Procrastination: 4 Tips How To Stop
Last week Drexel University welcomed its newest class of freshman, and in between campus tours and ice-breakers, Drexel staff offered some tips on how to avoid a problem shared by on campus and online students alike: procrastination.
Online students aren’t any less susceptible to procrastination than Drexel’s new on campus freshman. In fact, online students have even more reasons to put off getting to their classwork. Important meetings, kids’ soccer games, family vacations…by the time you’ve listed all of your possible distractions, you could have finished your homework.
“Procrastination is a very common issue,” says Lindsay Matias, Assistant Director of the Center for Learning and Academic Success Services on Drexel University’s Center City Campus, who lead the procrastination presentation. “Some studies indicate that 20% of adults are chronic procrastinators. For students, the rate of procrastination may be even higher.”
While not every student may consider themselves a chronic procrastinator, there’s no shame in admitting that you’ve been guilty of procrastinating a few times in your life. An online student’s ability to juggle their busy lives with their studies is part of what makes them a particularly fearsome breed of Drexel Dragon. But even the mightiest dragons can use a little bit of help. Luckily, Matias shared the following tips for cutting back on procrastination. So the next time you find yourself avoiding your schoolwork, give these methods a try.
1. Make a Decision
Knowing where to start studying or how to begin tackling a paper can be a daunting task. “Making a decision can be intimidating or anxiety-inducing,” says Matias. “Deciding to do one thing sometimes means that you are choosing not to do something else. That can result in fear of making the incorrect choice or of missing out on something.” When you have a mountain of materials in front of you, how do you know the perfect way to approach the problem? The unfortunate answer: the perfect approach doesn’t exist. Worse, holding out for the elusive perfect approach will cost you the time and energy that could have been put towards completing your task. So, just pick a point and get started. It may not be the perfect point, but remember, doing something is always better than doing nothing.
2. Stop Planning and Get to Work
Having a plan is great, and creating that plan can help you get focused and clearly visualize how you’re going to tackle your project. But sometimes it’s easy to get so wrapped up in planning your project that you don’t realize that planning has become procrastination. “Planning every detail of a project in advance can feel productive but often isn't practical—it's hard to know exactly what will need to be done until the project is started. Spending too much time planning can take away from the time you have to complete the task,” Matias explains. When writing your outline crosses the line between being a helpful tool and a distraction, it’s time to stop planning and start working. After all, your professor isn’t going to be impressed by a perfectly planned project if you don’t actually manage to get the project finished!
3. Reduce Tasks into Smaller Chunks
So you’ve picked a topic, finished planning, and are now ready to get started. Procrastination over, right? Wrong! Just because you think you’re mentally prepared to crush this project doesn’t mean your instinct to procrastinate won’t rear its ugly head once you see how much work you have to do. To avoid procrastination and make your workload more manageable, reduce your tasks to smaller chunks. “Breaking something large into smaller chunks makes it seem less intimidating and more manageable. It also gives you small victories along the way each time you accomplish a piece of the project—this can help keep your motivation level up,” Matias says.
4. Monitor Your Progress by Using Self-Regulation
The key to avoiding procrastination may be in your hands: make sure to hold yourself responsible for your schoolwork. “Accountability is a technique that many students use to help themselves beat procrastination,” Matias advises. “You might try writing down your goals somewhere where you will see them often—that way you can't forget them or let them fall off your radar. Being accountable to others can also help. If you are procrastinating studying for an exam, putting together a study group might be helpful because you won't want to let down the people you are working with.” So get your family, friends and classmates involved; the more people there are to hold you accountable, the more likely you are to actually get your work finished.