustion.
Learn how to help your child meet and exceed their academic goals – contact us today!
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8 Tips to avoid Procrastination
You hate cleaning your room, but now that you need to study for that big Chemistry test, you’re suddenly set on making your room sparkle. You told yourself that you’d pull an all-nighter for your AP English class, but now those ridiculous late-night infomercials seem incredibly captivating. If these scenarios sound familiar, you understand procrastination. Here's how to fight it and get more done.
Procrastination can take some interesting forms. It can also have very serious effects on students. According to Psychology Today , students who procrastinated were shown to generally have lower grades and reduced well-being. Yikes. Whether your procrastination technique is “Netflixing”, online shopping, napping, or cleaning, you should work on strategies to overcome it and manage your time wisely. Keep reading to learn some practical ways for how to stop procrastinating.
1. Admit that you’re procrastinating
The first step to overcoming procrastination is to admit that you are avoiding the tasks that you are supposed to be doing. Perhaps you are even reading this article as a way to procrastinate on doing your homework. (If that’s the case, do your homework first, and then finish reading the rest of this article.) Some students procrastinate because they have a fear of failure , but the simple truth is that unless you acknowledge that you aren’t being as productive as you need to be, you may not see any improvements in your time management skills. After you recognize which procrastination problem you’re experiencing, you will hopefully have the right mindset to be more productive.
2. Pick a good study location
Although it’s tempting, curling up with a blanket on your bed is not the best place for doing your school work. Ideally, you want your study spot to be somewhere with good lighting and a clear surface with plenty of room to spread out your materials and laptop. You also want to have one or two designated study locations that you go to consistently . If possible, these locations should be a place where you don’t do any other activities, like napping or watching TV. Soon enough, your brain will catch on when you go to this particular location that you are going to focus on your school work.
3. Eliminate distractions
Have you ever tried to study but found yourself getting distracted by people coming to talk to you or by every social media notification that shows up on your phone? This happens to almost everyone if you don’t try to hold yourself accountable. After you find a location that works for you, you need to eliminate distractions, such as turning off or silencing your phone. Also, for some students, listening to classical music or listening to white noise can help drown out other distractions and help them focus.
4. Set Goals You can Reach
Many people procrastinate because the task at hand seems too large for them to tackle or they don’t know which task to start with. Dividing your homework into small tasks can make an assignment seem less daunting, like constructing an outline for a term paper or studying for a test in chunks. You can also set a timer for a specific period of time to help you stay focused. For example, you might consider clearing all distractions and studying for 15 to 20 minutes and then getting some brain food or a snack as a reward, and then doing it again. Setting small goals that you can easily accomplish can make you feel more in control and productive and enable you to break the cycle of chronic procrastination.
5. Work with a study group
If you lack the willpower to regularly study alone, knowing that you have to pull your weight in a study group can be a great way to dive in and face procrastination head on. The study group's peer pressure and your sense of responsibility toward the group will help ensure that you complete your assigned tasks on time. You’re also less likely to skip a study session if your study group sets a specific date and time to meet. The group will help keep you accountable toward your school work, and you may even discover some tricks to help you learn and retain the course material.
6. Reward yourself
Overcoming procrastination doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a series of good behaviors, like working ahead in your classes and finishing your homework in a reasonable time frame, to form a habit. It also requires some discipline and self-control. When you finish an important task before the due date, you shouldn’t be afraid to reward yourself for doing a job well done. Getting ice cream, going for a run, or taking a nap can all be good ways to refresh and get ready for your next task. With the use of rewards, you can train your brain to develop those healthy study habits. However, it is important to note that you shouldn’t use rewarding yourself for your hard work as an excuse to procrastinate or put off your next task.
7. Take a break
Although it seems backwards, taking a break can actually boost your productivity. Now, you may be thinking, “Isn’t procrastinating the same as taking a break?” The answer is no. The reason you’re able to take a break and not be considered procrastinating is intent. If you are intentional about your break by setting a certain amount of time to be away from your important task, it is different than just putting off the task until the last possible minute. If you struggle to hold yourself accountable after your breaks, try the Pomodoro method for studying or other important activities. This involves using a timer to track your study sessions and breaks.
8. Hold Yourself Accountable
Holding yourself accountable for completing your assignments on time, studying for tests and getting good grades is not only an important survival skill for high school and college , it's another tip to avoid procrastination. While it is easy to find reasons not to study and take unnecessary or extra-long breaks , catch yourself before this happens. Remember that you are responsible for the assignments you complete or don’t complete, the tests you ace or don’t do so well on, and your grades. If you need help holding yourself accountable, tell a friend or family member and ask them to check up on your goals, deadlines, and accomplishments.
It’s okay to put things off from time to time, but it’s important to note that long-term procrastination could potentially have a negative effect on your health and body. Even if you’ve been procrastinating without consequence since high school, it’s time to overcome the negative habit that could affect your sleep schedule and work quality. Your work and other responsibilities don’t go away over time, so put away your phone and stop web- surfing . Go forth and use these tips for how to avoid procrastination now (not later).
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Equipping Students to Be Successful and Happy
30 Tips to Stop Procrastinating and Find Motivation to Do Homework
Updated on June 6, 2023 By Daniel Wong 44 Comments
To stop procrastinating on homework, you need to find motivation to do the homework in the first place.
But first, you have to overcome feeling too overwhelmed to even start.
You know what it feels like when everything hits you at once, right?
You have three tests to study for and a math assignment due tomorrow.
And you’ve got a history report due the day after.
You tell yourself to get down to work. But with so much to do, you feel overwhelmed.
So you procrastinate.
You check your social media feed, watch a few videos, and get yourself a drink. But you know that none of this is bringing you closer to getting the work done.
Does this sound familiar?
Don’t worry – you are not alone. Procrastination is a problem that everyone faces, but there are ways around it.
By following the tips in this article, you’ll be able to overcome procrastination and consistently find the motivation to do the homework .
So read on to discover 30 powerful tips to help you stop procrastinating on your homework.
Enter your email below to download a PDF summary of this article. The PDF contains all the tips found here, plus 3 exclusive bonus tips that you’ll only find in the PDF.
How to stop procrastinating and motivate yourself to do your homework.
Procrastination when it comes to homework isn’t just an issue of laziness or a lack of motivation .
The following tips will help you to first address the root cause of your procrastination and then implement strategies to keep your motivation levels high.
1. Take a quiz to see how much you procrastinate.
The first step to changing your behavior is to become more self-aware.
How often do you procrastinate? What kinds of tasks do you tend to put off? Is procrastination a small or big problem for you?
To answer these questions, I suggest that you take this online quiz designed by Psychology Today .
2. Figure out why you’re procrastinating.
Procrastination is a complex issue that involves multiple factors.
Stop thinking of excuses for not doing your homework , and figure out what’s keeping you from getting started.
Are you procrastinating because:
- You’re not sure you’ll be able to solve all the homework problems?
- You’re subconsciously rebelling against your teachers or parents?
- You’re not interested in the subject or topic?
- You’re physically or mentally tired?
- You’re waiting for the perfect time to start?
- You don’t know where to start?
Once you’ve identified exactly why you’re procrastinating, you can pick out the tips in this article that will get to the root of the problem.
3. Write down what you’re procrastinating on.
Students tend to procrastinate when they’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
But you might be surprised to discover that simply by writing down the specific tasks you’re putting off, the situation will feel more manageable.
It’s a quick solution, and it makes a real difference.
Give it a try and you’ll be less likely to procrastinate.
4. Put your homework on your desk.
Here’s an even simpler idea.
