Students procrastinate often. This is not a secret; it is a fact. What is procrastination? By definition, it is “the action of delaying or postponing something.” For many, procrastination is the only way to accomplish their tasks: they need to feel the imminent pressure of ‘running out of time’ or the fear of failure to motivate them to focus on whatever they have been avoiding. Some students, including myself, procrastinate habitually, but some students only procrastinate on occasion. Procrastination looks different for everyone, especially during a pandemic that has no doubt collectively hindered productivity. But, in general, “when it comes to specific reasons why people procrastinate, in terms of demotivating and hindering factors, the following are among the most common:
- Abstract goals.
- Rewards that are far in the future.
- A disconnect from our future selves.
- Feeling overwhelmed.
- Task aversion.
- Fear of evaluation or negative feedback.
- Fear of failure.
- A perceived lack of control.
- Lack of motivation.
- Lack of energy.
- Sensation seeking.”
In light of this comprehensive list, it is important to evaluate what leads you to procrastinate the most and to get at the crux of that issue and move towards combating this procrastination, especially if procrastination is hindering your academic performance or mental well-being. It is not easy to combat procrastination, especially if you are someone who procrastinates often without any major consequences. Personally, I find that I procrastinate for a combination of these reasons, such as fear of failure, lack of motivation, anxiety, and task aversion, but also because of the fact that despite putting things off, I always eventually complete the tasks. In other words, procrastination has proved effective albeit torturous. Although I know I could have finished certain tasks sooner with the amount of time I spend worrying, the tasks are ultimately completed before the deadline. This type of procrastination, however, comes from a misconception that I’ll have to put less time into whatever I’m avoiding if I leave it to the last minute. In reality, however, I spend even more time on the task but it is not as noticeable because there is a delectable urgency and satisfaction that comes with completing a task in one day as compared to working on a task throughout several days.
During a global pandemic, it is difficult to find motivation and quite easy to be disconnected from our future selves. Life has been drastically altered and it is not always feasible to expect to be functioning the same as you would have been pre-pandemic. There are more distractions and challenges that are inherent in a remote learning environment, and as such, it makes sense that procrastination (and burnout) is a key issue for students right now.
For instance, I asked UBCO students to reflect on the real reasons that they procrastinate, and all of the reasons fall under the aforementioned categories,
“I’m pretty sure I have ADD. My counselor asked me to consult my physician and get a referral for a test. The issue is that the tests that UBC and other post-secondary institutions require (at least from my limited research) can be very expensive and not all covered under health care. I don’t have that kind of money, so I’m struggling in school, wasting money failing out of classes and procrastination is my number one worst habit. If UBCO requires these tests I wish the government, UBCO, anyone could help me pay for them”
“✨depression✨ No for real though I think social media and phones in general play a huge part in my procrastination. I find that if I am trying to take notes for an asynchronous lecture, I am constantly glancing down at my phone. It’s hard because I don’t think there’s just one reason that I procrastinate, it’s a mixture of a lot of things, from mental health, to distractions, to simply just prioritizing Netflix over school”
“My phone (social media) 😞”
“I end up procrastinating because I am terrified of doing my school work incorrectly. It is very challenging to get real help from profs and I freeze.”
“Sometimes it’s because of my anxiety, if I haven’t done it yet I don’t have a mark. Other times it’s just I have too much and get overwhelmed.”
“I procrastinate because I just don’t want to do my school-work. I’d rather focus my attention on things that interest me”
Clearly, procrastination is a common thread among the lives of University students. While the reasons for procrastination vary, and every student’s situation is unique, the collective problem remains the same. Procrastination is ultimately a temporary fix to a solution; whatever one is avoiding or dreading will eventually have to be dealt with, in some shape or form. The question is, then, how can students effectively combat the tendency to procrastinate? This secondary list suggests helpful ways to break down tasks and alleviate the urge to procrastinate:
- “Prioritize tasks based on how important they are.
- Break large and overwhelming tasks into small and actionable pieces.
- Get started on tasks by committing to only work on them for a few minutes.
- Remove distractions from your work environment.
- Identify when you’re most and least productive, and schedule your tasks accordingly.
- Set intermediate deadlines for yourself on your way to your final goals.
- Create a daily goal and mark streaks of days on which you’ve successfully achieved it.
- Reward yourself when you successfully implement your plan of action.
- Focus on your goals instead of on the tasks that you have to complete.
- Visualize your future self experiencing the outcomes of your work.
- Count to ten before you indulge the impulse to procrastinate.
- Avoid a perfectionist mindset by accepting that your work will have some flaws.
- Develop a belief in your ability to successfully overcome your procrastination.”
In addition to these tips, remember that practicing self-care is not procrastination. A counselor once told me this, and it has stuck with me as a student ever since. Taking care of yourself and your health does not mean you are taking time away from your work. It means you are allowing yourself to rest in order to be better prepared for the challenges ahead.
Ultimately, it is vital to reflect on why you procrastinate and equally important to implement tangible changes that will assist you in the long-run.