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Post University Blog

Preparing to start college? If so, you must stay as motivated and focused as possible to get through your degree program. No matter what course of study you plan on taking, college is a full-time commitment with little room for distractions or poor time management skills.

However, if you are like many people, you may struggle with procrastination. Studies have shown that about half of all college students are considered “chronic procrastinators.” Unfortunately, procrastination can have a seriously detrimental effect on your college experience and may even make it difficult to complete your program.

So, what exactly is procrastination, and what can you do to avoid it? We have some helpful tips, tricks, and insights to help you overcome the urge to procrastinate and, in turn, prepare you for success.

What Is Procrastination?

Procrastination is a delay in taking action on something that needs to be done. This often results in waiting until the last moment to complete the task, thus being rushed. Unfortunately, procrastination is prevalent in all aspects of life, from staying on top of everyday household chores to keeping up with schoolwork.

The problem with procrastination, of course, is that it causes unnecessary stress. When something is put off until the very last second, you may be left with no choice but to rush through the task to complete it by the deadline, affecting the quality of your work.

Why Do College Students Procrastinate?

While everyone has given in to the urge to procrastinate at some point, college students may be especially prone to it—and for several reasons. For starters, many college students have multiple obligations at any given time, such as sports, jobs, and social commitments. All these responsibilities can add up, to the point that they feel insurmountable or impossible to complete, leading to procrastination.

In other cases, students may procrastinate because they overestimate how much time they must complete specific tasks or they underestimate how long a task will take. Especially for college students straight out of high school, this is the first time they are having to juggle so many chores and tasks on their own without a structured environment. From their mom doing their laundry for them to their dad always bringing them to their appointments, many young adults have not had to manage their time “solo” before, and the learning curve is sharper for some than others.

Another common mistake college students make that leads to procrastination is assuming that they need to be in the “right” mindset or that the conditions must be just so to complete a task. These are justifications for why we are choosing to put off doing a task. The conditions will never be perfect – so get to work.

In addition to these common everyday causes of procrastination, students may also procrastinate when they are living with a mental health disorder, such as:

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Tips to Stop Procrastination

If you are struggling with procrastination and suspect it may be related to a mental health disorder, seeking professional help and guidance is crucial. For everyday procrastination, however, some practical tips and tricks can help you overcome this obstacle and put your best foot forward.

Admitting and Acknowledging Procrastination

Start by being more mindful of your procrastination – and how and why it occurs. All too often, college students fail even to acknowledge that they are procrastinating. Unfortunately, you cannot expect to correct or overcome this behavior if you do not admit it is a problem.

The next time you find yourself putting off a task, focus on what is causing the procrastination. Are you simply feeling too overwhelmed to take the first step? Have you fallen into perfectionist thinking patterns that prevent you from completing a task? Identifying the root of your procrastination will help you overcome whatever you are grappling with.

Low Motivation: Remembering Your “Why”

A general lack of motivation is one of the most common causes of procrastination among college students. With potentially years of projects to complete and exams to study for ahead of you, it can sometimes be challenging to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. For example, you may have difficulty feeling motivated to write a research paper on a topic that does not interest you.

This is where it can be helpful to reflect upon your “why.” What was your reason for enrolling in your program in the first place? While not every aspect of your course of study may fascinate you, the reality is that each assignment you complete, and exam you pass brings you one step closer to completing your degree program and embarking on your career. When you are feeling unmotivated, and the urge to procrastinate is vital, remember why you are here in the first place. From there, you may have an easier time finding your motivation.

Optimizing Your Study Environment

Many cases of procrastination in college students can also be improved with the right environment. This is especially true when it comes to studying and completing schoolwork. If you do not already have a dedicated space you can rely on for quiet and focused study, now is the time to prioritize this.

Your study environment can significantly impact your ability to focus and your overall energy and motivation levels. When you lack a reliable place where you can complete your work, you may be more likely to procrastinate. Try setting up an organized space at your desk that will encourage you to get your work done. Should your home environment not allow for a dedicated study space, you might consider setting up at your campus library or another quiet location.