Many times, the hardest part of getting your homework done is getting started.
It doesn’t require a lot of willpower to take out your homework and put it on your desk.
But once it’s sitting there in front of you, you’ll be much closer to actually getting down to work.
5. Break down the task into smaller steps.
This one trick will make any task seem more manageable.
For example, if you have a history report to write, you could break it down into the following steps:
- Read the history textbook
- Do online research
- Organize the information
- Create an outline
- Write the introduction
- Write the body paragraphs
- Write the conclusion
- Edit and proofread the report
Focus on just one step at a time. This way, you won’t need to motivate yourself to write the whole report at one go.
This is an important technique to use if you want to study smart and get more done .
6. Create a detailed timeline with specific deadlines.
As a follow-up to Point #5, you can further combat procrastination by creating a timeline with specific deadlines.
Using the same example above, I’ve added deadlines to each of the steps:
- Jan 30 th : Read the history textbook
- Feb 2 nd : Do online research
- Feb 3 rd : Organize the information
- Feb 5 th : Create an outline
- Feb 8 th : Write the introduction
- Feb 12 th : Write the body paragraphs
- Feb 14 th : Write the conclusion
- Feb 16 th : Edit and proofread the report
Assigning specific dates creates a sense of urgency, which makes it more likely that you’ll keep to the deadlines.
7. Spend time with people who are focused and hardworking.
Jim Rohn famously said that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
If you hang out with people who are motivated and hardworking, you’ll become more like them.
Likewise, if you hang out with people who continually procrastinate, you’ll become more like them too.
Motivation to do homework naturally increases when you surround yourself with the right people.
So choose your friends wisely. Find homework buddies who will influence you positively to become a straight-A student who leads a balanced life.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun! It just means that you and your friends know when it’s time to get down to work and when it’s time to enjoy yourselves.
8. Tell at least two or three people about the tasks you plan to complete.
When you tell others about the tasks you intend to finish, you’ll be more likely to follow through with your plans.
This is called “accountability,” and it kicks in because you want to be seen as someone who keeps your word.
So if you know about this principle, why not use it to your advantage?
You could even ask a friend to be your accountability buddy. At the beginning of each day, you could text each other what you plan to work on that day.
Then at the end of the day, you could check in with each other to see if things went according to plan.
9. Change your environment .
Maybe it’s your environment that’s making you feel sluggish.
When you’re doing your homework, is your super-comfortable bed just two steps away? Or is your distracting computer within easy reach?
If your environment is part of your procrastination problem, then change it.
Sometimes all you need is a simple change of scenery. Bring your work to the dining room table and get it done there. Or head to a nearby café to complete your report.
10. Talk to people who have overcome their procrastination problem.
If you have friends who consistently win the battle with procrastination, learn from their experience.
What was the turning point for them? What tips and strategies do they use? What keeps them motivated?
Find all this out, and then apply the information to your own situation.
11. Decide on a reward to give yourself after you complete your task.
“Planned” rewards are a great way to motivate yourself to do your homework.
The reward doesn’t have to be something huge.
For instance, you might decide that after you finish 10 questions of your math homework, you get to watch your favorite TV show.
Or you might decide that after reading one chapter of your history textbook, you get to spend 10 minutes on Facebook.
By giving yourself a reward, you’ll feel more motivated to get through the task at hand.
12. Decide on a consequence you’ll impose on yourself if you don’t meet the deadline.
It’s important that you decide on what the consequence will be before you start working toward your goal.
As an example, you could tell your younger brother that you’ll give him $1 for every deadline you don’t meet (see Point #6).
Or you could decide that you’ll delete one game from your phone for every late homework submission.
Those consequences would probably be painful enough to help you get down to work, right?
13. Visualize success.
Take 30 seconds and imagine how you’ll feel when you finish your work.
What positive emotions will you experience?
Will you feel a sense of satisfaction from getting all your work done?
Will you relish the extra time on your hands when you get your homework done fast and ahead of time?
This simple exercise of visualizing success may be enough to inspire you to start doing your assignment.
14. Visualize the process it will take to achieve that success.
Even more important than visualizing the outcome is visualizing the process it will take to achieve that outcome.
Research shows that focusing on the process is critical to success. If you’re procrastinating on a task, take a few moments to think about what you’ll need to do to complete it.
Visualize the following:
- What resources you’ll need
- Who you can turn to for help
- How long the task will take
- Where you’ll work on the task
- The joy you’ll experience as you make progress
This kind of visualization is like practice for your mind.
Once you understand what’s necessary to achieve your goal, you’ll find that it’s much easier to get down to work with real focus. This is key to doing well in school .
15. Write down why you want to complete the task.
You’ll be more motivated when you’re clear about why you want to accomplish something.
To motivate yourself to do your homework, think about all the ways in which it’s a meaningful task.
So take a couple of minutes to write down the reasons. Here are some possible ones:
- Learn useful information
- Master the topic
- Enjoy a sense of accomplishment when you’ve completed the task
- Become a more focused student
- Learn to embrace challenges
- Fulfill your responsibility as a student
- Get a good grade on the assignment
16. Write down the negative feelings you’ll have if you don’t complete the task.
If you don’t complete the assignment, you might feel disappointed or discouraged. You might even feel as if you’ve let your parents or your teacher – or even yourself – down.
It isn’t wise to dwell on these negative emotions for too long. But by imagining how you’ll feel if you don’t finish the task, you’ll realize how important it is that you get to work.
17. Do the hardest task first.
Most students will choose to do the easiest task first, rather than the hardest one. But this approach isn’t effective because it leaves the worst for last.
It’s more difficult to find motivation to do homework in less enjoyable subjects.
As Brian Tracy says , “Eat that frog!” By this, he means that you should always get your most difficult task out of the way at the beginning of the day.
If math is your least favorite subject, force yourself to complete your math homework first.
After doing so, you’ll feel a surge of motivation from knowing it’s finished. And you won’t procrastinate on your other homework because it will seem easier in comparison.
(On a separate note, check out these tips on how to get better at math if you’re struggling.)
18. Set a timer when doing your homework.
I recommend that you use a stopwatch for every homework session. (If you prefer, you could also use this online stopwatch or the Tomato Timer .)
Start the timer at the beginning of the session, and work in 30- to 45-minute blocks.
Using a timer creates a sense of urgency, which will help you fight off your urge to procrastinate.
When you know you only have to work for a short session, it will be easier to find motivation to complete your homework.
Tell yourself that you need to work hard until the timer goes off, and then you can take a break. (And then be sure to take that break!)
19. Eliminate distractions.
Here are some suggestions on how you can do this:
- Delete all the games and social media apps on your phone
- Turn off all notifications on your phone
- Mute your group chats
- Archive your inactive chats
- Turn off your phone, or put it on airplane mode
- Put your phone at least 10 feet away from you
- Turn off the Internet access on your computer
- Use an app like Freedom to restrict your Internet usage
- Put any other distractions (like food, magazines and books unrelated to your homework) at the other end of the room
- Unplug the TV
- Use earplugs if your surroundings are noisy
20. At the start of each day, write down the two to three Most Important Tasks (MITs) you want to accomplish.
This will enable you to prioritize your tasks. As Josh Kaufman explains , a Most Important Task (MIT) is a critical task that will help you to get significant results down the road.
Not all tasks are equally important. That’s why it’s vital that you identify your MITs, so that you can complete those as early in the day as possible.
What do you most need to get done today? That’s an MIT.
Get to work on it, then feel the satisfaction that comes from knowing it’s out of the way.
21. Focus on progress instead of perfection.
Perfectionism can destroy your motivation to do homework and keep you from starting important assignments.
