As a coach and tutor working with students of varying ages, I’ve found that procrastination is a consistent hurdle my students encounter. Adults see this in our own lives. Tasks that seem to be the largest and most overwhelming often get pushed to the back of our to-do lists. Tackling small tasks makes us feel as though we are accomplishing something, but we still find ourselves scrambling to get those critical projects finished by a deadline, which results in stress and anxiety.
Students face this throughout the school year when papers, projects, presentations, and unit or final tests listed on their syllabi seem far away on the horizon. Believing that they have more than enough time to complete those projects, many students concentrate on the daily small, quick, and easy assignments which often carry little weight in a final course grade. They put off beginning a project, reading a book, or preparing for an important exam until the last minute. Students study the night before a major exam, throw together a project, or read summaries of books rather than the book itself. These strategies create an enormous amount of anxiety in the student and usually lead to less than optimal grades on the work.
Conquering procrastination is not a one-time, learned skill. It takes practice and methods that work for individual learning styles. A few tips to get started include:
- look ahead to the next 2-3 weeks for each class;
- use a notebook planner and fill in the assignments and other personal obligations (sports, appointments, family obligations, holidays);
- work backwards from the due dates, breaking the work into small, manageable daily chunks of work for limited amounts of time, writing each day’s tasks into the planner;
- turn off social media;
- take timed breaks after a certain period of time working (after 45 minutes/1 hour) and give yourself a small reward (snack, short walk, brief phone call). Use an alarm to get back to your task;
- practice good self care: get enough sleep, practice good nutrition, and exercise.
For some students, initially completing a few small tasks gets them going with their work, warmed up; they can then tackle a part of a larger assignment. Other students prefer to start with a piece of a large assignment, fitting in the smaller daily assignments during a study hall or after completing a section of a large task. No matter the approach, checking off each completed piece of work in your planner or syllabi provides satisfying, visual proof of your accomplishments.
The attached Youtube video by procrastination expert Professor Tim Plychy was just featured on BBC.com. It’s filled with concrete tips and explanations for why we procrastinate. It has had over 189,000 views. Enjoy!
Catherine Clark, M.Ed
BolderEd Strategies, LLC