Everyone has some experience with procrastination. You may have found yourself putting aside homework—or any other projects—to do things like update your Facebook page, chat with friends, or watch Netflix. As high school sophomore Hannah Young said, “I’d rather do things that I like, like watch TV, sleep, or read a book.” Basically, pretty much anything but what you should have been spending your time on. To some, procrastination may be a minor problem, but to others it can be a major source of stress and anxiety. It is common for anyone to be furiously working on a project late into the night, wondering why in the world they started working on the project at the last minute — because a powering through homework fueled only by caffeine all night is not fun.
Why do we procrastinate?
At some point in life, everyone has put off something important in order to do other trivial activities, but procrastination is most common in students. According to the World Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, an estimated 25 to 75 percent of college students procrastinate on academic work . In 2007, a study published in Psychological Bulletin by psychologist Piers Steel found that a grand total of 80 to 95 percent of college students procrastinated on a regular basis, especially regarding school assignments. Despite stress, lack of sleep, and inefficiency, students regularly procrastinate. Why?
One reason is that people, especially students, tend to overestimate how much time they have to perform a task. “I think that I have a lot of time to do something so I can relax for an hour,” Lisa Alvarez, 15, said, “But it ends up becoming longer than that.”
Remember that time it felt like you had a week to do a project when it was really due the next day?
Another factor that leads to procrastination is the mentality that you will be more motivated in the future instead of at the present moment, which means that at moment you don’t have the motivation or the right motivation or mindset to work on anything. People mistakenly believe that in order to work on something they need to be in the right mood.
“I procrastinate because I have no motivation to get [work] done then and there,” Mackenzie Henson, 16, said. Sadly, the truth is that if you wait to get the right frame of mind to work on something, especially something you dread, the task will most likely never get completed. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to go to sleep and wake up to find the task completed– if only!
The negative effects of procrastination
Working on something you don’t want to do can be tiring and annoying, so it can be considered natural to want to delay that as much as possible. In the long-term, procrastination is harmful. Researchers, Dianne M. Tice and Roy F. Baumeister, found in a 2007 study that by the end of a school term, students who procrastinated had higher levels of stress and illness than at the beginning of the school term. Psychologists also reported that the students who procrastinated had lower grades than those who didn’t procrastinate. For example, Lisa Alvarez, 16, said that “my worst experience with procrastination was probably when I did everything I could to not do my homework. So I didn’t do any homework that day, and the next day I was completely lost in school with my classes.”
Procrastination also puts a strain on one’s social life. If you procrastinate regularly, if you constantly turn in projects late or scramble to get them done until the last minute, then friends, family, and coworkers may stop depending on you. Not only does procrastination place a burden on yourself, it places a burden on others!
How to stop procrastinating
While there’s nothing wrong with procrastinating every once in a while, procrastinating often leads to more harm than good. And the key to stop procrastinating is self-control and managing your time well. Evaluate your priorities—make a list if it helps—and focus on the more important tasks no matter how motivated you are. “I beat procrastination by prioritizing” should be your mantra! Try to reduce the amount of time you spend on things like aimlessly surfing the internet or watching too much tv. Psychology expert Kendra Cherry writes, “A couple hours sifting through junk email, several hours watching television shows that you don’t even like, a few more hours playing games on Facebook—it all adds up quite quickly.”
Remove yourself from any distractions, like electronics, books, people, etc., and work on the task step-by-step. Establishing a schedule also helps. As Hannah Young says, “Try studying in little pieces during the days leading up to the big exam.” Spreading out time dedicated to a project throughout the week will lead to being more relaxed and less stressed. Knowing that you have most of the work done (if not all of the work) by the time the deadline comes is a huge stress reliever. Plus, the more you manage your time, the more likely you are to find time for your hobbies and much needed rest. Mackenzie Henson adds, “I basically scared myself into doing it. We shouldn’t procrastinate or else we will not be successful in life later.”
This upcoming school year turn off the TV, shut down the computer, and concentrate on finishing any projects that have deadlines quickly approaching. You’ll feel a sense of relief, and feel much better!