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Procrastination

“The two rules of procrastination: 1) Do it today. 2) Tomorrow will be today tomorrow.” ~Author Unknown

“If it weren't for the last minute, I wouldn't get anything done.” ~Author Unknown

“The sooner I fall behind, the more time I have to catch up.” ~Author Unknown

“I do my work at the same time each day - the last minute.”  ~Author Unknown

Do any of these quotes sound familiar to you? If so, you may be a procrastinator. Procrastination is the act of putting off important tasks until a later time, or undertaking low-priority or pleasurable tasks instead of very important ones.


Why do People Procrastinate?

The answer to this question will vary based on the individual, but there may be some common responses to why we procrastinate:

  • High anxiety about a task
  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor organizational skills and time management
  • Lowered self-esteem and confidence in one’s ability to complete a task
  • Increased stress in other areas of our lives
  • Unrealistic expectations about what you can accomplish in a specific amount of time

What Happens When People Procrastinate?

When people procrastinate, they may experience increased stress, feelings of guilt or anger, or heightened anxiety. Sometimes people will experience none of these feelings, and may instead feel numbed or uncaring about putting things off.

It is important to remember that many of us procrastinate to some degree, which is a normal part of our lives. A 2007 meta-analysis* in the journal Psychological Bulletin even found that between 80% and 95% of college students procrastinate! However, when these behaviors interfere with our ability to function normally or be successful, procrastination becomes a more serious problem. In some cases, procrastination may even be a symptom of an underlying mental health issue. We encourage you to contact the Drexel University Counseling Center at (215) 895-1415, or by e-mail at counseling@drexel.edu, to schedule an appointment with a trained mental health professional that can help you to address your concerns.


Tips for Overcoming Procrastination

  • Location, Location, Location!
    Find a good location in which to study. Excessive noise or distractions can make it more difficult to focus on your work. In addition, try to study in a place that has fewer temptations (video games, TV, availability of friends), such as the library or a study room in your residence hall.

  • Learn to Manage Your Time!
    Sometimes procrastination can be a result of poor time management skills. It can help to set aside a regular study time each day. You can use this time to focus on your homework, reading assignments, or to get ahead on projects. Plan out your day using a scheduler or to do list.

  • Don’t Wait for Inspiration!
    An excuse that procrastinators use is “I don’t have any idea how to get started, so I will have to wait until I’m inspired!” Overcoming procrastination means that you have to get started, even if you’re not entirely sure what will happen. Learn to deal with the frustration with creative ideas for brainstorming. Focus on the task at hand and think clearly without distractions, and ideas will come to you. Write down everything that comes to mind about a task, and you will build a structure for completing it.

  • Break it Up!
    If the task at hand seems overwhelming, you may procrastinate in order to manage the anxiety of starting the work. If you can learn to break up your work into smaller, more manageable chunks, you may find it easier to handle. This will also help you to develop a sense of achievement as you complete a smaller goal that builds toward a larger one.

  • Think Before You Leap!
    Take a few minutes before beginning any assignment to think about what you need to accomplish. Organize your work space so you minimize distractions. Try to put aside thoughts about what you may be doing later, or things you would rather be doing now. You’ll be able to do the things that you want AND be a successful student if you minimize procrastination!

  • Reward Yourself!
    Part of the difficulty in overcoming procrastination is putting off things that you enjoy. If you develop a reward system for the changes you are making, you will have increased motivation to finish your work. It takes discipline, but with practice you can do it!

  • Journaling Can Help!
    Writing down what is distracting you can sometimes help you to gain control over the thoughts and feelings that can pop up when trying to work. It can also help you to learn if there are any patterns or recurrent themes that appear regularly.

  • Ask For Help!
    Take advantage of the services available to you as a student at Drexel. A visit to the Counseling Center can help you to organize your thoughts and behaviors, as well as to address any underlying concerns that may be contributing to your procrastination.

These are just a few of the solutions to overcoming procrastination. For other helpful hints check out the web sites listed below.


Final Words

Remember those quotes at the top of the page? We hope that, with careful planning and support, you can replace those thoughts with these gentle reminders:

The best way to get something done is to begin. ~Author Unknown

You may delay, but time will not. ~Benjamin Franklin

If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it." ~Olin Miller

"There are a million ways to lose a work day, but not even a single way to get one back." ~Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister

* Steel, P. (2007). The nature of procrastination: A meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure. Psychological Bulletin, 133 (1), 65–94.

The content provided here is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment, nor should it replace the consultation of a trained medical or mental health professional. Please note that outside links are not under our control, and we cannot guarantee the content contained on them.