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Minnesota State University, Mankato

Minnesota State University, Mankato

Dealing with Procrastination

Page address: http://www.mnsu.edu/counseling/students/procrastination.html

Dealing with Procrastination

Do you routinely:

  • underestimate how long it will take for you to write a paper or complete your chemistry homework, and end up scrambling at the last minute to get it done
  • clean your apartment or bake cookies instead of studying for midterms?
  • allow yourself to watch "just one more TV show" and then study for that quiz?
  • tell yourself that you can study tomorrow and decide to go out with friends instead?

If you answered yes to these questions, you may be suffering from procrastination. Procrastination can be caused by several factors. Poor time management can significantly contribute to not getting a task done on time, especially when the time necessary to complete a task has been underestimated. With big papers or assignments, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Not knowing where to begin because you can't decide where to start can make it difficult to feel motivated to begin working on a project. Being perfectionist or setting your standards too high can also lead to procrastination; if you are constantly worried about making mistakes or are over-concerning yourself with creating a flawless product, you may be discouraged to work on it. Ambiguity can also contribute to procrastination. Whether you do not understand the physics assignment or have never written a research paper before, not knowing what is expected of you may cause your motivation to decrease.

Here are some ways to combat procrastination:

  • Manage your time wisely: think about how long it will take you to complete a task, and plan your time accordingly. It is better to overestimate the time you will need and get done early than to underestimate how long the task will take. If you figure your chemistry lab will take you 4 hours to complete, make sure you create 4 hours of time in your schedule to work on it - don't try to squeeze it in when you are otherwise busy.
  • Ask about projects you are having difficulty understanding: if you are having trouble deciding how you should proceed with an assignment, talk to your professor about it. You may also consider discussing the assignment with classmates, or asking your roommate to read the guidelines to see what their take is on it. The more you know about what is expected of you, the easier it will be to start and complete a task.
  • Remember that perfection is unattainable: setting unrealistic goals for yourself will only hinder your motivation. It may help to concentrate on finishing a "rough draft" that you can then review for mistakes instead of trying to first come up with the final copy first.
  • Divide the task or project into smaller steps: this is especially helpful for large projects. Smaller projects are easier to complete, and many people find they have a lot more motivation to work on three small things than one large thing. Dividing a project into smaller tasks makes it easier to figure how much time you will need to complete the entire thing.
  • Set reasonable and realistic goals for yourself: don't assume that you will be able to read all 15 chapters of your economics textbook the night before the exam. Instead, read a few chapters at a time to allow yourself to better understand the material and get a better grasp on the chapters to come.
  • Remember to take breaks: work for a few hours, and take a 15 minute break before returning to your project. Don't try to finish a 10 page research project in 6 hours straight. Schedule time to relax. Talk a walk, watch TV, listen to music, or do something else for 15 minutes to give your brain a break.
  • Reward yourself for even small accomplishments: this is especially true for larger projects. As you complete parts of your project, reward yourself before resuming the rest of it.

People tend to procrastinate for different reasons. If you are having difficulty with a large assignment because it feels overwhelming, you may be most helped by dividing it up into smaller pieces. If you find that you tend to save all your reading until the night before the exam, you may have the most success with practicing good time management and remembering to take breaks. You may want to try several of the techniques listed above and discover which ones work best for you.