You knew about the paper for your history class two weeks before the deadline, but you didn’t start it until the night before it was due. There was really no way you could have begun earlier – not with the labs for your science class, your big stats test, and all the reading you’ve had to do lately. Sure, things got a little rushed: doing all your research online at 11pm wasn’t ideal. And maybe you didn’t proofread as carefully as you might have. But you got a B- on the essay; that proves you work well under pressure, right?
Many college students admit they procrastinate. Some wish they could conquer this tendency; others don’t perceive it as a problem. However, putting off assignments and study sessions can make you more anxious and less effective. If you’re rushed, you won’t work as carefully, and you will make more mistakes. Had you put more time into that history paper, that B- could have become a B, B+, even an A.
So if procrastinating is such a bad idea, why do so many students – and professionals – do it? Think about why you saved the green beans or mushrooms for last when you were a kid. Part of you hoped they would go away or at least become tastier by the end of the meal. But you finished the rest of your dinner, and there they were: colder and more unappetizing than ever.
By saving them for last, you didn’t make them disappear. You made them worse.
No matter how much you want to change, altering your habits can be hard. Here are some tips to help you overcome your procrastinating tendencies:
- Talk yourself through it. Every time you’re tempted to delay an assignment, tell yourself that putting it off will only make it more difficult – and make you more stressed.
- If you need help, get it. It’s tempting to put aside what we find difficult. If you’re struggling with an assignment or course material, meet with your professor, join a study group, or use the tutoring services at Academic Support.
- Break it up! Too many students try to complete essays and projects in one sitting. The next time you receive a large assignment, try dividing it into multiple smaller tasks. For example, if you write an essay, you might brainstorm and create an outline one day, compose a rough draft the next, and revise your paper the day after that.
- Celebrate each success. Change is difficult. Everyone who’s overcome a weakness knows that. (And that includes all of us!) Accept you will slip up occasionally, and reward yourself when you succeed. Indulge in a cupcake, meet up with a friend, or relax with a favorite book or movie.
As you change your approach to your academic work, you’ll find yourself replacing your procrastinating habit with a planning one. And as you become better at organizing your assignments, you’ll find yourself with less stress – and more time for the things you enjoy!
-Dorothy A. Dahm