One of the many notable quotes from Benjamin Franklin is, “Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?” Unfortunately, this sage advice is often ignored by college students. In fact, many take the opposite approach: “Why do today what you can put off until the night before it’s due?”
Too often, this results in a frantic, coffee-fueled attempt to complete a 25-page research paper on the origins of the Magna Carta over a long, sleepless night. Whether it’s waiting until the last minute to start a research paper or cramming all night for a final exam, procrastination is a common practice for many students.
The reality is, you end up needlessly placing extra pressure on yourself when you procrastinate. And the closer you get to the “day of reckoning,” the more intense the pressure becomes. By having to rush a project or jam as much knowledge as possible into your cranium in a brief time frame, you won’t be able produce your best work.
Why Do We Procrastinate?
Procrastination is often attributed to poor time management skills, bad work habits, or just plain laziness. In reality, the roots of procrastination often run much deeper. Many students, especially at the beginning of their college career, feel overwhelmed by their heavy academic burdens. They may also experience feelings of fear and anxiety, believing that they might not be able to perform at a satisfactory level. Procrastination provides an easy escape from these unsettling feelings.
What You Can Do to Stop Procrastination
The good news is that there are some simple, painless steps you can take to avoid procrastination. Don’t worry: these tips don’t require you to spend every waking minute studying. You’ll still have plenty of time for fun.
1. Think small — When you’re first assigned a large project, you may feel overwhelmed at first. Your initial thought may be, “How will I ever get this done?” A better approach is to view the task as a series of smaller projects that you can complete in short work sessions over a period of time.
2. Get started — The simple act of taking one small step to get started often works wonders. Think of the old adage “Once begun, it’s half done.” A great way to begin is to create a schedule for completing your project in manageable increments. You’ll feel better knowing you have a workable plan in place to tackle your task.
3. Be flexible — Don’t make your schedule so rigid that it consumes your life. You’ll end up placing additional pressure on yourself and quickly revert to your procrastinating ways. Balance is essential for getting the most out of your college experience. Adjust your schedule as necessary to ensure you have enough time for play.
4. Find a reliable partner — If you have a friend who is a “doer,” ask him or her to help you stay motivated and remain on track. Provide a copy of your project schedule to your accountability partner. Allow the person to check in with you on a daily basis. Joining a study group that meets on a regular basis can also help you remain focused on your academic endeavors.
5. Eliminate distractions — It’s easy to become distracted at college, which can fuel your procrastination. Who wouldn’t rather spend time hanging out with friends than doing research for a term paper? You can avoid distractions by finding a quiet place where you can work without interruptions, even if it’s only for 15-30 minutes a day.
6. Reward yourself — Avoiding procrastination is a positive thing and not a prison sentence or punishment. Take the time to reward yourself for your progress. Engage in a pleasurable activity after completing a work session, or just take a nap on the couch!
7. Focus on the benefits — Make a list of benefits that working ahead can bring. Put the list in a place where you can easily see it, such as next to your computer. Don’t limit your list to items involving better academic performance. Ending procrastination can provide additional benefits such as increased self-confidence, more motivation, and higher self-esteem. You’ll probably find that you’ll also be avoiding procrastination in other areas of your life.
So what are you waiting for? Start putting these tips to use so you can remove procrastination from your life right now!
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