Learning how to avoid procrastination

Alex Ourth, Courier Staff

As usual, this week as I was working on this article, I found myself constantly doing everything but writing.

Like many college students, I tend to struggle with bouts of procrastination, or “a habitual or intentional delay of starting or finishing a task despite knowing it might have negative consequences.” Whether it’s getting lost in Wikipedia, watching pointless cat videos or scrolling through social media, around 80-95 percent of college students find themselves procrastinating on their school work. With procrastination playing such a prominent role in the lives of today’s students, the phenomenon leaves multiple questions to be answered. These questions include why we are so inclined to procrastinate, and more importantly, how we can overcome the temptation to procrastinate.

Psychologists have identified a variety of reasons as to why students, and people in general, choose to procrastinate instead of getting work done. Some of the most commonly cited reasons include an overestimate of how much time the person has left to perform the task, an underestimate of how long certain tasks will take, a misconception that the person works best under pressure, a desire for perfection when completing tasks and self-doubt on one’s ability to complete the task satisfactorily. Each of these different motivating factors will have different strategies for overcoming them. Therefore, it is important to identify the reason behind your own procrastination before attempting to overcome it.

With so many different reasons behind choosing to procrastinate, there are equally as many different strategies we can use to beat it. For those who struggle with time-management of tasks, you can try making it a habit to start tasks earlier than you think you need. That way, when the task starts to take longer than originally anticipated, you have extra time to compensate for the discrepancy. For those who believe that they work best under pressure, it might help to remind yourself of instances where procrastination led to the submission of work that didn’t meet your expectations or caused heightened stress and anxiety. Reminding ourselves of the negative connections between procrastination and stress may help provide the motivation we need to avoid the action again in the future. For those who let the desire for perfection impede their work, taking time to remind yourself that perfection isn’t needed for success may help you to focus more on simply getting the task done. Often times being efficient is more important than being perfect.

Finally, for those who procrastinate out of self-doubt of their ability to perform the task, taking the time to ask questions and build the skills needed to be successful can help to eliminate the anxiety around starting a difficult assignment. Another effective strategy is to break down daunting tasks into smaller, more manageable ones.

Although procrastination can be a normal part of everyone’s life, chronic procrastination can have detrimental impacts on the academic, social and mental health of college students. Therefore, the need to identify the source of procrastination and develop effective strategies to overcome it cannot be overstated. In doing so, students will find that the combined satisfaction of completing a goal early and elimination of undue stress will result in a happier and more successful life.