Eliminating Distractions for Effective Studying

Speaking of effective studying, it is also essential to avoid unnecessary distractions if you want to overcome procrastination in college. Common distractions include cell phones and television screens to social media and loud neighbors. If you find yourself having difficulty focusing, note what is bothering you or keeping you from getting your work done. Then, do what you can to eliminate those distractions.

Do you find yourself aimlessly scrolling on social media when you should be studying?  Try shutting your phone off or temporarily disabling your social media apps during certain times of the day you dedicate to your coursework. Many college students also find that listening to white noise or relaxing music can help them focus on their tasks better, so experiment to see what works best for them.

Setting Realistic and Attainable Goals

All too often, procrastination is fueled by perfectionism. You may think that you cannot get started on a research project because you have not yet brainstormed the perfect topic. Perhaps the pressure you place upon yourself to get a good grade is so high that it starts to feel overwhelming, so you avoid thinking about it entirely.

In these cases, overcoming procrastination requires setting more realistic and attainable goals for yourself. Rather than waiting until the conditions are “just right” to tackle a task on your list, acknowledge that it is better to hold yourself to more realistic standards and forge onward—even if every detail is imperfect.

Experimenting With Time Management Techniques

There are all kinds of tried-and-true time management strategies out there. Take some time to research and experiment with a few of them to see which ones work best for your needs. The right time management strategy will allow you to avoid or overcome procrastination while effectively using your time.

The Pomodoro Technique, for example, is a popular time management strategy among college students. With this technique, you set a timer to focus entirely on one task for 25 minutes at a time, followed by a five-minute break. You can repeat your focus/break timers until the task is complete. This can be a great way to boost your productivity while still enjoying regular breaks.

Collaborating With Study Groups for Productive Learning

When you are struggling with procrastination, there is a good chance you are not alone. In many cases, setting up a study group can be a great way to overcome procrastination and better focus on your studies. This can be especially helpful if you need help with focusing on a specific class. Consider reaching out to some of your classmates and seeing who may be interested in meeting once a week (whether in person or in a virtual format) to study or work on projects together. A study group can create a sense of accountability that can work wonders for your productivity. Plus, you might make some new friends in the process!

Implementing Reward Systems to Stay Motivated

Sometimes, even the smallest rewards can make all the difference in staying on top of your coursework. Feel free to set up small reward systems to keep yourself motivated. This might be as small as allowing yourself to watch an episode of your favorite television show after completing an assignment or even spending an evening out with friends after an afternoon of studying.

Taking Breaks to Avoid Burnout

Much of avoiding procrastination is simply having the self-control to avoid distractions and keep moving forward with your tasks, even when you may not feel like it. At the same time, it is essential to give yourself occasional breaks to avoid burnout. Unfortunately, burnout is very common among college students—with up to 40 percent of surveyed students reporting that they have been overwhelmed to the point of being unable to function.

One of the best ways to avoid burnout in your college program is to ensure you are working plenty of breaks into your studies. For instance, if you know you will be spending much of a day doing schoolwork, be sure to build a break into your day of at least an hour or two. Likewise, if you are going to have a demanding week, try to avoid making big weekend plans so that you have an opportunity to relax and recharge.

Building Accountability and Responsibility

Take measures to build your sense of accountability and responsibility, such as creating a weekly to-do list and tracking important tasks (along with deadlines and due dates) in a planner. This, in addition to creating and sticking to a consistent schedule, can go a long way toward boosting accountability and getting more done.

Managing Stress

Stress can breed procrastination, especially when you have too much on your plate. Find healthy ways to manage your stress so that you can function well in school and other areas of your life. Some healthy coping mechanisms for stress include exercise, yoga, breathing exercises, or even spending time in nature. Likewise, it is vital to recognize the signs of stress and how they manifest themselves in your life so you can work to manage them better.

Get the Ball Rolling on Your College Experience

Overcoming procrastination is something that most college students struggle with at some point during their educational journey. The good news? With these tips to stop procrastinating, you can keep yourself motivated, accountable, and on track with your studies. Long after you graduate, these procrastination tips will continue to prove invaluable.

Looking for more resources to help you improve your time management or overcome other challenges in your life? Post University’s Mental Health and Wellness Services are here to help. Students are welcome to visit our newly renovated location on the first floor of North Hall in Room 16 or reach out to the Student Online Assistance Resource (SOAR) team for off-campus support.