How to Avoid Procrastination at College and Live a Healthy Life?
It’s very common for students to procrastinate – they wait till the last day to turn in their assignments and put off the preparation for the exam until the night before it. If you’re not a perfectionist, procrastination doesn’t seem to be that bad. However, medical research has shown that procrastination increases stress, anxiety, and fatigue.
Piers Steel, a business professor at the University of Calgary, pointed out in the 2007 study: “It is estimated that 80 to 95 percent of university students procrastinate, around 75 percent consider themselves procrastinators, and almost 50 percent procrastinate consistently and problematically.”
What are the most common reasons for procrastination?
Before looking for tips to avoid procrastination, it’s crucial to identify the reasons students procrastinate. It’s considered that students procrastinate because they don’t care about the tasks or have trouble with priorities, which is not right. If you’re a diligent student, and you care too much about the assignment, it can lead to procrastination. Procrastinators can take up any other tasks or stare at their screen for hours, frightened to take the first step. Here are the most common underlying reasons for procrastination:
- fear of failure and getting a low grade
- fear of criticism and damaged self-esteem
- confusion about the first steps of the task
- indecision (worrying about whether they perform the task correctly)
- subconscious mechanism to avoid stress
- the thrill of working under the pressure of the looming deadline help concentrate and be more productive in shorter time periods
Whatever is the reason – dear, confusion, indecisiveness, or the trill – it ultimately disrupts our health. That’s why this article is aimed at helping you find the keys to overcoming the barriers of procrastination and devoting the time you spend procrastinating to improving your health and well-being.
You can avoid procrastination in many ways, and here’s how
Most college students are self-conscious about their problems and want to know how to stop procrastinating, But it’s not that easy to get organized right away – you need a comprehensive approach and determination to overcome the psychological barriers of procrastination. Although it’s much easier to put off complex or time-consuming tasks, like writing an academic essay, until the last day, you will feel the adverse effect of this habit later on, when you graduate the college. And, conversely, if you pull yourself together and learn how to deal with procrastination now, it will yield results in the future and will help you thrive in the workplace and in any activities you will take up.
1.Say no to social media
Social media have become one of the main distractors. Even though Facebook or Instagram shouldn’t be considered evil by definition, they can be used as a great place to run away from doing research or getting ready for the exam. Try setting limits to apps you’re using most of all (unless they help you study) – your iPhone makes it very easy. You can track the time you spend on social media and start reducing it gradually.
2.Assign focus time blocks with short breaks
The best way to stop procrastinating is to schedule your day. You have some free time before and after classes, and if you don’t plan in advance, you’re most likely to end up staring at your screen. There are numerous tools for scheduling your day, but the easiest one is Google Calendar. Just add the time blocks to it, and you’ll get reminders about your tasks. It’s good for both organizing yourself and tracking how much time each task takes.
3.Set your own deadlines – earlier than the actual ones!
It might sound weird, but it works – especially if your professor’s deadline is far on the horizon. It’s so easy to procrastinate if you know you’ll need to submit your assignment next month! Try competing with yourself. Track how much time it takes to write one page of the essay, and spend 5 minutes less on your next page.
If it’s not your first month as a student, you most likely have an idea about your college professors, what they expect from you and which aspects of your growth are most important to them. It means you can adjust and prioritize your assignments accordingly. Don’t rush and try doing everything at once – identify which tasks are most burning and/or difficult. If you make it a habit to complete hard tasks first, you will see that everything that’s left on the list is not that intimidating at all.
5.Use anything that helps you focus
If you’ve ever noticed that certain music helps you concentrate, listen to it when you need to work on your assignment. Take a look at your workspace – is it too cluttered or noisy? Organize the room you work in so that you have enough space and fresh air. If that’s not possible, try changing the location – your campus most likely has dedicated areas for studying. Your university library can help you focus on the tasks and avoid distractions.
6.Split the big assignment into the subtasks
Sure, when you get a task like ‘Write an essay on DE&I’, it overwhelms you. So in order to start taking action, you need to split it into smaller ones like
- do the research on DE&I
- identify the objective
- write a thesis and find supporting arguments
- outline the structure of the essay
- write the main body
- put conclusions and introduction together
However, most of the subtasks above are still not clear enough. So you break them into smaller ones still. For example, “do the research on DEI&I” can be split into:
- find the list of at least 10 up-to-date studies on the topic
- skim through them to get the general idea
- take notes of your main findings and how you can use them to support your thesis statement
- study the most relevant papers in detail
7.Specify the task and give more details to it
Sometimes, it’s not enough to just split the tasks because they still seem opaque. It gets much easier when you understand what exactly you need to do. Instead of ‘read about climate change” think of the task as “read a chapter about rising sea level in X’s book.” You can also add the time frame you want to do it: ‘tomorrow at 1-2 pm’. Such details don’t let your brain wander and stress out about the broad and vague task. Eliminate all the unclear parts and fill the gaps by specifying the assignment. At first, it may seem that you’re overdoing it, and it takes the precious time you should be spending on the task itself.
8.Find a friend that will hold you accountable
That’s just how our life works! Finding an impartial person, you can report to, is how to avoid procrastination at college. Think about this principle – we have teachers at school and then managers we report to at work. When you know there’s another person expecting you to do the task, you will have no choice. You can’t bother your professor every other day with your small steps like “I read X’s article”, “I found two arguments supporting my thesis.” They don’t necessarily need to know your topic well – general understanding is enough for them to understand how far you are advanced with the research. You can’t back out or slough it off. As a bonus, they will celebrate your victories, big or small, with you.
Most experts agree that our productivity is at peak when we work 50-90 minutes, with breaks in between the focus time slots. So concentrate on your task for the assigned period of time and then make a cup of coffee or tea, meditate, stretch your body or call your mom. Anything that helps your brain recharge and have some rest. Otherwise, your brain will get tired too quickly.
You don’t necessarily need to buy a chocolate bar to reward yourself for a nice paragraph. Try simple things that make you happy. Just make sure you don’t end up constantly regarding yourself like, “If I work on this assignment for an hour, I’ll binge my favorite TV show for two. That’s not how procrastination is supposed to be avoided.
You might not have felt any negative influence of procrastination on your health and well-being, but it’s incremental. So follow the tips to stop procrastinating above to not only improve your grades but to feel better and become more productive and disciplined in general, not just in college. The healthier you are, the better your results can be, so make sure you take care of yourself first. Don’t forget that it’s your self-critical thoughts about the looming deadline and your failure to start doing the assignment on time that cause stress. Target them by appreciating the experience and learning from mistakes. Sometimes the key is to stop blaming yourself and accept the situation as it is – that’s what can help you appreciate the experience, learn from mistakes, and transform them into different behavior.