Some students procrastinate because they’re waiting for the perfect time to start.
Others do so because they want to get their homework done perfectly. But they know this isn’t really possible – so they put off even getting started.
What’s the solution?
To focus on progress instead of perfection.
There’s never a perfect time for anything. Nor will you ever be able to complete your homework perfectly. But you can do your best, and that’s enough.
So concentrate on learning and improving, and turn this into a habit that you implement whenever you study .
22. Get organized.
Procrastination is common among students who are disorganized.
When you can’t remember which assignment is due when or which tests you have coming up, you’ll naturally feel confused. You’ll experience school- and test-related stress .
This, in turn, will lead to procrastination.
That’s why it’s crucial that you get organized. Here are some tips for doing this:
- Don’t rely on your memory ; write everything down
- Keep a to-do list
- Use a student planner
- Use a calendar and take note of important dates like exams, project due dates, school holidays , birthdays, and family events
- At the end of each day, plan for the following day
- Use one binder or folder for each subject or course
- Do weekly filing of your loose papers, notes, and old homework
- Throw away all the papers and notes you no longer need
23. Stop saying “I have to” and start saying “I choose to.”
When you say things like “I have to write my essay” or “I have to finish my science assignment,” you’ll probably feel annoyed. You might be tempted to complain about your teachers or your school .
What’s the alternative?
To use the phrase “I choose to.”
The truth is, you don’t “have” to do anything.
You can choose not to write your essay; you’ll just run the risk of failing the class.
You can choose not to do your science assignment; you’ll just need to deal with your angry teacher.
When you say “I choose to do my homework,” you’ll feel empowered. This means you’ll be more motivated to study and to do what you ought to.
24. Clear your desk once a week.
Clutter can be demotivating. It also causes stress , which is often at the root of procrastination.
Hard to believe? Give it a try and see for yourself.
By clearing your desk, you’ll reduce stress and make your workspace more organized.
So set a recurring appointment to organize your workspace once a week for just 10 minutes. You’ll receive huge benefits in the long run!
25. If a task takes two minutes or less to complete, do it now.
This is a principle from David Allen’s bestselling book, Getting Things Done .
You may notice that you tend to procrastinate when many tasks pile up. The way to prevent this from happening is to take care of the small but important tasks as soon as you have time.
Here are some examples of small two-minute tasks that you should do once you have a chance:
- Replying to your project group member’s email
- Picking up anything on the floor that doesn’t belong there
- Asking your parents to sign a consent form
- Filing a graded assignment
- Making a quick phone call
- Writing a checklist
- Sending a text to schedule a meeting
- Making an online purchase that doesn’t require further research
26. Finish one task before starting on the next.
You aren’t being productive when you switch between working on your literature essay, social studies report, and physics problem set – while also intermittently checking your phone.
Research shows that multitasking is less effective than doing one thing at a time. Multitasking may even damage your brain !
When it comes to overcoming procrastination, it’s better to stick with one task all the way through before starting on the next one.
You’ll get a sense of accomplishment when you finish the first assignment, which will give you a boost of inspiration as you move on to the next one.
27. Build your focus gradually.
You can’t win the battle against procrastination overnight; it takes time. This means that you need to build your focus progressively.
If you can only focus for 10 minutes at once, that’s fine. Start with three sessions of 10 minutes a day. After a week, increase it to three sessions of 15 minutes a day, and so on.
As the weeks go by, you’ll become far more focused than when you first started. And you’ll soon see how great that makes you feel.
28. Before you start work, write down three things you’re thankful for.
Gratitude improves your psychological health and increases your mental strength .
These factors are linked to motivation. The more you practice gratitude, the easier it will be to find motivation to do your homework. As such, it’s less likely that you’ll be a serial procrastinator.
Before you get down to work for the day, write down three things you’re thankful for. These could be simple things like good health, fine weather, or a loving family.
You could even do this in a “gratitude journal,” which you can then look back on whenever you need a shot of fresh appreciation for the good things in your life.
Either way, this short exercise will get you in the right mindset to be productive.
29. Get enough sleep.
For most people, this means getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. And teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night to function optimally.
What does sleep have to do with procrastination?
More than you might realize.
It’s almost impossible to feel motivated when you’re tired. And when you’re low on energy, your willpower is depleted too.
That’s why you give in to the temptation of Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube videos more easily when you’re sleep-deprived.
Here are ways to get more sleep , and sleep better too:
- Create a bedtime routine
- Go to sleep at around the same time every night
- Set a daily alarm as a reminder to go to bed
- Exercise regularly (but not within a few hours of bedtime)
- Make your bedroom as dark as possible
- Remove or switch off all electronic devices before bedtime
- Avoid caffeine at least six hours before bedtime
- Use an eye mask and earplugs
30. Schedule appointments with yourself to complete your homework.
These appointments are specific blocks of time reserved for working on a report, assignment, or project. Scheduling appointments is effective because it makes the task more “official,” so you’re more likely to keep the appointment.
For example, you could schedule appointments such as:
- Jan 25 th , 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm: Math assignment
- Jan 27 th , 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm: Online research for social studies project
- Jan 28 th , 4:30 pm – 5:00 pm: Write introduction for English essay
Transform homework procrastination into homework motivation
Procrastination is a problem we all face.
But given that you’ve read all the way to here, I know you’re committed to overcoming this problem.
And now that you’re armed with these tips, you have all the tools you need to become more disciplined and focused .
By the way, please don’t feel as if you need to implement all the tips at once, because that would be too overwhelming.
Instead, I recommend that you focus on just a couple of tips a week, and make gradual progress. No rush!
Over time, you’ll realize that your habit of procrastination has been replaced by the habit of getting things done.
Now’s the time to get started on that process of transformation. 🙂
Like this article? Please share it with your friends.
Images: Student and books , Homework , Group of students , Consequences , Why , Writing a list , Organized desk , Gratitude
January 19, 2016 at 11:53 am
Ur tips are rlly helpful. Thnkyou ! 🙂
January 19, 2016 at 1:43 pm
You’re welcome 🙂
August 29, 2018 at 11:21 am
Thanks very much
February 19, 2019 at 1:38 pm
The funny thing is while I was reading the first few steps of this article I was procrastinating on my homework….
November 12, 2019 at 12:44 pm
same here! but now I actually want to get my stuff done… huh
December 4, 2022 at 11:35 pm
May 30, 2023 at 6:26 am
October 25, 2023 at 11:35 am
fr tho i totally was but now I’m actually going to get started haha
June 6, 2020 at 6:04 am
I love your articles
January 21, 2016 at 7:07 pm
Thanks soo much. It’s almost like you could read my mind- when I felt so overwhelmed with the workload heap I had created for myself by procrastination, I know feel very motivated to tackle it out completely and replace that bad habit with the wonderful tips mentioned here! 🙂
January 21, 2016 at 8:04 pm
I’m glad to help 🙂
January 25, 2016 at 3:09 pm
You have shared great tips here. I especially like the point “Write down why you want to complete the task” because it is helpful to make us more motivated when we are clear about our goals
January 25, 2016 at 4:51 pm
Glad that you found the tips useful, John!
January 29, 2016 at 1:22 am
Thank you very much for your wonderful tips!!! ☺☺☺
January 29, 2016 at 10:41 am
It’s my joy to help, Kabir 🙂
February 3, 2016 at 12:57 pm
Always love your articles. Keep them up 🙂
February 3, 2016 at 1:21 pm
Thanks, Matthew 🙂
February 4, 2016 at 1:40 pm
There are quite a lot of things that you need to do in order to come out with flying colors while studying in a university away from your homeland. Procrastinating on homework is one of the major mistakes committed by students and these tips will help you to avoid them all and make yourself more efficient during your student life.
