Procrastination can be the downfall of many college students. Self control and the ability to initiate is a vital skill. Without it, students are going to have a difficult time getting through college. In order to get better at procrastination, it’s important to understand why it’s happening.
Procrastination is the delay of work. Quite simply, it’s putting things off until later. Here at State Street, instead of focusing on the word procrastination, we like to say that a student needs to get better at initiating. So what leads to a lack of initiation? For most people it’s a skill deficit, distraction, avoidance, pleasure seeking, or perfectionism. One of these factors prevents a person from getting started. Most common these days is students struggling with the distraction of their phones and computers. The amount of information and connection they can have makes it incredibly difficult to get started on work, particularly if that work is difficult or creates discomfort.
So what can students do? In short, students need to be more specific with their plans. They need to control the factors that go into the “before work” stage. Being more specific means that students are laying out the who, what, where, why, how, and when of their work. There’s a big difference between saying, “I need to study on Sunday” versus, “I am going to meet Jimmy at the library on Sunday at 10:30. I’m going to complete the study guide for each of the 5 chapters, create notecards for vocab words, answer the review questions at the back of each chapter, and then quiz myself on everything I did. I think I need an hour per chapter, so I have 5 hours of work to do.” In this example, the student outlined, with specificity, all the details that are going into their work and incorporated another person. They have made it much more likely that they are going to initiate and complete their work.
These are specific plans that are aimed to increase the likelihood of getting started. Within a given work period, students should break work down even more into 10 minute increments. This will not only give them smaller targets of work to get done, but it will also give them evaluation checkpoints and instant feedback on how they’re doing. This small addition can go a long way towards helping students initiate their work.