Procrastination Help Tips: How to Overcome Procrastination

Procrastination Help Tips: How to Overcome Procrastination

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American Psychological Association
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Home // gradPSYCH Magazine // September 2013 gradPSYCH // Dissertation procrastination


Matters to a Degree

Dissertation procrastination

By Dr. Nabil Hassan El-Ghoroury
Associate Executive Director, APAGS

Print version: page 30

I’ve been thinking about writing a column on procrastination for several years, and I’m finally getting around to it. I’m a procrastinator, and there’s a good chance that you are, too. Most graduate students have felt the pull of television, the Internet or even the desire to clean their apartments when they should be working on course readings or writing a paper. And the dissertation, that long-term project with few set deadlines, is ripe with procrastination potential. If Facebook had been around when I was in school, I might never have finished my degree.

Sometimes, delaying work on a project can be functional. Called “strategic delay” (Klingsieck, 2013), it allows you to wait for new information or let an idea develop before working on it. Procrastination, in contrast, is unnecessary delay that can have negative consequences, such as anxiety or worry about not completing the project. Researchers have found that procrastination is correlated with increased stress, more illness and fewer healthy behaviors (Sirois, Melia-Gordon, & Pychyl, 2003).

So what are some tips for graduate students who are procrastinating? Here are some strategies to help you get to work:

Identify clear, obtainable goals

If you’re working on your dissertation, it’s easier to delay with a vague goal, such as “work on my dissertation.” A more effective goal might be “write the participant part of my method section by Thursday.” With a big project such as a thesis or dissertation, you may need to “chunk it,” or break down the project into a series of smaller steps that are easier for you to complete in a reasonable amount of time.

Engage social support

Commit to your goals with your friends. This is where Facebook can be your ally instead of your stalling tactic: Write a post where you state your goal and your deadline. Your friends can help keep you accountable and may be able to help you in your task.

Schedule your time

Plan a time to work toward your goal. Initially, it does not need to be a long period, even just 15 minutes at first can be helpful. But make sure that you protect the time you plan to work from other intrusions. It’s fine to keep working after your allotted period is completed (in fact, that’s ideal!), but at the beginning, keep your work time small. You can always increase the amount of time you schedule once you’ve established the habit of working consistently.

Reward yourself

After you’ve done your task, give yourself a small reward. The reward should be proportional to the work you’ve done, so working for 15 minutes may not mean you get to watch “Iron Man 3” — a five-minute YouTube video might be a more appropriate reward. And you might earn that “Iron Man 3” ticket after finishing the results section that you’ve been avoiding for a month.

Block your distractions

If you can identify your delay tactics, then you can start to limit their interference in your work. I know TV causes me to delay work, so my strategy is to start working before I turn the TV on. If Facebook is your delay tactic, then don’t open Facebook while you are working on the computer.

Cognitive restructuring

Every student thinks his or her dissertation has to be perfect. But the reality is that the best dissertation is a complete dissertation. Your words don’t need to be perfect the first time you write them on the screen; you can always go back and revise. Changing those thought patterns about perfection, while not easy, can help you finish a first draft, which you can then edit into its final form.

Forgive yourself

In one study, students who forgave themselves for past procrastination engaged in less procrastination the next time (Wohl, Pychyl, & Bennett, 2010). So, forgive yourself this time, and give yourself a new chance the next time.

For tech savvy folks, a number of apps and software programs can help you implement these tips. You can use your phone’s calendar to schedule your time. Goalkeeper is an app that can help you manage projects and task lists, with different deadlines for each task. The Finish app helps you beat procrastination by setting tasks with short-, mid- and long-term deadlines and prompts you to finish them. Software programs such as Focus Me or SelfControl can be used on your computer to block your access to distracting websites such as Facebook or YouTube.

Share your tips for beating procrastination by posting them on the APAGS Facebook page . I look forward to hearing your suggestions.

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How to Overcome Procrastination: Effects of Procrastination on College Students
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How to Overcome Procrastination: Effects of Procrastination on College Students

Procrastination is an issue that has engulfed the domains of the students in a much worrisome form today than ever before. It creates hurdles towards their eventual growth and development and puts them in a lazy situation from where they cannot make their way out. Many students want to know how to overcome procrastination. Procrastination in the most basic terms is defined as the action of delaying or postponing some task or an undertaking.