February 4, 2016 at 1:58 pm
Completely agreed, Leong Siew.
October 5, 2018 at 12:52 am
Wow! thank you very much, I love it .
November 2, 2018 at 10:45 am
You are helping me a lot.. thank you very much….😊
November 6, 2018 at 5:19 pm
I’m procrastinating by reading this
November 29, 2018 at 10:21 am
January 8, 2021 at 3:38 am
March 3, 2019 at 9:12 am
Daniel, your amazing information and advice, has been very useful! Please keep up your excellent work!
April 12, 2019 at 11:12 am
We should stop procrastinating.
September 28, 2019 at 5:19 pm
Thank you so much for the tips:) i’ve been procrastinating since i started high schools and my grades were really bad “F” but the tips have made me a straight A student again.
January 23, 2020 at 7:43 pm
Thanks for the tips, Daniel! They’re really useful! 😁
April 10, 2020 at 2:15 pm
I have always stood first in my class. But procrastination has always been a very bad habit of mine which is why I lost marks for late submission .As an excuse for finding motivation for studying I would spend hours on the phone and I would eventually procrastinate. So I tried your tips and tricks today and they really worked.i am so glad and thankful for your help. 🇮🇳Love from India🇮🇳
April 15, 2020 at 11:16 am
Well I’m gonna give this a shot it looks and sounds very helpful thank you guys I really needed this
April 16, 2020 at 9:48 pm
Daniel, your amazing information and advice, has been very useful! keep up your excellent work! May you give more useful content to us.
May 6, 2020 at 5:03 pm
nice article thanks for your sharing.
May 20, 2020 at 4:49 am
Thank you so much this helped me so much but I was wondering about like what if you just like being lazy and stuff and don’t feel like doing anything and you don’t want to tell anyone because you might annoy them and you just don’t want to add your problems and put another burden on theirs
July 12, 2020 at 1:55 am
I’ve read many short procrastination tip articles and always thought they were stupid or overlooking the actual problem. ‘do this and this’ or that and that, and I sit there thinking I CAN’T. This article had some nice original tips that I actually followed and really did make me feel a bit better. Cheers, diving into what will probably be a 3 hour case study.
August 22, 2020 at 10:14 pm
Nicely explain each tips and those are practical thanks for sharing. Dr.Achyut More
November 11, 2020 at 12:34 pm
Thanks a lot! It was very helpful!
November 15, 2020 at 9:11 am
I keep catching myself procrastinating today. I started reading this yesterday, but then I realized I was procrastinating, so I stopped to finish it today. Thank you for all the great tips.
November 30, 2020 at 5:15 pm
Woow this is so great. Thanks so much Daniel
December 3, 2020 at 3:13 am
These tips were very helpful!
December 18, 2020 at 11:54 am
Procrastination is a major problem of mine, and this, this is very helpful. It is very motivational, now I think I can complete my work.
December 28, 2020 at 2:44 pm
Daniel Wong: When you’re doing your homework, is your super-comfortable bed just two steps away? Me: Nope, my super-comfortable bed is one step away. (But I seriously can’t study anywhere else. If I go to the dining table, my mum would be right in front of me talking loudly on the phone with colleagues and other rooms is an absolute no. My mum doesn’t allow me to go outside. Please give me some suggestions. )
September 19, 2022 at 12:14 pm
I would try and find some noise cancelling headphones to play some classical music or get some earbuds to ignore you mum lol
March 1, 2021 at 5:46 pm
Thank you very much. I highly appreciate it.
May 12, 2023 at 3:38 am
This is great advice. My little niece is now six years old and I like to use those nice cheap child friendly workbooks with her. This is done in order to help her to learn things completely on her own. I however prefer to test her on her own knowledge however. After a rather quick demonstration in the lesson I then tend to give her two simple questions to start off with. And it works a treat. Seriously. I love it. She loves it. The exam questions are for her to answer on her own on a notepad. If she can, she will receive a gold medal and a box of sweets. If not she only gets a plastic toy. We do this all the time to help her understand. Once a week we spend up to thirty minutes in a math lesson on this technique for recalling the basic facts. I have had a lot of great success with this new age technique. So I’m going to carry on with it for now.
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How to Turn Homework Procrastination Into Productivity
How can parents help their children turn homework procrastination into productivity? Everyone puts things off from time to time, but those who procrastinate chronically tend to avoid difficult tasks. There is a tendency to delay complicated tasks at school, home, work, and relationships, which can affect the quality of life and overall well-being.
Overcoming homework procrastination begins with the realization that it is happening.
Procrastination at school can negatively impact students, leading to poor school performance, lower grades, and higher school stress. It can also create a cycle of poor grades and low self-confidence that can be hard for students to break.
Beating the urge to procrastinate is possible.
Homework Procrastination Causes
Contrary to popular belief, a lack of self-control does not cause procrastination.
People procrastinate for different reasons. Sometimes it results from too much pressure at school, or it might be from growing up in a strict household. For example, expectations for high performance from parents can make students put off projects out of fear of failure.
Students may procrastinate to avoid stressful experiences. Some of the most common reasons for what causes procrastination include the following.
- Fear of failure
- Fear of criticism
- Low self-esteem
- Trouble focusing
- Task aversion
- Resisting challenges
- Decision fatigue
- Difficulty defining goals
- Lack of energy
Find out why students procrastinate in this article: Why Do Students Procrastinate? Or Watch our latest YouTube video below.
Consequences of Procrastination
Students are more likely to put off a project if they don’t understand how to start.
Putting off work has a price. People who procrastinate are usually rushing their school work, which leads to sloppiness, missed details, and lower grades. These problems arise because procrastination usually takes up more than a third of students’ daily activities. Procrastination usually appears in behaviours such as napping, watching television, or playing video games when students should be working.
Other effects of procrastination include higher levels of stress, anxiety, and fatigue.
Keep reading: Getting homework help to overcome procrastination.
Turning Procrastination into Productivity
How can students overcome procrastination and transform procrastination into productivity? The first step is to acknowledge that procrastination is happening.
Getting started can be challenging, but it’s important to remember that motivation doesn’t come before action; action triggers motivation. In other words, getting started even when you don’t want to can jumpstart motivation. Let’s dig into some helpful tips to overcome procrastination!
- Start Small . Don’t tackle everything at once. Break projects into smaller tasks.
- Remove distractions. Create a dedicated space where work happens.
- Create an action plan based on relevant anti-procrastination techniques while accounting for goals and the nature of procrastination problems.
- Implement a plan . Figure out which techniques work best and how to implement them most effectively.
Looking for some more anti-procrastination techniques? Try breaking tasks into manageable steps. Making subtasks helps make a big task seem small by creating tasks to complete one by one. Once a task is broken down tasks into smaller bits, try to commit to the tiny first step, e.g. working for 5 mins, then taking a break and returning to it. Don’t forget to set a deadline for when it all needs to be completed.
Keep working at it! Overcoming the urge to procrastinate is not easy, but with dedication and practice, students can learn to dig into a task and keep at it, even when they feel like putting it off.
Need Help with Turning Homework Procrastination into Productivity?
Once you’ve identified your procrastination pattern, get resources to overcome it at Oxford Learning. Students can stop feeling bad about putting off school work and start getting it done with the help of our tutors at Oxford Learning centre.
Contact a location near you to get started today!
