8 Tips to Avoid Procrastination
You hate cleaning, but now that you need to study for that big Chemistry test, you’re suddenly set on making your dorm room sparkle. You told yourself that you’d pull an all-nighter for your Statistics class, but now those ridiculous late-night infomercials seem incredibly captivating. If these scenarios sound familiar, you understand procrastination. Here's how to fight it and get more done.
Procrastination can take some interesting forms. It can also have very serious effects on college students. According to Psychology Today, students who procrastinated were shown to generally have lower grades and reduced well-being. Yikes. Whether your procrastination technique is “Netflixing”, online shopping, napping, or cleaning, you should work on strategies to overcome it and manage your time wisely. Keep reading to learn some practical ways for how to stop procrastinating in college.
1. Admit that you’re procrastinating
The first step to overcoming procrastination is to admit that you are avoiding the tasks that you are supposed to be doing. Perhaps you are even reading this article as a way to procrastinate your college homework. (If that’s the case, do your homework first, and then finish reading the rest of this article.) Some students procrastinate because they have a fear of failure, but the simple truth is that unless you acknowledge that you aren’t being as productive as you need to be, you may not see any improvements in your time management skills. After you recognize which procrastination problem you’re experiencing, you will hopefully have the right mindset to be more productive.
2. Pick a good study location
Although it’s tempting, curling up with a blanket on your bed is not the best place for doing your school work. Ideally, you want your study spot to be somewhere with good lighting and a clear surface with plenty of room to spread out your materials and laptop. You also want to have one or two designated study locations that you go to consistently. If possible, these locations should be a place where you don’t do any other activities, like napping or watching TV. Soon enough, your brain will catch on when you go to this particular location that you are going to focus on your school work.
3. Eliminate distractions
Have you ever tried to study but found yourself getting distracted by people coming to talk to you or by every social media notification that shows up on your phone? This happens to almost everyone if you don’t try to hold yourself accountable. After you find a location that works for you, you need to eliminate distractions, such as turning off or silencing your phone. Also, for some students, listening to classical music or playing white noise can help drown out other distractions and help them focus.
4. Set Goals You can Reach
Many people procrastinate because the task at hand seems too large for them to tackle or they don’t know which task to start with. Dividing your homework into small tasks can make an assignment seem less daunting, like constructing an outline for a term paper or studying for a test in chunks. You can also set a timer for a specific period of time to help you stay focused. For example, you might consider clearing all distractions and studying for 15-20 minutes and then getting some brain food or study snack as a reward, and then doing it again. Setting small goals that you can easily accomplish can make you feel more in control and productive and enable you to break the cycle of chronic procrastination.
5. Work with a study group
If you lack the willpower to regularly study alone, knowing that you have to pull your weight in a study group can be a great way to dive in and face procrastination head on. The study group's peer pressure and your sense of responsibility toward the group will help ensure that you complete your assigned tasks on time. You’re also less likely to skip a study session if your study group sets a specific date and time to meet. The group will help keep you accountable toward your school work, and you may even discover some tricks to help you learn and retain the course material.
6. Reward yourself
Overcoming procrastination doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a series of good behaviors, like working ahead in your classes and finishing your homework in a reasonable time frame, to form a habit. It also requires some discipline and self-control. When you finish an important task before the due date, you shouldn’t be afraid to reward yourself for doing a job well done. Getting ice cream, going for a run, or taking a nap can all be good ways to refresh and get ready for your next task. With the use of rewards, you can train your brain to develop those healthy study habits. However, it is important to note that you shouldn’t use rewarding yourself for your hard work as an excuse to procrastinate or put off your next task.
7. Take a break
Although it seems backwards, taking a break can actually boost your productivity. Now, you may be thinking, “Isn’t procrastinating the same as taking a break?” The answer is no. The reason you’re able to take a break and not be considered procrastinating is intent. If you are intentional about your break by setting a certain amount of time to be away from your important task, it is different than just putting off the task until the last possible minute. If you struggle to hold yourself accountable after your breaks, try the Pomodoro method for studying or other important activities. This involves using a timer to track your study sessions and breaks.
8. Hold Yourself Accountable
Holding yourself accountable for completing your assignments on time, studying for tests and getting good grades is not only an important survival skill for college, it's another tip to avoid procrastination. While it is easy to find reasons not to study and take unnecessary or extra-long breaks, catch yourself before this happens. Remember that you are responsible for the assignments you complete or don’t complete, the tests you ace or don’t do so well on, and your grades. If you need help in holding yourself accountable, tell a friend or family member and ask them to check up on your goals, deadlines, and accomplishments.
It’s okay to put things off from time to time, but it’s important to note that long-term procrastination could potentially have a negative effect on your health and body. Even if you’ve been procrastinating without consequence since high school, it’s time to overcome the negative habit that could affect your sleep schedule and work quality. Your work and other responsibilities don’t go away over time, so put away your phone and stop web-surfing. Go forth and use these tips for how to avoid procrastination now (not later).