The effects of procrastination on college students are huge, penetrating each aspect of their lives. Procrastination creates problems for the students within college and at home since they keep delaying important things and events which may mean a great amount of significance within their respective lives. Many college students still don’t know how not to procrastinate having tons of digital distractions on hand. College procrastination is a form of ailment that affects the mind more than anything else since the students who believe in it are more often than not posing serious issues for their study regimes. They are finding procrastination activities through which they can put off work till a certain level or discerning time brackets for getting work done at a later stage, and cannot eventually avoid procrastination. This happens mostly within their assignment and home works that they have been given at the college. Similarly, for projects and study marathons, they are usually finding one or the other reason to procrastinate as much as they can. Sadly, it never helps their cause and puts them in a difficult stage all the time.

Where to seek procrastination help?

College students procrastination is so harsh since they do not learn about the ramifications that procrastination brings to the fore. What this essentially means is the fact that procrastination will ruin their eventual basis, bring a sense of disharmony as far as their college routines are concerned, and disrupt their normal working realms. The college students are usually finding one or the other reason to procrastinate as much as they can without even realizing how detrimental this could be to their cause of learning and education. Such students need some procrastination help. If they could discern where they have gone wrong and how corrective measures could be taken through zero acceptance of procrastination, they would stop doing the same and get back to their study regimes. However, this is seldom the case as it never helps within their thinking mechanisms. Proper time management tips, if understood correctly, could help stop procrastinating and could keep away the zones of procrastination as much as possible because when one values time, there are many ways to keep away the domains of procrastination. This resolves quite a few predicaments that are as to why we procrastinate.

Why overcoming procrastination is so difficult?

What procrastination essentially does is to let the college students know that they are being given a cushioning within their work routines but the fact of the matter is entirely opposite of what has been envisaged over the years. Indeed these students are the ones who are losing out in essence and it is up to their own selves to make amends as much as possible on their part while overcoming procrastination. This is a debate that has been doing the rounds for quite a long time and has helped shape up the beliefs of elders who understand how detrimental the realms of procrastination could be and how destructive such a mindset is, in essence.


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Three Tips for Overcoming The Procrastination Doom Loop

p-arrows Tell us if this sounds like a familiar story. At the beginning of the summer you told yourself you were going to sit down and write your college admissions essay. “I’m going to get a jump start,” you said to yourself, “how hard could it be?” Instead you took a few trips to the beach, ate a lot of ice cream and even cleaned your room (three times) instead of sitting down at the computer. Now it is September and the school year has arrived. Why (whyyyyy?!) is this happening?

Whoever says they don’t occasionally struggle with procrastination is fooling themselves. Or maybe they’re putting off owning up to their own procrastinatory tendencies? We all need help overcoming that little voice that says “if you take a nap now, you’ll work harder later” or “my internet connection is a little wonky – I’m going to close my computer and type out that first sentence later.” Luckily for us, science is here to help us overcome these unproductive thoughts.

A recent article in The Atlantic  explores scientists’ most recent theories about procrastination and how to break the cycle. Apparently it’s not a matter of getting better at time management. (Go tell mom you were right!) When deciding to put something off for the moment, most of us delay action because we feel like we’re in the wrong mood to do it (sound familiar?). We also think our mood will change in the near future, and that at some point we will actually feel like attacking the tasks set before us. Unfortunately, you likely won’t pop out of your bed one morning with an overwhelming urge to start penning your personal statement. When you don’t accomplish the task you have already delayed, you feel bad and push it off even further. This creates what scientists call a “Procrastination Doom Loop.”

It looks like this:

Delay → Guilt → Can’t write if I feel bad! → Delay

But it’s not all bad news. Science has also provided some tips for overcoming this vicious cycle, all of which can be applied to the essay writing process:

  1. Set a one-shot reminder as late as possible. Giving yourself a one-time-only alarm will break the doom loop, shock you into action, and won’t give you time to put off (or forget) to sit down and write.
  2. Stop thinking of your essay as work. Find something you like about this essay-writing process; make it a game, build in rewards – anything to convince yourself it’s not something you have to do.
  3. External deadlines are more effective than our own. The false deadlines we give to ourselves, though well-intentioned, rarely work. Outsource your deadlines instead; to your parents, to a friend, to us!

Contact us  for help breaking the Procrastination Doom Loop.

Read more about  The College Essay Advisors Process .

Check out our  guide to the 2017-18 Common App .

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