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- Sep 28, 2022
6 Tried-and-True Ways to Beat Procrastination and Get Back into Homework
When summer ends and school starts up again , there are probably lots of things that will change in your life. You’ll have a more strict routine to follow. You’ll be spending more time with your peers. You’ll get back into school activities and classes. And you’ll have to deal with homework again.
Getting back into homework is tough when you’ve spent a couple of months not having to do any. It’s easy for students to get caught up in a vicious cycle of procrastination and stress around completing homework on time. Just getting started can be the hardest part.
At Liz Morrison Therapy , our counselors help middle schoolers and high schoolers ease into tough transitions and set healthy habits. Getting back into homework and school mode can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to ruin your school year. Here are some of our best tips for getting back into the habit quickly – so you can spend more time with your friends instead of worrying about assignments.
How to Overcome Procrastination and Do Your Homework: 6 Tips
Procrastinating on homework is one of the hardest habits to break, and it’s no secret that it poses a huge challenge to students. And it’s not actually about laziness – it’s about a desire to avoid the negative emotions that accompany whatever thing you have to do.
There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination, and what works for some people won’t work for everyone. The key is to try different emotional management techniques and procrastination-busting methods until you figure out what works for you, and then continue to build on those. As you get better at new time management skills and emotional health habits, completing homework and other tasks will be easier. Ultimately, you’ll be less anxious and distressed about your workload.
Here are 6 ways you can build healthy skillsets around work, break the habit of procrastination, and set yourself up for success at school.
1. Acknowledge the difficulty of transitions
Your schedule is changing as you get back into school. This means your daily activities will change too. This might sound obvious, but many of our clients ignore this important aspect of returning to school. If you’re like most students, you have a lot of feelings about going back to school – you might be nervous, excited, apprehensive, sad, or some mixture of all of the above. And pushing away your difficult feelings can make it much more difficult to transition back to doing homework and attending classes. Maybe you’re someone who has a tough time with classes and schoolwork, or maybe you’re someone who looks forward to new assignments. Either way, you’re not alone. Acknowledging the big changes in your schedule – and how you feel about it all – can make a big difference in making you feel more relaxed and settled. Give yourself grace as you transition. It can help normalize any struggles you’re having and give you some much-needed emotional “wiggle room.”
2. Be realistic about your schedule
One of the biggest reasons students find it hard to get back into homework after the summer break – aside from procrastination – is they’re much busier with extracurriculars, sports, clubs, hanging out with friends, and possibly even working day jobs. There’s simply not a ton of extra time for doing homework, and this can put a lot of stress and pressure on getting everything done. Take a look at your schedule and ask yourself:
Can I realistically get everything done in the time that I have?
Can I feel good while getting everything done? Do I feel balanced and healthy?
Do I have any unnecessary or extra-stressful things in my schedule that I can eliminate?
How can I make sure to spend time on self-care along with all my other obligations?
Working through questions like these in a journal or with a therapist can really help you figure out what’s working and what might benefit from a change.
3. Eliminate distractions
If you’re someone who can focus all your attention on one task at a time without getting distracted, count yourself lucky. But for the rest of you out there, be sure to eliminate distractions when you work. Put your phone on silent and put it somewhere out of sight. Put headphones on with white noise or soothing ocean sounds if that helps you concentrate. Some students like a noisy atmosphere (like a coffee shop or a study group) for getting things done, and others prefer a completely quiet space where they can be alone. Know what you need, and give yourself that.
4. Plan out your homework – and break it up
To properly plan out your homework, it helps to know what’s going to be due and when. Write out a list (or buy a planner) with all your upcoming assignments, and score them on a scale of importance and difficulty. Many students tend to underestimate the time needed to complete their homework, so be realistic about the time different tasks take you. Don’t plan on finishing 4 different projects in one go, because that will just leave you exhausted and braindead. Next, give yourself a time limit for each project or assignment. Finally, work on the hardest thing first so some of the stress about completing difficult tasks is eased. And keep in mind that you don’t have to finish the hardest one first – you just have to get started.
Break up each of your assignments into chunks of time, and make sure to give yourself plenty of time to finish each. For example, say you have a paper due at the end of the week. Instead of trying to write it all the day before it’s due, set aside 30-60 minutes per day all week to work on that paper. Breaking up assignments will give your brain breaks and keep you from feeling super-stressed during and after homework sessions.
5. Set a timer
Setting a timer is a surprisingly useful tool for getting things accomplished. Simply getting started on homework is one of the biggest challenges for many students. Seeing a timer counting down can boost your motivation and help you begin. Setting a timer also is great if you’re easily distracted or have trouble focusing – it gives you an external cue to rely on. It also helps you avoid getting completely sucked in to one task at the expense of everything else you need to do.
Of course, it will likely take some trial and error for you to figure out how much time is actually right for you to work on each of your homework assignments. And this is totally okay. You can always tweak the timer when you need to. But in general, once the timer is up, wrap up what you’re working on. Give yourself a short break, and then move on to the next thing on your list.
6. Ask for help
There’s no shame in asking for extra help. Completing your homework shouldn’t feel like a monumental task. If you feel swamped with assignments and school work and need some support, consider asking your teacher or a tutor to help you. If your school doesn’t have a tutoring service, you can hire one or ask an adult for guidance. And if you are struggling with motivation or with the transition back into school and homework, a therapist can help.
Therapy Can Help You Figure Out How to Get Back Into Homework
If you’re having a hard time getting back into the rhythm of schoolwork and assignments after summer, you’re not alone. And you don’t need to let back-to-school stress get you down. If you’d like support in getting through your anxiety about how to do homework, we’re here for you. We’ll help you learn tools to beat the procrastination cycle, take the stress out of homework, and feel good about completing all your assignments and tasks. You’ll feel more prepared and confident about getting back into the demands of school.
Feel free to contact us for a free 15-minute phone consultation. We can answer any questions you have and see whether we’re a good fit.
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How to Stop Procrastinating in College: 7 Essential Tips
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- Many college students procrastinate on studying and completing assignments.
- Procrastination means putting off tasks, even though doing so will negatively affect you.
- Students can avoid procrastinating by creating a schedule and breaking up tasks.
- Accountability partners, breaks, and rewards can also help you form better habits.
Almost everyone procrastinates at some point in life, especially students. A 2007 analysis found that up to 95% of college students put off schoolwork.
But avoiding tasks doesn't make them go away — and procrastinating hurts more than just your grades.
What is procrastination exactly? It's not the same as being lazy. Instead, procrastination means delaying difficult or challenging tasks.
So why do we procrastinate? Usually because we find certain tasks stressful, hard, or just plain boring. College students typically don't procrastinate on things they want to do.
It's not surprising that procrastinators earn lower grades . But they also experience more stress , along with the many negative side effects of stress. Ultimately, procrastination is a choice. It means choosing to put off work, even when you know that's a bad idea.
Fortunately, there are many ways college students can start creating better habits. The seven tips below teach you how to stop procrastinating once and for all.
1. Keep Track of Deadlines
Knowing your deadlines can help you create a healthy habit of planning ahead. It will also help you avoid putting off coursework until the last minute.
Let's say you have a paper due in two weeks. Most students would avoid thinking about the assignment until right before the due date. Instead of avoiding it, sit down and come up with a schedule. Break the essay into multiple steps, and schedule time to research, write, and revise your paper.
Another example is an upcoming midterm or final exam. Rather than putting off studying, you should plan out when you'll review your notes and answer practice questions.
Staying on top of your assignments is key to breaking the habit of procrastinating.
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2. Start Small
Why do people procrastinate? Often the task may feel so big that we don't know where to start. Learning how to stop procrastinating starts with small steps.
