How to Not Procrastinate in College

We’ve all been there. Even the most organized, Type A person has probably (at least accidentally) procrastinated at one point or another.

Whether it’s putting off studying for a test or holding back until midnight to start writing that paper that’s due the next morning, procrastination can actually cause a lot of stress in the long run.

The Association of Psychological Science says, “Putting off important tasks causes stress, and this additional stress contributes to negative psychophysiological impacts on the body which increase our vulnerability for illness. Previous research has linked chronic procrastination to a range of stress-related health problems such as headaches, digestive issues, colds and flus, and insomnia.”

We procrastinate for a variety of reasons but usually because procrastination actually seems to serve us well in the short-term. We get to participate in an enjoyable activity instead of doing the work we’re supposed to do, you get to push off feelings of stress and anxiety, and maybe somehow you won’t actually have to do the thing your avoiding. Maybe someone will come along and take it off your plate, or other people will come to a resolution before you have to make a decision. So how to stop? Keep reading.

1. Decide you actually want to stop

The first step is, of course, admitting you have a problem. And closely after that is deciding that you do indeed want to quit procrastinating and make a plan for how you’re going to accomplish tasks in the future. No one can force you to not procrastinate, and if you’re procrastinating in school, chances are good that you’re going to procrastinate in your adult life. This could lead to some serious trouble depending on what you’re procrastinating.

Make a pro-con list about procrastinating and how it serves you vs. how it hurts you. Choosing to not procrastinate will be a lifestyle change, so you need to go in fully committed, or it won’t work. You need to be your own biggest motivator.

2. Break things into small steps

Oftentimes, we procrastinate something because we’re overwhelmed by the massiveness of a project. We can’t even fathom where to start, so we put off starting altogether. The thing is, a massive project can easily be made to seem not so awful if you simply break it into smaller pieces. Start backward from your deadline and break the project up, piece by piece, and schedule everything on your calendar. Try to only give yourself one task each day if possible to make it all seem more manageable.

Once you’ve got your plan written down—and please do write it down—try to take things one day at a time. While it’s tempting to look ahead at all you have to do, that won’t get you anywhere. Just focus on the one or two tasks right before you, and when you finish those, then you’re done! Make sure to make space to relax and have fun, even in the midst of your hard work.

3. Get to the root of it all

Procrastination can be a sign of low self-esteem. If you’re procrastinating because you’re afraid of failure, doubt your ability to succeed, or some other negative self-perception, you might want to consider addressing the root of your procrastination. Working with a school therapist or counselor might help you realize where you’re believing negative self-talk and lies about yourself. The way we think about ourselves is easily ingrained into our psyche, so working with a professional to address underlying issues will help you shed a lot of light on where and why you’re procrastinating certain things.

4. Limit your distractions

It’s pretty easy to scroll through Instagram instead of writing your paper if your phone is right there in front of you, beckoning you to unlock it. Limit your distractions by using an app that will lock you out of your social media for a certain amount of time, or give your social media passwords to a trusted friend. Go study in a quiet, empty room in your college’s library or sit outside by a tree. This will help remove distractions like the TV or your roommates in your dorm room. Oh, and your bed. Because there’s nothing like sleeping to get out of doing your homework.

You can do this!