Procrastination isn’t a disease, yet every student may suffer from it at one time or another. Those of us who are plagued by procrastination, myself included, know it has negative consequences, yet we still procrastinate willingly. The truth is, it affects everyone regardless of personality style. Why procrastinate? Because some tasks are out of our comfort zone, time consuming, vague, stressful or just plain, not fun. Who wouldn’t choose watching Instagram over writing a term paper? The more adverse the task, the more we procrastinate.
Researcher Tim Pychyl, author of Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, has studied this task aversion phenomena extensively and identified seven aspects of endeavors that trigger procrastination:
- Not intrinsically rewarding
- Lacking in personal meaning
The problem is, too many homework activities fit these descriptions. But a “No pain…no gain” approach to school work will guarantee you a spot at the bottom of the class. Students who adopt this mentality may wind up being regretful, eventually leading to critical self-thoughts affecting one’s self esteem because deep down, you know you are “better than that”, and you are.
For example, being a “high C Style” comes with advantages, but also disadvantages. I’ve learned to use my strengths of a “high task orientation” to my advantage when I need to push through procrastination.
The way I battle procrastination is through task lists and prioritizing.
Task Lists: As a C Style, I like to complete tasks, and aside from my difficulty focusing on just one task at a time, I am motivated by completing and checking off tasks. The mere line-through-it feeling releases some kind of C-style endorphins that manifest in a sense of completion and accomplishment, motivating me to tackle another task.
Prioritizing: Each day brings new dynamics, so each morning I sit down and write or type both ongoing and immediate tasks. The act of writing galvanizes it into my brain. Prioritizing which tasks are priority is important because what was a long term goal yesterday, may suddenly be urgent today. Conversely, what was urgent yesterday may be replaced by an even more urgent task today. Much can change within 24 hours. Sometimes, priorities need to be revised throughout the day as you learn about all the dynamics affecting you.
“D” Style Techniques
- Challenge yourself – “D” styles are motivated by challenges, use the task itself as a challenge you can overcome. Don’t let a boring or repetitive task win. An enormous or critical project that you conquered will make you feel accomplished.
- Don’t make excuses - The only thing that stands between you and your goals are excuses. “D” styles may use excuses because they need to justify why they aren’t doing something. Sometimes they just take on too much saying, “I work better under pressure” or “I will do it when I have more time.” Recognize an excuse and don’t allow yourself to believe them. Excuses can keep you from your goals, and “D” styles like to be accomplished.
“I” Style Techniques
- Disconnect devices - This is important for the “I” style, and really any student today, because technology is very tempting. Phones, TVs, gaming, texts, and social media are all vying for your time. You will always opt for socializing, so it’s imperative that you disconnect. A recent study shows that even having the phone in-sight can reduce productivity by 20%.
- Reward yourself – “I” styles may be more motivated when they can step away from the task at hand and enjoy social or creative endeavors. Use your favorite reward to sweeten the deal. Stay seated and cloistered until you’re done, then celebrate!
“S” Style Techniques
- Just start – “S” Styles like the status quo, so there may be trepidation in the act of just getting started. Research shows that once a task is begun, and you have “skin in the game” and time invested, you will be more likely to finish the task.
- Ask for help – “S” styles sometimes function better if they have support from a friend, professor or tutor. “S” style personalities should utilize their great relational strengths to reach out to others who can join them in their goals journey -- a study group, another classmate, a helpful professor, a paid tutor. Sometimes “S” styles can benefit from just being in a cafe where others are studying to keep them motivated and on-task.
C Style Techniques
- Ditch perfectionism – “C” styles may not complete tasks because they get hung up on details or become so involved in perfecting their project, that they draw it out longer than necessary. “Let it go” is a good song for Cs. Not every single task needs to be your best work; sometimes you just need to get it done and submitted.
- Baby steps - If a “C” style looks at the entire task, it looks more intimidating and may trigger procrastination. If you break down your project into smaller chunks, or baby steps, over a period of time, the entire distance you travel will not seem as great.
Since it takes time to form a habit, make sure you are creating good study habits that work with your behavioral, learning, and thinking styles so you can tackle procrastination in the way that works best for you.