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How Students Can Break the Habit of Procrastination

Published on 9/12/2022 8:54:01 AM
By Sydnie Harrell, Office of Undergraduate Studies at Texas A&M University

Procrastination has infiltrated everyone’s lives at some point or another, and college students are no exception. To help students at Texas A&M break the habit of procrastination, Academic Coach Brittney Oliver talks about some of the reasons students delay tasks and ways they can shift the pattern.
 
Oliver, who is also a certified learning specialist and teacher of “BTHO Procrastination,” an Academic Success Center (ASC) workshop series, says the first step students should take when addressing their habit of procrastinating is self-knowledge.
 
“If you're not getting started on something, is it because you just don't know what to do, or you're doubting yourself?” Oliver said. Students should “be honest with themselves as to why they are procrastinating and see what the root issue is. Then, from there, let’s address it.”
 
Because procrastination is a complex set of actions that varies from person to person, Oliver lists several general reasons students may procrastinate and suggests how to address each one individually.
 

General Causes & Suggested Solutions

 
  • Cause → Negative Feelings: Sometimes, thinking about a task can cause students to feel overwhelmed, anxious, doubtful, bored and frustrated. If a student doesn’t know how to manage these moods, they may turn to procrastination for a temporary solution.
    • Solution → Mindset: “I would honestly ask… ‘well why are you here?’” Oliver said. “If you’re a college student, you need to know why you're here and why you're doing what you're doing. You need to have some sort of greater purpose behind your goal.”
  • Cause → Decision Paralysis: This is when students feel like they can’t work on a task because they don’t know where to begin. Issues with decision paralysis can stem from having a fear of failure, wanting to achieve perfectionism and seeing a task as one big obstacle instead of manageable pieces.
    • Solution → Organization & Time Management: “At a minimum students should have some sort of calendar which indicates important dates for each class, such as exams, assignments, papers, projects, etc.,” Oliver said. “I also suggest that students have a more day-to-day time management plan as well. The ASC has “handout[s] called ‘The Semester at a Glance’ [and] ‘Fixed Commitment Calendar’ [that] help students determine what they should be working on on a daily basis.”
  • Cause → Learning Barriers: This can be a physical barrier, like a distracting environment, or a psychological barrier, like a learning disability or a mental health issue. Students may also have learning barriers if they don’t possess the skills or knowledge needed to complete the task at hand.
    • Solution → Environment & Resources: “I think everybody needs to pay attention to where… they study best and try to get themselves in that environment,” Oliver said. “If they're procrastinating because of… the subject or they just don't know how to do it, then tutoring would be necessary.” Students can also visit “Counseling and Psychological Services, if that’s necessary, [and] Disability Resources.”
  • Cause → Lack of Self-Control: Some students put off a task simply because they rather do something that brings them immediate gratification or because they’re lazy. A lack of self-control can also include students who wait to start something until the last minute because they claim to work better under pressure.
    • Solution → Develop Willpower: “Willpower is doing things that you don't necessarily want to do, but you know you need to do them,” Oliver said. “You need to push past that feeling of not wanting to do it and do it anyway.”
 
For additional tips and to better understand how to develop willpower, Oliver recommends that students read “The Willpower Instinct” by Kelly McGonigal. Students can also register to attend “BTHO Procrastination” and watch the ASC video “Stop Procrastinating” to learn more about breaking the habit of procrastination.

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Media Contact: Anna Transue, transuea@tamu.edu