Overcoming Procrastination

It’s 11 p.m. Your favourite movie is playing on TV, your roommate is ordering a pizza, and your best friend has just uploaded a photo album from last weekend’s house party onto Facebook. All of this would be great, if not for the 1,500-word essay that just happens to be due in 12 hours.

Procrastination can be a serious problem for first- and second-year students in college and university, who may be accustomed to putting things off until the last minute. The fact is, it’s pretty easy to get away with lazy behaviour in high school. You’re not in high school anymore, though—this is your post-secondary education, you are paying a lot of money to be here, and you can’t afford to slack off. Below, I have outlined a few tips on how someone prone to procrastination can get an assignment done on time.

1) Write some ideas down as soon as possible.

This may be easier said than done, but try starting an assignment a few weeks before the due date, even if you just end up jotting down a couple of rough sentences. Getting started is the hardest part of any project, so why not give yourself a leg up? This way, when the due date looms on the horizon you will at least have a starting point to work from. Nobody likes the unpleasant feeling that accompanies staring at a blank Word document while wondering how to start a piece, so there is no sense putting yourself through this torment the night before an assignment is due.

2) Weigh the importance of the task at hand.

Smaller exercises or weekly tasks can sometimes be left until the night before, since these require far less preparation and exertion than a longer essay. However, if the assignment is worth 25 percent of your grade or more, you seriously need to get your act together! This is no small exercise you are procrastinating on; if you do poorly on this assignment, your overall mark in the course will greatly suffer, and you will have to work even harder to make up for it later on. It may seem like common sense, but reminding yourself of this will motivate you to start working sooner, rather than later.

3) Cut out as many distractions as you can.

Tell your roommates that you need a few hours of quiet time to work on something important. Once this is done, lock yourself in your room and put on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. If you don’t have a pair, buy some. Preferably, listen to music that doesn’t have any vocals/lyrics as this could distract you from your work; I recommend something monotonous and repetitive, like progressive trance. Switch your phone to silent mode, and turn off all push notifications if you have a smart phone (you won’t get a whole lot done if your iPhone is going off every 10 minutes).

If you can do all of these things, and are motivated enough to keep pushing forward until the first draft of your assignment is complete, you are well on your way to overcoming procrastination!

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