Procrastination Is a Human Problem
Around 20% of adults are chronic procrastinators. Among students, procrastination can be serious because not keeping up with the flow of student work means that you fall behind. According to some experts, students most often procrastinate because they don’t see the relevance of the future project to things that are immediately relevant to them. Children often put more value on what is happening today than in what is happening tomorrow. Focus on the present and immediate often leads them to put off what is due in the future. They may put off a future project until it becomes the activity of today. Pair that focus on the present with the notion that many students don’t like the idea of doing schoolwork at home and you may have the recipe for procrastination in a large percentage of students.
Even college students (up to 75% of them) and graduate students (between 80 and 95% of them) procrastinate on a regular basis.
Students tend to:
- Overestimate how much time they have left to perform tasks.
- Overestimate how motivated they will be in the future.
- Underestimate how long activities will take to complete.
- Assume that their state of mind will change and they will later be in the right frame of mind to complete a project.
Effects of Procrastination
The effect of procrastination on stress and mental health increases with time. Researchers found that students who procrastinate tend to reduce stress and feel lower stress levels at the beginning of the term, but the stresses increase rapidly with time, less reports of illness and stress than non-procrastinators at the beginning of the year, but much more reported stress as the term progresses. Procrastination is a comfort, a defense mechanism at the beginning of the term but it causes more stress as the defense rapidly fails. Studies find that level of procrastination is correlated with poorer academic achievement, more strongly for high school students than elementary or university students.
Some students are also taught that “cramming” just before examinations and performance-based assessments is a good practice for getting high grades. The practice of cramming reinforces procrastination habits.
What to Do About Procrastination
Procrastination is an active process. People choose to do something else instead of the task at hand, the task people know they should be doing. It’s not just apathy. It usually involves ignoring a less pleasant but more urgent task. Habitual procrastination can become a destructive habit of avoiding challenging tasks and filling time with low-priority activity. It is a habit and can be treated as a habit to be broken. The following steps could help.
- Recognize that you are procrastinating.
- Work out why you are procrastinating.
- Keep a to-do list in order of priority and pay attention to it.
- Minimize distractions.
- Get the least pleasant tasks out of the way first.
- Adopt some anti-procrastination strategies.
There a few psychological levers you have to open in your mind. Some of it may require the cooperation of others who know you well. You may have to ask someone to check up on you and give you feedback on your anti-procrastination efforts. In student life, close relationships with teachers in a one-one or small class settings have proven a major aid in reducing procrastination.
First of all, you have to forgive yourself for your past procrastination. Commit yourself to doing (not avoiding) a task. Schedule a completion time as part of the commitment. Then promise yourself a reward for completing the task. It could be a concrete reward (like an extra dessert, for instance). It’s best to tackle a task as soon as it arises, rather than letting tasks accumulate. Instead of telling yourself that “I need to” or “I must” complete a task, rephrase your statement to yourself as “I choose to.” Then try to focus on the long game. Try not to be driven by short-term gain. Identify the long-term benefits of task completion.
The Tenney School is a small private school in Houston, Texas. Our primary method of instruction is one-to-one classrooms. Maximizing student-teacher interaction has proven beneficial for growth and the solution for many academic problems. Please contact us to learn more.