Procrastination

  • Although attending college and emerging into adulthood can be an exciting time of life, the college years also require students to balance multiple demands, including school, jobs and internships, friendships, romantic relationships, family obligations, campus organizations and clubs, etc. Achieving a successful college experience requires the use of strategies aimed at balancing the demands of life and managing your time well.

    Time management is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced. If you are not sure what skills are involved in time management or you have tried these skills and still experience significant stress and imbalance, it may be helpful to seek professional assistance.

    If you know how to manage your time, but still find yourself avoiding important tasks, you may be struggling with procrastination. Oftentimes, people assume that procrastination is a sign of laziness; but procrastination can occur for many reasons, including:

    • Anxiety—feeling overwhelmed by the amount that needs to be accomplished or because you will be evaluated on your work may be preventing you from starting tasks.
    • Perfectionism/Self-Doubt—believing that you cannot complete the task or that it won’t be “good enough” when you do finish it may be preventing you from starting the task.
    • Ambiguity—uncertainty about what the task involves, what is expected of you, or what skills you need to accomplish the task may cause you to avoid starting it.
    • Apathy—if you are not invested in the task or the outcome of the task, you may find it hard to begin working on it because it does not feel meaningful or important to you.
    • Stress—your avoidance of a task may be a sign that you are burnt out and have not dedicated enough time to activities outside of school/work (e.g., relaxing, socializing, physical activity).
    • Decision-Making Difficulty—you may be procrastinating on tasks that involve or depend on making a decision because of fear of uncertainty and/or making the “wrong” choice.

    How to Cope With Procrastination

    • Set realistic expectations about the time it takes to accomplish various tasks. College students frequently underestimate the time homework assignments will take.
    • Say NO when you are not available for something. It’s okay to set boundaries and decline requests and invitations that do not match your priorities.
    • Evaluate your priorities and consider how they match with what you are actually spending your time on each day.
    • Set realistic goals for yourself. Giving your all to every obligation is not feasible and will lead you to be less successful in your endeavors.
    • Create a detailed schedule for the day/week and stick to it as best as possible. Include study time, relaxation breaks, sleep, social activities, etc. in your schedule to help keep you on task.
    • Let go of the guilt. Don’t spend valuable time and energy feeling guilty about missing out on a social event or taking a break from schoolwork. Balance is an important part of time management.
    • Limit use of social media, as social media can consume time scheduled for other things that are more important.
    • Be present and mindful with the current task. If you are supposed to be studying, focus on studying. Let go of worrying about the other items on your to-do list or your social calendar.
    • Engage in self-care to manage stress, as stress can contribute to procrastination.
    • Be flexible and accepting during times of imbalance; we cannot always have perfect time management or balance multiple demands evenly.
    • Identify the times of day that are more suited to your various activities, such as the times that you are more alert for studying, the times you need more energy for breaks, etc.
    • Address factors that lead to procrastination or imbalance through journaling or in counseling.

    What Services are Available to Help Me?

    If your difficulty with time management is significantly interfering with your academic, emotional, or social functioning, it may be necessary to seek additional help:

    There’s an App for that... Sleeping student with the words "My goal this school year: Do not procrastinate"