Many students find themselves avoiding coursework assignments and papers, only to be extremely anxious and berating themselves when it is just 2 days before the due date. Sometimes the procrastination is because of lack of time management, where time slips away before you know it. In this case, see the handout on Time Management. There are several other reasons why students procrastinate. Try to identify your reasons, and seek help from a professional counselor. Below are some tips to start.

Overcoming Procrastination

First identify your reasons for procrastinating, and then implement the different suggestions.

  • Busy Procrastinators are often people-oriented and idealistic. They may enjoy many things, get involved in too many things, and can't say no.
  • Get rid of excess. Know your life goals, rank your priorities, and limit your activities accordingly. Learn to say "no," "let me think about it," or "another time," before you automatically say yes.
  • Bored Procrastinators find the assignments uninteresting, thus are not motivated.
  • Do it anyway. Even if you are bored with the subject, sit down for just 10 minutes and do whatever you can accomplish within that 10 minutes. Be active in your assignment (e.g., read out loud, meet up with others in the class). After 10 minutes, if you are still having a hard time, move on to something different. Then come back to this assignment during the hour of the day when you are most energetic.
  • Hopeful Procrastinators have childlike fantasies that if they don't take care of something, it will resolve itself, or someone else will take care of it.
  • Use self-talk & be realistic. Challenge and replace your procrastinating thoughts. Remind yourself of your life goals, and that your own actions are ultimately what ensures your own future.
  • Perfectionist Procrastinators are afraid the finished product won't come out perfectly the first time. Thus, they may not start the project, fearing that they are "not ready" or can't produce a good enough product.
  • Pretend it's a trial run that no one will see or judge. Reminding yourself that it's only a rough draft or trial run can lower anxiety and free yourself to begin a task which is causing a great deal of anxiety. Create a draft without worrying about editing it at first.
  • Power Procrastinators get a feeling of power from being able to procrastinate and still get by (or even get a good grade) with it.
  • Use positive self-talk & become aware of excuses used internally for not getting started. The self-talk used to excuse yourself is often very valuable to explore. Challenge and replace these excuses with more positive self-talk. For example, even if you often get good grades for procrastinating, remind yourself that you can prevent your anxiety from building if you do start to do one little part of the project.
  • Rebel Procrastinators can't stand to be told what to do or how to do things.
  • Decide what you want for your own life. Although others may be the one imposing their deadlines, think through for yourself what makes sense for you. If you continue to rebel, your reactive behavior still gives others the control. Instead, think through what consequences you want in your life and don't sabotage your life by being reactive.
  • Insecure Procrastinators feel insecure about their abilities, talents etc.
  • Acknowledge fears and go ahead anyway. Many people find it useful to think about what it is they are afraid of and then imagine the worst thing that could happen to them if they acted. Also, try to remind yourself of all the successes you've already had in various school assignments. Keep telling yourself that you can do it.
  • Fear of Success Procrastinators fear that if they are successful in an endeavor, they will have to maintain that level of success in all future endeavors of that type.
  • Acknowledge fears and use positive self talk. Go ahead and do the work anyway. Remind yourself that if you do not put in your entire effort, you are not allowing yourself the opportunity to grow and to succeed! And even if you do not succeed to the level that you had hoped, remind yourself that everyone learns and grows as we go. No one is perfect!

Other Tips

  • Divide task into smaller pieces. Trying to complete the whole task all at once, especially a large project, may seem overwhelming. The task will look more easily attainable once you break it down into smaller pieces. Then, assign a designated time over several days to work on the smaller task until the entire project is completed.
  • Tell someone else. Verbalizing your commitment or intentions publicly or to a trusted friend is an excellent technique to ensure its completion.
  • Impose an earlier deadline. For those of you who work better under pressure of a deadline, imposing a personal deadline before an actual deadline is sometimes helpful.
  • Seek some direction. Meeting with your instructor can be valuable, for example, especially when you are feeling overwhelmed or uncertain how to proceed or just need more direction with an assignment.
  • Do it first. Try doing the most unpleasant or difficult task first. Get it out of the way instead of living with the dread of it hanging over you.
  • Find a reward. Promising yourself a reward or special treat can prove very motivating for some people. Conversely, denying oneself particular pleasure until the task is completed can prove equally helpful for some. For example, turn off that TV and only turn it back on after you have completed a part of the assignment.
  • See the Time Management handout as well for tips on improving your planning and time management.

Know Your Resources

  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).  Please call 408-924-5910 for more information.
    We encourage you to come to CAPS in the Student Wellness Center, Room 300B (third floor), to consult and learn more ways to overcome your procrastination and time management skills. Our personal counselors are available for appointments and walk in crisis counseling; and it's a FREE service for you! Please call 408-924-5910 to schedule an appointment or for more information. We also have educational counselors available to help you with study skills, career decisions, and time management.
  • Student Health Center (924-6120)
    Physicians & Nurse Practitioners, Registered Dietitian are all available to help you build and maintain a physically healthy life so that you are more productive overall.
  • Learning Assistance Resource Center (924-2587)
    Tutoring services
    Academic improvement workshops
  • Career Center (924-6031)
    Career Consultants will help with choosing a major that matches your career goal. Having a life direction will help increase your motivation.