Procrastination. It’s a word that plagues most of us. This is definitely true for college students. A student who procrastinates on their work will demonstrate a few common behaviors:
- Not getting started early on assignments
- Putting off work til the very last second
- Pulling all-nighters
- Lower quality work
- Peaks in stress
- Pleading professors for extensions
Procrastination obviously hurts students’ grades and their ability to manage themselves. Some students will even say, “I do my best work when my back is against the wall.” I don’t 100% disagree with them, it’s just that typically there is no sample size to compare their last second scrambling too. I’m fairly certain that they would produce the same quality of work if they started earlier on an assignment.
So why does procrastination happen? Typically, procrastination is not because a student is lazy or unmotivated. It is because of a skill deficit or challenges with emotional regulation. The skill they need to improve is self-control. Our coaches will often tell students that we are working on improving the skill of doing something that you don’t feel like doing. A big part of initiating is having the self-control to do that. Additionally, a lot of schoolwork can create a negative reaction for students and this can lead to procrastination. The easiest thing to do is avoid the discomfort and avoid the work that needs to be done. By working to minimize these emotional reactions, students can get better at initiating and eliminating procrastination.
I will often say, “there will always be a singular moment in time where a student just has to get started.” No one can ever change that moment, but we can work to make it more likely that students succeed in that moment. There are a lot of strategies that students can work on to improve their ability to initiate.
- Make a plan: When students can put together the what, where, why, when, and how of their work, they will be much more successful.
- Incorporate others: Just like getting to the gym, having a partner or group can help. Schedule study sessions with friends.
- Get rid of distractions: Make sure the phone is put away, certain website are blocked, and any other distractions are removed.
- Set Time Increments: Plan out work in smaller time chunks with a lot of details. Even a 5 or 10 minute plan can help a student feel less overwhelmed.
- Create a reward: Work on regulating emotions by creating a reward for yourself at the end of a good work session.
Procrastination is a tough habit to break. By putting focus into it and creating accountability, students can begin to make progress and chip away at their inability to get started.