Procrastination is a problem for most people (whether they admit it or not). Time and time again, people procrastinate, hate themselves for it, swear to never procrastinate again, and ultimately end up doing it again. Though it’s common, most people procrastinate for different reasons; while some people may be afraid of starting their project, others may feel that they are too busy, and yet others may believe that procrastination enhances their abilities. It can seem like a cycle that’s impossible to escape, but whatever the cause for this procrastination, knowing and being able to address these reasons can help prevent and reduce procrastination.
And now, without further ado, here are the top reasons why people procrastinate (and how to fix them).
- I’m too distracted. / I can’t concentrate.
This is one of the most common reasons why people procrastinate, but (luckily) it’s also one of the easiest to fix. To avoid distractions and get serious about your project, you need to choose to work in a distraction-free environment. If you know that you’re easily distracted by your cell phone or one of the many fun things to do at home, get out of the house! The library is a great option because it’s quiet and has an atmosphere that encourages good work habits. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time inside, head to a quiet park. While they may be one of the most common study or essay-writing spots, coffee shops and cafes are full of distractions and will likely hinder you from making progress.
If going to the library or other study spot is not a viable option because you’re too busy or don’t have a way of getting there, there are ways that you can minimize distractions at home. Find a place where you can work that’s relatively clean and spacious. However, while you don’t want your mind to be distracted by clutter or piles, don’t use cleaning as an excuse for procrastination. As long as your mind is comfortable with the cleansliness of the space, your work environment should be adequate.
You also want to ensure that you’re in a relatively quiet space. While some people work well with some noise, writing in the noise equivalent of a subway station can be difficult, so make sure that there’s some moderation. If you know that your kitchen will be full of noisy people, don’t work there. For people who work best with some noise, try opening a window or listening to soft music.
Because there are so many distractions at home, distance yourself from potential distractions and write down restrictions for yourself. If you know that you’re likely to text friends, take your phone and put it in another room. Similarly, if you know that you’re likely to check Facebook, log out and place a post-it note next to you that states when you can check Facebook again (30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, etc.).
- I’m afraid.
Though it may seem logical to avoid what scares you, avoiding facing fears about school generally creates a bigger problem. For most people, fears only get bigger with time, so talking to someone about your particular worry will help you calm your mind and start productive work.
To face your fear and start your project, you need to identify what scares you. Are you afraid of failing? Are you afraid that you don’t know what to do? In most cases, fear of an assignment can be resolved by talking to your professor or a tutor. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask these people for help with developing an action plan that will guide you and make the assignment seem manageable.
- I’m too busy.
This is another common reason that people procrastinate. With school, work, family, and social obligations, it’s easy for your schedule to fill up and make it seem like there is no time to do your work. The best way to manage this is to make an “unschedule” and make time for your project. To do this, make a schedule that includes your daily and weekly commitments. Doing this will provide you with a visual that provides you with your available blocks of time for writing. After identifying periods when you have no obligations, schedule time for your project. It’s really important that you view this scheduling as making an appointment with yourself; if you schedule time for your writing and make it a priority, you can hold yourself to it. Though it may be tempting, don’t cancel your appointment with yourself! If you feel like this is a problem for you, remind yourself of the reasons why canceling your appointment in favor of a more “fun” activity is not a good idea. Though it may seem arduous at the time, you’ll be glad that you scheduled time for yourself once your paper is done and another weight is lifted off of your shoulders.
- Procrastination makes me better!
This belief about procrastination is a bit misguided. Many people believe that doing well on a paper when they procrastinated proves that they do their best when they procrastinate. In truth, this is not a logical perspective. Just because you’ve gotten by through procrastination does not (by any means) mean that you do your best work in the span of one stressful night. Though some people do much better when they are under pressure, these people are a small minority of the general population, so it’s unlikely that you’re one of those people. Think back to your last timed writing test. Did you feel like you produced your best work? If the answer is “no,” you may want to reconsider your beliefs about procrastination and get started a bit sooner. To see whether or not you’re a person who does well under pressure, set a time limit for a project and restrict yourself to working only within that time frame. After you’re done with your work, set it aside and revisit it after a few days. Evaluate your work; ask yourself if it’s your best. If there’s room to improve it, improve it! Keep in mind that reviewing what you’ve written will often show many places for improvement, and that means that your grade could be improved. Don’t fall into the trap of complacency!
- I hate my assignment, and I don’t want to do it.
Who wants to begin an activity that they don’t enjoy? Like it or not, doing things that we’d prefer not to do is a part of life, especially for students. However, understanding precisely why you don’t want to begin your paper can help you overcome this barrier and get started.
If you don’t want to begin writing your paper because you struggle with writing, be proactive and use some of the resources that are available to you. The internet has many sources for writing help, but the SJSU Writing Center has a long list of handouts available for help on nearly every aspect of writing. San Jose State students can also visit the Writing Center for tutoring or workshops. This extra writing help is free and is available for students of all disciplines and writing levels.
If you hate your assignment because you don’t understand the prompt, go talk to your professor. You can always bring the prompt to a tutor or peer, but your professor will be the most knowledgeable in describing exactly what he or she wants to see in your writing.
Finally, if you think that your assignment is boring or irrelevant, ask yourself why you feel that way. Being bored results from a failure to engage with the material, so determine why you think something is not engaging. Rather than giving in to a boring assignment, try to incorporate an aspect that’s interesting to you or relevant to your field. For example, if you’re a business major taking a GE environmental science class, see if you can incorporate consumer demand for a “green” product into your essay. If you don’t have great knowledge of a subject, research the topic and explore potential avenues. You might find an aspect of a topic that piques your interest.
Perhaps most importantly, before beginning a project, think about your long-term goal. Though most students don’t look forward to writing a research paper or putting together a presentation, they do look forward to graduating and starting a new career. Try viewing your projects as stepping-stones to the future!
“Procrastination.” The Writing Center. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2014. Web. 22 September 2014.