Are you reading this while something more important is waiting for you? A school assignment, a work project, or any mundane chore can pull us down a rabbit hole of procrastination. We know the consequences of delaying important tasks, yet many of us find ourselves unable to break the cycle. The habit of procrastination is an easy one to develop in college; your course load can be extensive, while the college atmosphere may offer convenient distractions. Unfortunately, being able to recognize bad habits isn’t always enough to break them. The good news is the road to overcome procrastination as a college student can be a short one by adopting five simple habits.
1. Customize your routine
Evaluate your current and previous routines for completing academic tasks, and decide what methods were most and least effective. Were you more likely to experience motivation in the evening after unwinding or first thing when you woke up? Did you get tasks done more effectively by yourself or in a public setting where you couldn’t be tempted by leisurely activities? Did listening to music during assignments help you maintain focus, or did you find your mind wandering mid-task? Examine the current timeframe, setting, and details of how you completed coursework and where you often became enabled to procrastinate. Delaying a task is often due to being anxious or overwhelmed by the responsibility of completing it. Customizing an effective routine for yourself will allow future tasks to feel less daunting to take on.
2. Minimalize your work space
You may have to alter your current work setting to eliminate distractions. Do you often complete assignments with your cell phone next to you? If you’re working on a computer, do you usually have other browser windows open that are unrelated to your assignment? Is Netflix usually playing in the background? While these may seem like minor interferences, it’s easy for a 30-second phone check to evolve into a 30-minute scrolling session. After determining what physical setting you work best in (be it your personal desk, the school library, or someplace else), challenge yourself to give an assignment your undivided attention—close unnecessary window tabs, put your phone on silent, and save the next episode as a reward for later. Being mindful of distractions, even subtle ones, will help secure your focus and won’t feed procrastination.
3. Prep beforehand
We often use our basic needs (hunger, thirst, sleep) as an excuse to procrastinate. It’s best to try to take care of these needs before taking on an assignment. Being comfortable is essential to keeping focus, and it will curb any itch to pardon yourself from doing work. Before starting an assignment, see that you’ve eaten, hydrated, used the restroom, napped, showered, changed into comfortable clothing, etc. Prepare yourself before taking on an assignment—that way you won’t be able to use an unnecessary excuse to delay it.
4. Monitor your breaks
Study breaks are healthy and should be taken a needed. Taking short breaks in between studying has even been proven to strengthen memorization. However, taking excessive or prolonged breaks can often serve as a window to procrastinate. Customizing a routine for how you take your breaks can be equally beneficial as your work regimen. Utilize the alarm system on your phone to set a time for breaks and their duration. If the likelihood of you going outside the time frame seems high, label your alarms with a motivational reminder as to why you need to finish and what you’ll gain from it. For example, if you’re halfway through an essay that’s 30% of your overall grade, you can label the alarm as “30 Percent” or “Almost to an A.”
5. Reward yourself
The finished product of an assignment can seem far away, and the feeling alone is often why we procrastinate. However, being able to turn in hard work is one of the most satisfying aspects of being a college student. Be sure to reward yourself routinely as you power through strenuous coursework. After completing an assignment, follow up with leisure activities like catching up on your favorite TV show or hanging out with friends. Knowing you have a treat in store for yourself after completing an assignment will lessen the need to procrastinate in the first place.
We’ve all succumbed to procrastination at one point or another—you’re not alone in feeling like you want to put your work off because there’s just too much of it. But there are habits you can develop to avoid procrastination and make your work feel less overwhelming. Try out this advice to get yourself back on track and succeed this semester.
You can find more helpful study tips and ways to make academics more enjoyable in our Majors and Academics section.