The Iglu Guide | Blog

How to deal with procrastination as a student

Do you find yourself avoiding those difficult tasks hanging around on your to-do list? If you’re the type of student that would rather clean their room or alphabetise the entire student library before tackling a set project, you’re certainly not alone. Procrastination is a surprisingly common behaviour trait, and we’re all guilty of it in different ways, for different reasons. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lazy, or not up to the job – it’s simply human nature to avoid anything we consider mildly less than enjoyable. However, the problem with consistent procrastination is that it can lead to some really negative consequences such as under performance, poor time management skills and missed opportunities – as well as increasing anxiety and stress. If you want to benefit from greater productivity and success, these 8 strategies will help you stop any procrastination in its tracks.

1. Understand the cause

As humans, we tend to focus on living in the moment and enjoying the good times. If it’s something we actually want to do, procrastination is rarely an issue. But when it comes to tackling tasks that don’t necessarily add to the here and now, avoidance and delay tactics are a much more attractive prospect. Procrastination can manifest in many different forms, and may be triggered by different scenarios. Understanding the type of procrastination that you suffer from can help when trying to identify specific strategies that can effectively address the issue. Here are some of the most common types:

  • Deadline procrastination – A classic student scenario, often confused with a belief that better work is achieved under pressure. Can lead to low quality output and high stress.
  • Decisional procrastination – Delaying choices through fear of choosing the wrong one, such as with course topics or student accommodation options.
  • Perfectionism – A fear of not meeting your own high standards, leading to consistent procrastination and avoidance.
  • Task avoidance – Refusal to engage with any material that does not interest or challenge.
  • Fear-based procrastination – Stemming from a deep-rooted fear of criticism or failure.
  • Disorganisation – Chronic procrastination that involves consistently postponing tasks across all aspects of life which can impact academic success.

2. Schedule your time

Once you have identified the type of procrastination that applies to you, it’s time to find ways to address the issue. Timekeeping is something that most students struggle with at some point, and it can be a challenge learning to balance social, academic and practical needs.  Procrastinators thrive on a free schedule, as there are so many opportunities to ignore what really needs to get done. Try creating a study schedule that takes full control of your availability, as this will help manage your time more effectively – and minimise any opportunity for procrastination. A personalised routine that that works around your individual needs will keep you well organised and accountable. It also helps you identify where the obstacles or distractions might be, and give you the opportunity to find strategies to overcome them.

3. Break the task down

Procrastination can often arise when you feel overwhelmed by a task or not good enough to fulfil against it, especially if it seems particularly vast and complex. Breaking it down into smaller steps can help it seem much less daunting – and far more achievable. It allows you to focus on progressing through one step at a time as you make your way towards your larger goal, a strategy which also creates momentum and motivation. Create your own mini deadlines that keep you well on track. This also gives you the option to discuss any potential roadblocks or challenges with your peers or tutors well in advance of any deadlines. Progress is the best way to stay motivated, and the more you persevere the more motivated you will be to continue.

4. Set clear goals

Clarity is key for procrastinators, as they will use any possible loophole as an opportunity to down tools, and turn their attention away to something else. If you feel like you are under achieving as a result of procrastination tactics, try setting yourself some clear goals that are specific and achievable. These work by using slow productivity and gradual progress to achieve long-term milestones. Try to avoid creating goals that are too vague or distant, such as ‘making it through exams’ or ‘finishing my project’. Break everything down into palatable chunks that all ladder up to your overarching goal, and create a realistic timeline. This strategy will also help improve your confidence for future tasks. And for all the perfectionists out there, aim for progress rather than perfect.

5. Use specific techniques

Once you know what makes you procrastinate, you can use strategies that are specific to your needs. It might be that you draw on a range of techniques to keep you focused and on track. These might include:

Time management techniques – The Pomodoro technique breaks your study sessions into 25 minutes sections, with a five-minute break in between, and a longer break after every four. Some students use ‘time blocking’ to allocate certain amounts of time to particular subjects, which helps create a clear structure for the day. The Eisenhower matrix divides tasks into categories of urgent and important to help clearly identify priorities.

Wellbeing techniquesHealthy eating and regular exercise are known to positively impact your academic performance. If you’re not feeling on top of the world, you’re less likely to have the right attitude towards your work. Find the personal wellbeing strategy that works for you.

Study at the right time – The school schedule is responsible for making us all feel like we should be up working at our desks by 9am. Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, find out when you’re at your most optimal and create a personalised routine around it.

Find the right environment – Experiment with your workspace and see what suits you best – it might be your bedroom, the library, a private study room or even the park.

6. Be accountable

Accountability is about having a sense of responsibility, and delivering to agreed deadlines. Sharing your goals with a trusted group means you are consciously taking on that role and are more likely to achieve the task. Knowing that others are aware of your responsibility minimises the likelihood of procrastination and gives you greater motivation to succeed.

7. Eliminate distractions

This is a no-brainer for all procrastinators out there. Minimise the opportunity to get distracted by removing all access to screens while you are working. Either put your phone or tablet in another room, or use an app to disable online access. And it’s not just about the virtual world, as real people can also be a huge distraction. Make a sign for your door that lets others know when you are studying and reward yourself with some socialising in your breaks.

8. Don’t forget to take breaks

Working non-stop is not the perfect antidote to procrastination. In fact, taking regular breaks is crucial to maintaining enough productivity and focus. When you are working within a set study schedule, breaks are an important part of that process. And when you do take some allocated time out, try and get away from screens and your study environment and out into the fresh air. This will rejuvenate your mind and thought processes in time for the next session.

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