Written by Tanna Dittmar
Procrastin—oh I’ll finish it later. The sickness afflicting today’s collegiate world.
I sat down to write this column, but already I knew the collegiate affliction had struck before my fingers brushed the keys. I was sick—infected with a virus: procrastination.
I spent the majority of my time in high school and previous college classes procrastinating on assignments, convinced I performed better under the pressure of a looming deadline. This year, I was determined to stay on top of the work and defeat the contagious illness that plagues campuses through the year. Still, I fell from the ranks of the high achieving.
So how can college students battle the procrastination virus? To avoid the flu, you take preventative measures. It also works with procrastination.
I did a little homework to find out why college students procrastinate. I learned that students who had more time to work on assignments were more likely to earn lower grades than students who had less time to complete the same projects, according to a MIT study in 2007. Another study found the majority of students want to address their procrastination habits and view them as detrimental to their grades and study habits. In both studies, self-imposed and immediate deadlines proved beneficial to students. Coming from the farthest end of the procrastinating spectrum, I knew my lack of personal deadlines was why I always put off tasks until the last minute.
So why not treat procrastination as an illness? One we can diagnose, treat and prevent to maintain our productive momentum in the classroom.
Step 1: Determine the problem.
The first step to treatment is to admit that you have a problem with procrastination. Just like in rehab, admitting the problem goes a long way toward recovery.
Step 2: Choose your end results.
The second step is to figure out the ultimate goal. And it won’t help if that goal isn’t something you’re excited about. So pick something with personal and long-term meaning to you. My goal is to move west.
Step 3: Outline ways to accomplish your end results.
To move west, I had to graduate. I shortened my ultimate goal to increments: semesters of college. To reach the advanced classes, I had to pass the introductory classes with good grades, hence the need to address my procrastination habits.
Step 4: Use your outline to address your problem.
I wondered how I could deter myself from putting off the work. I designed my class and work schedules, so I had days for class and days for work.
I picked classes that were held two days a week, with spare time between each class. That downtime became the perfect space for doing homework. This way, the material was still fresh in my mind and I was still in “learning mode.”
Step 5: Be honest with yourself during the process.
So how did I fall from my productive anti-procrastination game plan on this assignment? Easy. I told myself these lies:
1) The assignment is simple—it won’t take me long to do it.
2) I have a week to write about whatever I want.
3) It’s only one assignment; I’m caught up on everything else so I deserve a break.
4) I work better under pressure.
Undoubtedly, all of you procrastinators have told yourselves one or all of these lies. I learned something else from those studies I read: these lies can be excuses to a daunting truth. Could it be you’re procrastinating because you don’t know how to do the work?
I had my answer. I’ve never written a personal column before and while it sounded easy, I realized that being free to write about anything gave me no guidelines to follow. No matter how many examples I pored over, I didn’t know how to do it because there are literally tons of ways to accomplish it.
This was the bug that gave me the sickness. I knew why I waited so long to start, but how could I treat it? I just had to sit down and write. While I’m no expert on procrastination, I decided that figuring out why we tend to put things off would be a good place to start. This gave me direction. The rest of the pieces fell into place.
I spent so much time coming up with excuses, that I didn’t sit down and think perhaps I didn’t know how to do the work. So I educated myself on the subject. With that figured out, I saw my direction, which gave me the incentive to finish the assignment. The finished product put me back on track to achieving the grades I needed, which led to more advanced classes and on to graduation, after which, I could finally move west.
Step 6: Reward your accomplishments.
Self-explanatory. When you have the flu, even keeping down water is a victory worth of celebrating. It’s the same with your goals. Easy triumphs get small rewards and big achievements should be celebrated with large rewards. Acing classes each semester equals a night out at a favorite restaurant. Graduation equals a new Apple laptop. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you have your goals and the steps to achieve them in place. Not even a little procrastination can get in the way if you truly want to achieve your goals.