Tell yourself you'll sit down to study for just 15 minutes. You may find that this leads to a longer 30-minute or two-hour study session. Why? Once you get started, it's much easier to keep going. For many, starting is the most difficult part.
Breaking tasks down into smaller parts can also improve your performance. According to psychologists at the University of California, San Diego , you'll get a major memory advantage from studying in shorter, spaced-out sessions.
3. Know When You Work Best
Are you the type of person who rolls out of bed feeling energized and ready to go? Or are you a night owl who does your best, most focused work after sunset? Knowing when to work can help you avoid procrastination.
Pay attention to when you feel alert during the day. Once you know your most and least productive times, you can schedule your most intensive tasks for your best times of day.
4. Set Milestones
Clear goals can help college students avoid procrastinating. But sometimes the goal feels too distant, like completing a semesterlong project or making it through finals week . This is why it's important to break assignments down into smaller goals or milestones.
Instead of telling yourself to sit down and read an entire textbook cover to cover, break your reading sessions into chapters or even sections.
You can also break down studying for exams into simple steps. Your milestones might include reviewing keywords, preparing for in-class essay questions, or taking a practice test.
Be sure to set goal deadlines for each milestone. Reach out to someone in your class to keep you accountable, or consider forming a study group . Knowing that someone else will check up on your work can help you stay motivated.
5. Avoid Distractions
Distractions can easily derail your study sessions. It's no surprise that college students procrastinate on challenging tasks while trying to make time for fun. And when you're finally sitting down to jump into problem sets or read a dense primary source, it's much easier to drop your book and scroll through social media .
So how can you avoid distractions? Keep the internet browsers to a minimum; find a quiet, distraction-free environment that helps you focus; and put your phone away or set it to airplane mode.
Note that avoiding distractions doesn't mean working nonstop — you should also build in scheduled breaks.
6. Build in Breaks
Procrastinators often tell themselves things like, "I'll just write that paper in 10 hours." But then, unsurprisingly, they fail to stick with this unrealistic goal.
When college students procrastinate, they tend to rush through their assignments. Doing this gets the adrenaline pumping and can give the mistaken impression that you're doing great work. In reality, though, taking regular breaks can improve your productivity and focus.
Here are some recommendations for energizing study breaks from Cornell Health :
- Go for a brisk walk
- Take a power nap
- Listen to music
- Call a friend
- Eat a snack
7. Reward Yourself
Breaking your procrastination habit means building better, healthier habits. And rewards are a great way to reinforce a new routine.
Create rewards for each of your milestones. Once you read a chapter of a textbook, for example, reward yourself with an episode of your favorite TV show. Once you finish the first draft of your paper, head out with a friend to grab dinner at your favorite burger joint.
Procrastination has major downsides. When students procrastinate, they feel worse, physically and psychologically . Research shows that procrastinators experience more headaches, higher stress levels, and poor sleep.
Replacing procrastination with good habits can take time, but it's worth the investment.
Frequently Asked Questions About Procrastinating in College
What is procrastination.
Procrastination means putting off something you need to do, even when it will negatively affect you should you wait. Psychology professor Fuschia Sirois defines procrastination as "the voluntary, unnecessary delay of an important task, despite knowing you'll be worse off for doing so."
Students who procrastinate aren't necessarily lazy. Often, learners put off tasks because they feel overwhelmed or anxious. Unfortunately, procrastinating only increases stress.
Why do people procrastinate?
College students procrastinate for many reasons. Sometimes they don't know how to start an assignment. In other cases, they may put off difficult or challenging tasks like studying for finals. Procrastinators sometimes avoid boring assignments like reading a dry textbook or wait to start studying because they're afraid of failing .
Some people even procrastinate because they think it makes them a better student — we've all heard people say they do their best work under pressure. However, research shows that procrastinators earn lower grades and experience more stress.
What percentage of college students procrastinate?
A 2007 analysis found that 80-95% of college students procrastinate. According to psychology professor Joseph Ferrari , procrastinators come in three types:
- Avoiders who are worried about failure or judgment
- Indecisives who put off stressful choices
- Thrill-seekers who argue they perform best with time constraints
Learning how to stop procrastinating on homework, assignments, and other tasks will likely mean less stress and better work habits. As Ferrari warns, though, around 20% of adults are chronic procrastinators.
By creating better habits in college, graduates can avoid the downsides of procrastinating.
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- M.Ed., Education Administration, University of Georgia
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Do you procrastinate? Most of us put things off from time to time, like when we're supposed to be studying for a test or starting our lengthy research paper assignments. But giving in to diversions can really hurt us in the long run.
Procrastination is like a little white lie we tell ourselves. We think we’ll feel better if we do something fun, like watch a TV show, instead of studying or reading.
But when we give in to the urge to put off our responsibilities, we always feel worse in the long run, not better. And what's worse, we end up doing a poor job when we finally get started on the task at hand!
Those who procrastinate the most are usually performing below their potential.
Do you spend too much time on things that don’t matter? You may be a procrastinator if you:
- Feel the impulse to clean your room before you get started on a project.
- Rewrite the first sentence or paragraph of a paper several times, repeatedly.
- Crave a snack as soon as you sit down to study.
- Spend too much time (days) to decide on a topic.
- Carry books around all the time, but never open them to study.
- Get angry if a parent asks “Have you started yet?”
- Always seem to find an excuse to avoid going to the library to start on the research.
You probably did relate to at least one of those situations. But don’t be hard on yourself! That means you are perfectly normal. The key to success is this: it is important that you don’t allow these diversion tactics to affect your grades in a bad way. A little procrastination is normal, but too much is self-defeating.
How can you battle the urge to put things off? Try the following tips.
- Recognize that a feisty little voice lives inside every one of us. He tells us it would be rewarding to play a game, eat, or watch TV when we know better. Don’t fall for it!
- Think about the rewards of accomplishments, and put reminders around your study room. Is there a specific college you want to attend? Put the poster right over your desk. That will serve as a reminder to be your best.
- Work out a reward system with your parent. There may be a concert you're dying to go to, or a new coat you've spotted in the mall. Make a deal with your parents way ahead of time— make an agreement that you can receive the reward only if you reach your goals. And stick to the deal!
- Start with small goals if you’re facing a big assignment. Don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture. Accomplishment feels great, so set small goals first, and take it day by day. Set new goals as you go.
- Finally, give yourself time to play! Set aside a special time to do whatever you want. Afterward, you’ll be ready to get to work!
- Find a study partner who will help you stay on track. Meet regularly to discuss your commitments and deadlines. It's a strange thing about human nature: we might be willing to let ourselves down easily enough, but we hesitate to disappoint a friend.
- Give yourself ten minutes or so to clean your space before you get started. The urge to clean as a procrastination tactic is common and it is based on the fact that our brains desire the feeling of "starting with a clean slate." Go ahead and organize your space--but don't take too much time.
Still find yourself putting off those important projects? Discover More Procrastination Tips to help you manage your time effectively.
- Study Habits That Can Improve Grades and Performance
- How to Overcome Math Anxiety
- Top 10 Healthy Homework Habits
- 6 Steps for Self-Discipline When You Study
- 20 Tips for Success in High School
- What Is a Senior Thesis?
- How to Tell Your Parents You're Failing a College Class
- How to Write a Paper at the Last Minute
- Is Homework Good or Bad for Students?
- How to Clean a Dorm Room in Under 20 Minutes
- How to Stay Organized in College
- 10 Ways to Maximize Your Study Time
- Is Distance Learning Right for You?
