Keeping Procrastination at Bay
Rowena Li Tieng Kong, University of British Columbia Chapter, Vancouver, Canada
Are you a friend or foe of procrastination? As university students, we have all been there and done that—none of us are completely free from this temptation. However, to minimize the harmful effects that procrastination tends to bring upon us, it is worth the time to think about its lures and traps. As an undergraduate for more than four years, I have put together a list of seven points and strategies that I use to remind myself to stay away from submitting an after-deadline assignment or slacking off during exams.
1. Time and Guilt
The more you procrastinate, the more it will affect the outcome, and the sooner the guilt will build up and increase along with it. The way you cope with the guilt and frustration for squandering time can either deter or lead you closer to working on that assignment and studying for finals. It takes a student’s well-balanced perspective and sense of responsibility to ensure that the burden of increased guilt will not result in avoidance of work because of the negativity of perception and emotion it carries.
2. Lack of Information and Initiative
I have found that gathering information about my assignments, no matter how trivial or insignificant the details, makes me more likely to take an earlier initiative to start working on them. Information input stirs up interest and relieves you of the burden of guilt that stems from not putting in the time and effort that you should be doing. It does not matter how small the effort with which you begin, the determination will follow later like a domino effect.
3. Keep Distractions to a Minimum
That means physically, socially, emotionally, and mentally. It is not enough to distance yourself from just one or two of these four channels because it takes only one kind of distraction to divert your attention. Students may work up their determination to reject party invitations and stay alone to study, but if they turn up the volume of their favorite music, there is still much mental concentration and focus to lose.
4. Listen to Your Conscience and Agree With It!
It is one thing to be reminded of an obligation and another thing to align your opinion completely with it. Often, we may take heed but never reach the climax of an agreement with the message broadcasted by our conscience. The inner warning bell that chimes of an impending deadline is meant for our own good and should not to be taken lightly. Interestingly, I find that it tends to resound with greater intensity and more frequently the closer I get to submission deadline, even when I have already gotten everything done for the assignment. Our brain works around time, and our consciousness of it seems to be a unique secondary kind of circadian rhythm. That inner voice could be the most dependable and wisest psychologist inside you. When we dismiss it repeatedly by countering it with excuses, its influence can be altered in the mind and former priorities shoved out of place.
5. Work Out and Practice Your Interest
Yes, it takes exercise and practice to arouse and develop a genuine interest in your coursework that could prevent you from regressing into procrastination. One of the best ways that you can succeed is asking questions about your course material and assignments. We are born to ask questions; that is what birthed science in its beginning. You don't have to worry that your questions may sound weird or off-topic. Even if they do, asking questions is your chance to work out that implicit link between your thoughts and the subject matter. This process helps generate curiosity, voluntary participation, creativity, and ultimately self-enjoyment about the course you are taking. Work becomes less dull and more bearable when you discover the fun in creating new ideas for your assignment.
6. Not a One-Time Affair
One thing we tend to take for granted is that procrastination only matters when deadlines and exams are fast approaching. Such a perception only offers us excuses to take our obligations seriously “when the time comes” and makes less use of the early period way before the deadline when we are still less stressed out. It would be a bonus to work on a task in advance when you’re spared from the time pressure so that you have clarity and peace of mind to come up with more nicely planned and creative ideas. Treat the avoidance of procrastination as an ongoing process.
7. Reward Yourself
The concept of instrumental conditioning tells us that we would engage in a certain behavior when we are given more positive rewards through reinforcement. Therefore, we should not miss out on rewarding ourselves each time we have progressed through a stage of an assignment or a list of course objectives. Often, our first thought of reward would be a physical object (e.g. snack and movie ticket), but let us not forget about meaningful emotional rewards. Each time you complete a work portion, try setting aside a personal moment for positive self-talk and praise on the effort you have sacrificed. It makes the whole job more rewarding and the final goal worth reaching for.
Conduct a Lab Experiment
Psi Chi members, share your strategies to keep procrastination at bay in the comment section below (login required).