How to Fight Procrastination: A Friendly Guide for Students

Explore evidence-based strategies to conquer procrastination and enhance productivity in your academic journey.

Clock 2 min read Calendar Published: 1 Sep 2023
Author Alice Wilson
How to Fight Procrastination: A Friendly Guide for Students


We've all been there - staring at a blank document or a dense textbook, willing ourselves to start, yet somehow, we end up spiraling down a YouTube rabbit hole or scrolling through Instagram. You're not alone. A study by the American Psychological Society showed that 80-95% of college students have struggled with procrastination. But don't worry, we’re going to unravel this procrastination puzzle together.


You’re not lazy

So, what spurs students to suddenly tackle their overflowing closets or meticulously wax their cars when faced with a looming statistics paper? Often, it's self-doubt, reveals procrastination researcher and Carleton University psychology professor, Timothy A. Pychyl, PhD.

He shares, "As students, you're always being pushed out of your depths—that's what learning is."  This natural inclination to explore can sometimes steer us towards easier tasks when faced with daunting academic challenges. 

TLDR: Procrastination isn't laziness. It's an intricate dance between our desire for immediate satisfaction and our cognitive ability to plan for the future. Recognizing this is the first step to changing our procrastination habits. The big question is - why do we resist certain tasks? The answer is often because of the perceived complexity, monotony, or the sheer magnitude of a huge and ill-defined task. 

But procrastination isn't entirely bad. Surprised? Well, studies have shown that our brain needs downtime for creative thinking and problem-solving. An unrealistic expectation of continuous productivity can backfire, leading to stress and burnout.

So, how do we strike a balance? How do we manage procrastination without becoming productivity robots?

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Here are three key strategies backed by research:

1. Break It Down

Chunking your work into smaller, manageable tasks has been shown to enhance productivity and reduce the tendency to procrastinate. For instance, instead of tackling a 10-page research paper in one go, break it into smaller tasks: research, outlining, drafting, revising, and editing. You might want to break it down even smaller, so that the drafting stage, for example, is split down into one paragraph at a time. 

2. Prioritize Tasks

The Eisenhower Matrix, a time management technique, suggests classifying tasks based on urgency and importance. Prioritizing tasks this way can reduce feelings of overwhelm, a common trigger for procrastination. Instead of getting bogged down by a long to-do list, you can divide tasks into four categories: do first, schedule, delegate, and eliminate. 

3. Time Management

Techniques like the Pomodoro method, which involves working for 25 minutes followed by a 5-minute break, can help maintain focus and motivation. For instance, you might decide to study for two 'Pomodoros' before allowing yourself a break to grab a snack or browse social media. This technique has been shown to maintain focus and stave off burnout. 

Progress not perfection

The key to overcoming procrastination is progress, not perfection. It's about reducing its impact on our lives rather than eliminating it. And the great news is that students who set process-focused goals rather than outcome-focused ones tend to report lower levels of procrastination. This might include process goals like reading for 30 minutes a day, drafting ideas for your term papers for 1 hour per week, or walking for 20 minutes a day.

You can do it!

Remember, every step you take, no matter how small, is a victory. Learning how to manage procrastination is a journey, and like every journey, it has its ups and downs. We're all human, after all.

Embrace your humanity and use these research-backed strategies to navigate your higher education journey. 

You can also try Glean for free!

Designed with learners in mind, Glean gives you an easy and effective way to boost your learning efficiency and beat procrastination.

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