Procrastination is the bane of most, if not all, college students. By the time we reach college, many of us are already experts at avoiding the inevitable. “Oh, we’ll get to it,” we say. And most of us do. We get it done, but not without a constant and looming pressure that builds until, the night before, we cram, sometimes all night long, to finish. The result? Seldom our best work. Was it worth it? Not a chance. So why do we procrastinate over and over again?
The reasons we procrastinate are easy to identify. We might feel overwhelmed by the task, or we may be perfectionists, or maybe we get distracted easily, or perhaps we are just plain lazy. Whatever the reason, the fact remains: procrastination creates more stress in our lives, and never yields our best results.
Since the demands placed on first-year college students are high, it is important to enter college knowing, first of all, that procrastination can severely hinder your academic performance. This is true in school as well as in life. With this in mind, it is essential to have a realistic game plan for overcoming procrastination in college. Here are some helpful tips once that first big project is assigned:
Assess the Task. Spend a few minutes thinking through everything that needs to be done, then, if possible, segment the task into various smaller pieces. It’s much easier to tackle smaller chunks than one huge task.
“Once begun, it’s half done.” Yes, a cliché inspirational poster quote, but quite true. Don’t shoot for completion in one sitting. This will overwhelm you every time. Just begin. Getting started is the key, and incremental progress will follow.
Schedule “Action Sessions.” Progress, even a little bit each day, adds up, and over time increases your confidence that you can, that you will, finish. Schedule 15- to 30-minute “action sessions” with realistic goals in mind, and set your mind to completing these goals.
Eliminate Distractions. Find a quiet place, and try to make your “action sessions” count, all 15-30 minutes of them (or whatever amount of time you designate).
Reward Yourself. This can help seemingly painful projects become more pleasurable. After completing an “action session,” take a nap, buy a latte, call a friend, round up a game of ultimate Frisbee. The point is to have something to look forward to, so that you begin to associate hard work at school with pleasure.
Find a (Good) Study Partner. And not just anyone, either. Find someone that cares about their performance even more than you do. The old adage, “If you want to be a good student, hang out with good students,” is not only true, but imperative.
Be Reasonable. Don’t beat yourself up about getting everything perfect. Remember, you will take on—and likely complete—hundreds, possibly thousands, of projects throughout your college career. The goal of making every one of them perfect is not only impossible, but silly. Remember, it’s more important that every project gets finished, not that every project be perfect.