- How to Set up a College Roommate Agreement
- Behavior Incentives in the Classroom
- How to Study for the ACT
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Student Procrastination: Why Students Procrastinate and How to Stop It
Student procrastination is a common problem, which occurs when students unnecessarily postpone working on school tasks, like studying or writing. It affects students at all levels, and can cause serious issues, like worse grades and lower wellbeing. It’s also a complicated problem, since different students procrastinate for different reasons, and can therefore benefit from different solutions when it comes to overcoming their procrastination.
The following article provides a comprehensive and practical guide to the problem of student procrastination. Its goals are to first help you understand why students procrastinate, and then show you what students can do in order to stop procrastinating and start studying. This will be beneficial whether you’re a student yourself, or someone like a parent or a teacher, who wants to help students overcome their procrastination.
Examples of student procrastination
An example of student procrastination is a student who needs to sit down and finish their homework, but instead wastes time on the internet all day and only starts working late at night, even though they wish they could have gotten started earlier.
In addition, other examples of student procrastination are the following:
- A high-school student who puts off studying for a test for several hours, by browsing social media instead.
- An undergraduate university student who postpones writing a class paper for weeks until right before the deadline , by watching TV, playing games, and going out instead.
- A graduate student who postpones working on a large research project or dissertation for an entire semester, by continually putting it off to a later date, while working on small and unimportant tasks instead.
Finally, although the concept of student procrastination is mainly associated with procrastination on academic tasks, students can also procrastinate on other types of tasks , like exercising or cleaning their room.
Prevalence of student procrastination
Procrastination is very common among students. For example, studies show that approximately 50% of college students say that they procrastinate in a consistent and problematic manner, approximately 75% consider themselves to be procrastinators, and approximately 80%–95% procrastinate to some degree.
Furthermore, research shows that procrastination is common among other student populations , including students in elementary school , middle school , high school , and graduate school . In fact, it’s so common among students that the tendency to procrastinate on tasks until right before they’re due is sometimes called the student syndrome .
Dangers of student procrastination
Procrastination can cause various issues for students, by negatively affecting their time management, academic performance, emotional wellbeing, and mental and physical health:
- In terms of time management , procrastination can take up a considerable amount of time, and students often report that procrastination occupies over a third of their daily activities, usually in the form of behaviors such as sleeping, watching TV, or playing games. It can also cause them to experience other time-management issues, such as missing important deadlines, or rushing to complete assignments without enough time.
- In terms of academic performance , procrastination can lead to various issues , including worse exam scores, worse grades, more course failures, and more course withdrawals. Many of these issues can be attributed to issues that procrastination causes in terms of time management. For example, if students fail to manage their time by continually putting off studying for an important test, they will likely end up unprepared, and therefore earn a worse grade than they could have earned if they didn’t procrastinate.
- In terms of emotional wellbeing and mental/physical health , procrastination can cause issues like increased stress and increased rates of illness . Many of these issues are associated with the issues that students experience in terms of their time management and academic performance. For example, if a student submits an assignment late due to procrastination and ends up receiving a bad grade, then they might feel anxiety, guilt, and stress over their behavior.
Given this, and given how common procrastination is, it’s unsurprising that many students say that procrastination is always or nearly always a problem for them when it comes to various academic tasks (e.g., writing papers and studying for exams), and that they want to reduce their procrastination on those tasks.
In addition, procrastination can also cause serious issues for students once they leave academia and enter the job market, since many of the above issues extend to adults outside academia, and since procrastination is associated with further issues, such as lower salaries, shorter periods of employment, a higher likelihood of unemployment, and lower financial success in general.
Why students procrastinate
Students procrastinate because issues like exhaustion and anxiety outweigh their self-control and motivation. These issues include personal factors, like fear and perfectionism, and situational factors, like distractions and unclear instructions.
Specifically, when students need to study or work on assignments, they rely primarily on their self-control in order to get themselves to do it. Furthermore, their self-control is sometimes supported by their motivation, which helps them do things in a timely manner.
However, in some cases, students suffer from various issues that interfere with or oppose their self-control and motivation, such as exhaustion and anxiety . When these issues are stronger than their self-control and motivation, they end up procrastinating, until they reach a point where the balance between these factors shifts in the students’ favor, or until it becomes too late.
This explains why many students procrastinate in a chronic manner even when they have the necessary motivation and truly want to study and get their work done. This also explains why many students always procrastinate on academic work until right before the deadline, at which point the increased motivation, often in the form of stressful pressure, finally pushes them to start studying or to start working on their assignments.
Accordingly, common reasons why students procrastinate include the following :
- Abstract goals , generally in terms of being vague about when and how the students intend to study or do their work.
- Feeling overwhelmed , often while being unsure of how to deal with the academic task at hand.
- Perfectionism , generally in the form of refusing to create work that has any flaws.
- Fear of failure , often due to concerns over how failure might reflect on the student’s abilities and skills, either in their eyes or in the eyes of others.
- Anxiety , often in light of potential negative feedback.
- Task aversion , especially in cases where the students find an assignment boring or unpleasant.
- Lack of motivation , often as a result of not caring about academic performance, feeling disconnected from their future self, or having rewards that are too far in the future.
- Physical or mental exhaustion , often due to a combination of reasons, such as a high academic workload together with lack of sleep.
- Resentment , generally toward the studying or assignments directly, toward their source, or toward something related, such as a parent pushing the student to do well in a subject that they’re not interested in.
- Sensation seeking , generally in the form of enjoying working on things right before the deadline, when there’s intense time pressure that can make otherwise boring assignments more challenging and exciting.
- Problematic work environment , generally as a result of having many distractions or temptations around.
- Lack of sufficient communication from instructors, for example when it comes to not having clear directions and due dates for a certain class project.
Other common causes of student procrastination include behaviors such as self-handicapping , which involves procrastinating so that if the student fails then they can blame their failure on procrastination rather than on their abilities, and self-sabotaging , which involves procrastinating as a result of a tendency to hinder one’s progress.
Furthermore, certain personality traits , such as distractibility and impulsivity , are associated with the tendency to procrastinate, meaning that people who are naturally high in these traits are more likely to procrastinate.
Finally, there are also some underlying issues that can lead to procrastination, like ADHD , depression , and lack of sleep .
Overall, students procrastinate because issues such as exhaustion and anxiety outweigh their self-control and motivation. Common issues that lead to student procrastination include abstract goals, feeling overwhelmed, perfectionism, fear of failure, task aversion, resentment, a problematic work environment, and sensation seeking.
How to stop procrastinating on studying
To stop procrastinating on your studying or schoolwork right now , you should identify the smallest possible thing you can do to make progress on it, and then modify your environment to make it as likely as possible that you will do it.
For example, if you need to study for an exam, the smallest possible step that you can take toward doing this might be to open your notes and go over just the first paragraph that you have written down. Once you realize that this is all you need to do, you can start modifying your study environment to help yourself achieve this, for example by going to a room with no distractions and leaving your phone outside.
There are many other anti-procrastination techniques you can use as a student. Start by trying a few of them that seem relevant based on factors like your circumstances and the specific causes of your procrastination. Over time, you can modify which techniques you use and how you use them, based on how they work for you.
Improve your planning:
- Set concrete goals for yourself. For example, instead of a vague goal, such as “study for my upcoming exam”, set a concrete goal, such as “on the week of my upcoming exam, go to the library every day after I finish my last class for the day, and spend at least 2 hours studying”.
- Break your tasks into small and manageable steps. For example, if you need to write an essay, you can start with steps such as figuring out the title, creating a rough outline, and finding five appropriate academic sources. Note that if the project in question is large, then you generally shouldn’t worry about figuring out all the steps to it from the start. Instead, start by identifying only the first few steps that you need to take, and then identify new steps as you make progress, to avoid feeling overwhelmed or getting stuck.
