If you occasionally or frequently find yourself procrastinating, you are not alone. Procrastination affects 15-20% of adults, and 25% of those procrastinators consider it a defining personality trait and something they continually struggle to remove as a stress-inducing habit.
As a college student, you are even more likely to procrastinate than the general population, as studies show that around 80-90% of college students procrastinate sometimes, with around 70% of students declaring themselves as chronic procrastinators.
While knowing you aren't alone might offer some comfort, it doesn't solve the negative impacts you might experience when you put off important tasks until the last minute.
Let's explore procrastination to see how we might help you enhance your time management skills and put procrastination off for good.
What Is Procrastination?
Most people learn the term "procrastination" at a fairly young age even if they don't practice it. Procrastination is the act or habit of putting off tasks, assignments, projects, or other obligations until the last minute.
Sometimes procrastinators miss their deadlines, which can cause a string of additional unfortunate events.
According to Kendra Cherry of Very Well Mind, "Some researchers define procrastination as a ‘form of self-regulation failure characterized by the irrational delay of tasks despite potentially negative consequences.’”
Even if you aren't a chronic procrastinator, you might have unintentionally found yourself in the predicament once or twice when you spent too much time on social media or playing an interactive online game, suddenly realizing you hadn't finished your term paper or another school-related project.
Why Do Humans Procrastinate When It Causes So Much Turmoil?
Most people don't set out to procrastinate. It usually comes down to a few factors, such as overbooking one's schedule, inadvertently spending too much time on other pursuits, underestimating the time the project should take to complete, or forgetting to mark the deadline on a calendar.
Consider the times you found yourself finishing a project at 3:00 in the (very early) morning. Did you set out to put yourself through a sleepless night and loads of stress? Probably not. For example, no one wants to spend the night cleaning an apartment for parents the next day when they could have done it days in advance. Sometimes there is an underlying psychological component, such as long-standing issues with your parents that might lead you to think they might not approve of your cleaning skills, regardless, so why bother?
One additional reason we procrastinate is that we believe we need to feel a surge of inspiration to complete a project. However, the fact is you have to develop and rely on discipline to ensure you tackle your school, work, cleaning, or any other project at a scheduled time that doesn't leave you sleepless, stressed out, and afraid you'll make errors.
Here is a list of reasons for procrastination that you might recognize in yourself:
- Fear of asking for additional help
- Fear of failure
- Lack of motivation
- Low energy levels
- Low self-confidence
- Lack of understanding
- Poor organization skills
- Trouble concentrating
What Are the Negative Effects of Procrastination?
It shouldn't surprise anyone that avoiding responsibilities comes with some unfortunate negative effects, which include the following.
Diminished Health and Well-Being
If you struggle with procrastination, you know the physical and emotional toll it can take. You might experience a range of darker emotions, including frustration, anger, guilt, shame, and sadness. This feeling of reduced well-being isn't surprising, since procrastination often results in lack of sleep and plenty of worry and stress.
If you procrastinate enough, imagine what that does to your health and peace of mind over time. You might develop insomnia and, in some cases, depression if you fall into the habit of procrastination.
Poor Academic Results
When you are pulling all-nighters to finish papers and other projects, you might expect to see your grades suffer. Many procrastinating students experience poor exam scores, worsening grades, course failures and withdrawals, and a higher likelihood the student will drop out of college completely.
Whether you live with your spouse or significant other, parents, Greek housemates, or a roommate, or you have friends, classmates, or co-workers who don't live with you but are nevertheless affected, the chances are strong your relationships will suffer when you procrastinate.
With friends and romantic partners, you might find that they become increasingly frustrated with your uneven schedule and the stress you feel when you spend all night fretting over a single project, rather than thriving at completing everything on your desk.
Classmates and co-workers might feel like you aren't holding up your end of the deal when it comes to completing and presenting or turning in crucial class projects. They might begin to see you as unreliable, especially if they have to absorb or manage the stress you generate from waiting until the last minute.
Inability to Ask Questions or Get Help
The chances are good that your teacher let you know you could ask questions any time to ensure you could complete the assignment according to their instruction. However, you can't do that if you've waited until the night before the assignment is due. Your instructor probably won't want to wake up in the middle of the night to answer questions they could have answered days or weeks ago during office hours or just about any time besides a few hours before you need to turn the project in.
15 Tips to Stop Procrastinating
Whether you are an occasional or chronic procrastinator, there are ways you can stop procrastinating to enjoy more success and avoid the sinking feeling when faced with a stress-filled, last-minute mad rush to finish a project. We've come up with 15 tips to help you handle this.
