By Marie-Isabel Theuwis
Students are known to be experts in avoiding to face the huge amount of studying to be done. The past exam weeks have been a true breeding ground for the most inventive procrastination tricks. I have exposed different types of procrastinators through self-examination and examination of fellow students. YouTube Procrastinators, Gaming Procrastinators, Cleaning Procrastinators, TV-Series Procrastinators, Social Procrastinators and Facebook Procrastinators. Many types are yet to be discovered.
Out of my own research and field-experience I thus came to an alarming conclusion: procrastination hunts many of us, and we do not realise its effects. A lot of time and energy which can be spent on other activities is prasted (wasted through procrastination). Nevertheless, few attention has yet been paid to the problem. Therefore, today I want to bravely beat the evil together with you, dear readers/fellow procrastinators.
Eye-opening facts on procrastination
According to the American Psychological Association, 80 to 95 percent of students procrastinate when it comes down to work for university. Especially present times are heaven to procrastinators. We are only a mouse-click away from websites which grant us relief from concentration and frustration. Movies and TV-series are easily accessible, and even the library is well-suited for procrastinators. Many people to stare at, and if that’s not enough, Internet provides us with funny videos to watch. There might be some friends whom you take a break with, which often results in a one hour lasting conversation on how much studying there is to be done and how difficult that is. Not ideal.
The psychology behind procrastination
It sounds like procrastination is a natural outcome of the circumstances we as students live in. Scaling down the problem will thus be a hard job, but not impossible. We have to reveal the roots of the problem; why we have the uncontrollable need to postpone.
Researchers claim that different reasons lay behind procrastination. One reason is the threat that the student is going to be evaluated on his work, which causes anxiety. Students connect their self-image to the evaluation and escape the anxiety unconsciously through suspending the task and distracting themselves. Another reason is that some students fear that success may raise other’s expectations of them. They escape possible future pressure through procrastination, says Timothy A. Pychyl, PhD in psychology at Carleton University. A last reason is that students believe to perform best under pressure. This has however never been proved by experimental data, suggests professor in psychology Joseph Ferrari, PhD at DePaul University. “Students seem to remember the one time that maybe waiting until the last minute did pay off with a good grade, but they forget the other nine times when it didn’t,” Ferrari says.
So, what to do about it?
Dr. Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done, has a three-step approach to save our vulnerable souls from the evils of procrastination. The first step is to diminish temptation in your environment. You can for example make a “work” space, separated from the space where you relax. When having a break you leave the “work” space and enter the “relax” space. It will afterwards be easier for your brain to switch off the “relax” mood once it recognises the “work” space. The same goes for your laptop. Separate the “relax” websites from the “work” websites, by for example creating a profile only for studying, or by using Internet blocking apps like Cold Turkey.
The second step is to restrict your study time. Tell yourself beforehand to study non-stop for 30 minutes. You will be astonished by how productive you are during those 30 minutes, knowing that you’ll soon enjoy a break.
The last step is actually a piece of advice: don’t be too strict on yourself! A recent study by the University of Carleton has shown that when you forgive yourself for procrastinating, you will be less likely to procrastinate as intensively the next time.
To conclude, I hope more students (including me) will be able to resist most future temptations to procrastinate (and there will certainly be!). And if you, despite intense dedication to the aforementioned tips, have a moment of weakness, think about Amit Abraham’s wise words: “Procrastination is also a subtle act of corruption – it corrupts valuable time”.