- Set intermediate milestones and deadlines for yourself. If your instructor hasn’t done this already, or if they’ve only set a single major deadline at the end, setting scaffolded intermediate milestones and deadlines for yourself will help you plan ahead, be accountable, and feel more motivated to make continuous progress.
- Identify your productivity cycles. Students vary in terms of when they’re most productive; for example, some work best in the morning, while others are more focused at night. You should take this into account, and schedule your study and work to times of day when you’re least likely to procrastinate.
Improve your environment:
- Change your environment to make it harder for yourself to procrastinate. For example, if you tend to procrastinate on writing essays because you keep browsing social media , turn off your internet connection on your computer before you get to work.
- Change your environment to make it easier for yourself to get started. For example, if you know that you’ll need to study for an exam tomorrow morning, organize all the relevant study material on your desk or in your bag before you go to bed.
- Change your environment to make it easier for you to keep going. For example, if you know that you’re likely to lose concentration if you get distracted while studying, go study in a quiet room and leave your phone outside.
Change your approach:
- Start with a tiny step. For example, if you need to write an essay, help yourself get started by committing to only write a single sentence at first. This can help you push yourself to get started on tasks, and often, once you do so, you’ll find it easy to keep going.
- Start with the best or worst part first. Some students find that starting with the most enjoyable or easiest part of an assignment helps them get going, while others find that getting the worst part out of the way first helps them avoid procrastinating over time. You can use either approach if you find that it works well for you.
- Add a time delay before you procrastinate. If you can’t avoid procrastinating entirely, try committing to having a time delay before you indulge your impulse to do so. For example, this can involve counting to 10 before you’re allowed to open a new tab on the social media website that you usually use to procrastinate.
- Use the Pomodoro technique. This involves alternating between scheduled periods of study and rest. For example, you can study for 25-minute long stretches, with 5-minute breaks in between, and a longer 30-minute break after every 4 study sets that you complete.
Increase your motivation:
- Make studying feel more rewarding. For example, you can gamify your studying, by marking down streaks of days on which you’ve managed to achieve your study goals, and potentially also giving yourself some reward once you reach a sufficiently long streak.
- Make studying feel more enjoyable. For example, if studying in your room is uncomfortable, try going somewhere more pleasant, such as the library.
- Visualize your future self. For example, you can visualize yourself being able to relax after finishing an assignment, visualize yourself being rewarded for getting a good grade, or visualize yourself having to handle the issues associated with not studying enough.
- Focus on your goals instead of on your tasks. For example, if you need to work on an assignment that you find boring, then instead of focusing on the assignment, try thinking about your academic goals and about the reason why you want to do well on that assignment, such as that you want to get a good grade in the class so you can have a stronger college application.
Change your mindset:
- Give yourself permission to make mistakes. For example, if you’re working on an assignment, accept the fact that your work likely won’t be perfect , especially at first. Furthermore, you can decide to start by just getting some initial answers written down, and then go over your work at the end to check if you need to make corrections.
- Address your fears. If you’re procrastinating because you’re afraid of something, try to identify your fears and resolve them. For example, if you’re afraid that your writing won’t be good enough, you can say to yourself that your goal is to just start by getting something written down, and that you can always improve it later.
- Develop self-compassion. Self-compassion can help reduce your procrastination, as well as various issues that are associated with it, such as stress. It consists of three components that you should promote: self-kindness , which involves being nice to yourself, common humanity , which involves recognizing that everyone experiences challenges, and mindfulness , which involves accepting your emotions in a non-judgmental manner.
- Develop self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the belief in your ability to perform the actions needed to achieve your goals. It can help you reduce your procrastination, as well as associated issues, such as anxiety. To develop self-efficacy, try to identify the various strategies that you can use to successfully study and complete your assignments, and think about your ability to execute those strategies successfully.
You’ll probably need to use multiple techniques in order to reduce your procrastination, but even just a few should help. Start with just a few techniques initially, to avoid getting overwhelmed, and then you can add more techniques over time, based on your progress.
If you suffer from an underlying issue that causes procrastination, such as ADHD , depression , or lack of sleep , you will likely need to resolve that issue first, using professional help if necessary, in order to successfully overcome your procrastination.
Overall, to stop procrastinating on your schoolwork, you should identify the smallest possible thing you can do to make progress on it, and then modify your environment to make it as likely as possible that you will do it. In the long term, you should also figure out the causes of your procrastination, and use relevant anti-procrastination techniques, like setting concrete goals, breaking tasks into manageable steps, and giving yourself permission to make mistakes.
How to help students stop procrastinating
When it comes to helping students overcome their procrastination, for example if you’re a teacher or a parent, there are three main approaches that you can use:
- An externally led approach. This involves using relevant anti-procrastination techniques to reduce students’ procrastination, without actively involving them in the process. For example, this can involve setting a series of intermediate project deadlines for all students in a course.
- A student-led approach. This involves letting students overcome their procrastination with little to no external guidance. External guidance in this case might include something as minimal as mentioning the problem of procrastination and telling students about a relevant resource such as this article.
- A joint approach. This involves giving students external guidance while also encouraging them to take an active role in their attempts to stop procrastinating. For example, this can involve going over relevant anti-procrastination techniques with students, and helping them choose and implement their preferred ones.
None of these approaches is inherently superior to the others. Accordingly, you should decide which one to use based on factors such as the number of students that you’re trying to help and the type of relationship that you have with them. For example, if you’re a teacher trying to help 200 students in a college course you will likely need to use a different approach than if you’re a parent trying to help just your kid.
Almost any type of relationship can be beneficial when it comes to helping a student overcome their procrastination. For example, if you’re a teacher, you’re likely in a good position in terms of your influence over the student’s academic situation. On the other hand, if you’re a parent, you’re likely in a good position in terms of your influence over the student’s home life.
Furthermore, you can reach out to other stakeholders who can help. For example, if you’re a teacher, and you think that a student’s parents might be able to help them stop procrastinating, you can reach out to them and discuss the situation.
In addition, an important factor to keep in mind is how independent the students in question are. In general, the more independent students are, the more they should be involved in the process of overcoming their procrastination, since this can increase their motivation and make the process more effective, while generally leading to more self-development and growth over time. This also raises the importance of giving students a sense of control, even if you’re the one guiding the process, which can be especially crucial when it comes to avoiding procrastination that’s rooted in issues such as resentment, rebellion, or lack of self-confidence.
Finally, the following is a list of specific things that you can do to help students stop procrastinating:
- Explain to the students what procrastination is and what it looks like, and help them understand that they engage in it themselves.
- Show the students why procrastination can be dangerous, when it comes to factors such as their academic performance, their career prospects, and their mental and physical health.
- Explain to the students what causes procrastination, and help them identify the causes of their own procrastination.
- Point students in the direction of resources that can help them deal with their procrastination, such as this article.
- Tell the student about relevant anti-procrastination techniques —which are listed in the previous section—and help them pick their preferred ones.
- Implement the previously mentioned anti-procrastination techniques on behalf of the students, for example by breaking apart large tasks into manageable steps and setting intermediate deadlines for each.
Overall, you can help students overcome their procrastination in various ways, such as by helping them understand that they’re procrastinating in a problematic manner, helping them identify the causes of their procrastination, and helping them choose and implement relevant anti-procrastination techniques. The specific approach that you should use depends on factors such as how autonomous the students in question are, how many students you’re trying to help, and what kind of relationship you have with them.