Have you ever sat down to study or to work on an important assignment and suddenly found yourself mysteriously at your computer watching a YouTube video or reading a strange Wikipedia article?
Or maybe you got back from class and decided to reward yourself with one episode of your favorite show on Netflix before starting homework, and the next thing you know you’ve watched five episodes and it’s seven o’clock?
If you’ve fallen prey to these seemingly harmless habits of procrastination, you are not alone. For many people, procrastination is a strong impulse whose potency has led to many productive days being wasted, and for college students, procrastination is most evident during finals season when life can get a little overwhelming, to say the least. This article will focus on the causes of procrastination and offer tips on how to best avoid procrastination before finals.
To begin, we need to address what procrastination is and why we procrastinate in the first place. Procrastination is the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in favor of more urgent tasks, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, thus effectively putting off important tasks for a later time.
While everyone puts things off until the last minute sometimes, procrastination is the act of chronically avoiding difficult tasks or putting off important assignments in favor of distractions, which is unhealthy and can have negative results.
So what causes this behavior? Many psychologists are split on what exactly causes us to procrastinate, however the general belief is that procrastination is a kind of avoidant behavior and coping mechanism that has gone awry. This coping mechanism usually rears its head when people feel fear, dread, or anxiety about an important task, thus they cope by merely putting it off. The attachment of negative emotions, like anxiety, to an important task leads the individual to compensate by seeking activities that bring them joy or distract them from their fear-inducing responsibilities. Sadly, this relief is only temporary as procrastination can only provide brief relief before the impending reality of a task must be faced, thus leading to stress. The bright side? You can overcome procrastination with these helpful tips!
- Set Priorities: The most important step to take in avoiding procrastination is deciding which task is most important and demands your immediate attention. For example, during finals season, prioritize which class to study for based on which class you feel you need the most help in or based on which class’s exam you will take first. This will help you keep a clear idea of what tasks need to be done first and it will help you avoid putting off studying until the last minute.
- Break the Task Down: Instead of being overwhelmed by the whole of the task, break it into smaller, more digestible pieces that you can address in chunks. For example, break your final studies down by chapter and tell yourself you will study a certain number of chapters each day. This will not only make the subject seem less overwhelming, but it will also help you retain information and minimize your stress because you are handling small chunks of material at a time as opposed to, say, 20 chapters all at once.
- Reward Yourself for Accomplishing Small Goals: The point of setting up small, reasonable goals is so you know when to reward yourself. If you told yourself you would study five chapters today and you studied one or two, it’s perfectly acceptable to take a small break and reward yourself before you sit down to complete the task. As long as you complete the big-picture task ( five chapters), it is great to reward yourself for the smaller goals you must accomplish along the way.
- Create a Time Schedule: When trying to avoid procrastination, a great thing to do is allot specific times for a certain task. If you have a final on Friday, tell yourself that you will study for one hour a day from 3:00-4:00 up to the final and then hold yourself accountable. This will help you keep on schedule and complete your task without stressing.
- Just Get Started: The first step to take in any task is just getting started. Even if you feel like you need to wait for inspiration to start that huge paper you need to write, tell yourself to write whatever comes to mind and then make amendments once the inspiration actually hits. Don’t allow yourself to make excuses, just do it!
- Look At What You’ve Accomplished: It can be hard, especially during finals season, to see progress. With so many tasks, it is easy to remain overwhelmed until everything is done. To combat this, really focus on what you’ve accomplished. Reading three chapters and reviewing lecture notes is an accomplishment, so pat yourself on the back. Think of how the little tasks add up to complete the whole, and allow yourself to be proud of those little accomplishments. You won’t get everything done at once, so be happy with what you do get done.
Finals can be stressful and overwhelming, but be kind to yourself and try to avoid the temptation to procrastinate. Even though Netflix may be calling your name, make sure to take care of yourself and prioritize your studying! Get lots of sleep, eat healthy, and avoid procrastination for the best results on your finals.
If at any point you feel too stressed or you think you may want help, remember we have wonderful resources on campus, such as the Center for Health and Wellness Promotion, the Counseling Center, and other student care resources, and others – reach out if you would like some additional support!
Best of luck on your finals, and happy studying!