1. Identify the problem
Identifying that there is a problem is the first step; the next step is identifying the problem. Explore the list above covering the possible causes for procrastination and try to honestly assess which one(s) best describes you and why you procrastinate. Once you figure out why you are avoiding your responsibilities, you can start working on a solution.
2. Set goals
If you identify your causes for procrastination as those associated with perfectionism or fear of failure, which are prime drivers, start by setting clear and realistic goals to work on projects according to your comfort zone. Work through the issue instead of trying to find a way around it. Talk to your instructor, letting them know what is going on and asking them to provide additional guidance. They are likely to tell you that they welcome any questions that will help you get the project done on time and without excess stress in your life.
3. Create a plan of action
Set up a plan of action, which might mean creating a journal wherein you commit your goals to paper. You can also rely on your paper day planner or online calendar to help you get on track and stay the course for personal development and time management success.
4. Establish a routine
According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), "good daily habits during the early stages of life determine success throughout life.” Set aside some time each day to work on some aspect of your project, even if it is to create a basic outline or type up a brief draft of your introduction. Anything to help you keep in touch with the project without a sense of urgency will help you keep things in perspective and incorporate the project into daily life, helping to minimize any stressful feelings you have about it.
5. Prioritize tasks
As part of your scheduling habits, make sure you prioritize tasks according to the order that they are due and how much time each one might take you to complete. For instance, you might have two upcoming projects due in two different online classes. Evaluate both, then determine which one inspires more fear or stress, and focus on that one first each day without sacrificing the other. Try to find balance to ensure you complete both on time and successfully.
6. Break large tasks into smaller ones
Many times, we procrastinate because a project looks and feels overwhelming until we break it down into smaller tasks. Once you look at it more closely, you might realize that all those parts will work together more seamlessly than you imagined when you looked at the project as a massive, monolithic whole. Start simply by scheduling one morning to come up with an appropriate title and outline. For the next session, develop an introduction. Next, create bullet points you want to address within each outline section.
7. Set due dates for yourself
Building upon tip number six, assign yourself due dates for smaller tasks within the scope of the project. Even if you perform one task a day, you are ensuring that you remain attached to the project and on schedule to complete it on time and with confidence.
8. Eliminate distractions
Turn off the television and computer. Ask your neighbor or roommate to take your dog for a walk during your work sessions. Do whatever you can to eliminate any distractions. Commit to setting aside a certain block of time each day for your project. If you struggle with procrastination, you might need to be stern with yourself for a while, meaning no peeking at social media or checking emails.
9. Know things won't always go according to plan
Even with all these plans set in place, your dog will want to play, the neighbor will mow the lawn, or you won't be able to come up with a title in the designated session. As long as you give it your best shot, you're on track to eliminate procrastination. Plan to pick up where you left off, and keep forging ahead.
10. Use time-management techniques
There are several time-tested and trusted time-management techniques you might try, including:
- The 80/20 Rule, or Pareto’s Principle, which says that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your actions.
- Draw boundaries and say "no" if someone asks you to step away from your project during the designated time.
- Prepare your work environment for peak productivity, specific to the project.
11. Use a to-do list
Within your calendar or on a Post-It note, create a to-do list each morning, including the phase of the project you want to tackle that day.
12. Reward yourself
There's nothing wrong with some self-recognition and reward for a task accomplished. Choose a reasonable reward that has meaning for you. If you want to spend 30 minutes playing your favorite game after finishing a key section of the project, go for it. Other rewards include ordering dinner from your favorite restaurant or watching old episodes of a favorite television program.
13. Find a mentor
If there is a student in your class who is always on top of their assignments and turning in projects with confidence all while looking like they've had a great night's sleep, you might want to ask them their secret to success. If they don't have issues with procrastination, ask if you can plan some study or project work sessions together. You can also ask your instructor if they can provide any guidance or direct you to another faculty member or student who can.
14. Give yourself permission to make mistakes
Remind yourself that you don't have to be perfect. You are attending college to learn, and learning to rid yourself of bad habits is as important of a lesson as anything else you will carry with you throughout your life and career.
15. Start today
When you want to stop procrastinating, there’s no time like the present.
Don’t procrastinate any longer — enroll at Johnson & Wales University today! Earn your bachelor’s degree or graduate degree online or on-campus. For more information about earning your degree, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].