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The truth about procrastination—and how to beat it

by Sarah MacDiarmid

**This is an updated post**

Do you ever get the feeling that everything conspires against you the minute you have a deadline on the horizon?

You might find yourself wasting hours scrolling through your socials, and just about anything from going for a run to cleaning the toilet suddenly seems more enticing than the assignment you have to finish this week.

Procrastination tends to be shrugged off as nothing more than a lack of time management skills, but the real problem might be slightly more complicated.

Do you struggle with procrastination? Read on to find out more about the deeper reasons behind procrastination, and how you can work to beat.

What does it mean to be a ‘chronic procrastinator’?

First of all, it’s important to recognise that although we all procrastinate, we’re not all procrastinators.

Chronic procrastination is thought to affect around 20% of the population. It can be defined as delaying an important task, even when we know there will be consequences later.

Chronic procrastination can cause lots of problems in other areas of your life. This could be anything from poor grades, to increased stress levels and poor health.

What are the underlying causes of procrastination?

Some procrastinators tend to be perfectionists or they may have a fear of failing. For them, never starting a task is easier than the idea of possible failure. But never starting anything means that you’ll never reach your true potential, you’ll never achieve your goals, and you’ll never find out what could have been. This can lead to serious side effects, like a lack of self-esteem.

In turn, low self-esteem may make it hard for procrastinators to get motivated. Everything seems difficult, or the rewards are too far off in the future. This means that procrastinators might also miss out on new opportunities, like a promotion at work, because putting in the effort to go the extra mile just seems overwhelming.

Alternatively, procrastination might stem from physical and/or mental exhaustion. If you’ve got a lot on your plate and you’re feeling overwhelmed with your life’s other commitments, then working up the motivation to study can at times seem increasingly difficult.

Why do procrastinators get distracted?

Chronic procrastinators tend to get distracted easily, which means that they have trouble regulating their self-discipline. Starting a task can be difficult for chronic procrastinators, but finishing it can be the real challenge.

Procrastinators tend to actively look for distractions and are especially fond of things that don’t require too much commitment, such as repeatedly checking their email or scrolling through news feeds on socials. 

These distractions are used to regulate certain emotions, such as a fear of failure. Procrastinators would rather have people think they didn’t put in enough effort than think they lack the capabilities to complete a task.

Excuses for procrastinating

Have you ever told someone that the reason you put tasks off is because “I just work well under pressure”?

The truth is, most procrastinators don’t work well under pressure.

A UK study showed that procrastination adversely affected students’ grades, with the study finding that marks dropped by 5% as submissions got closer to the deadline.

The thing is, some people find it incredibly difficult to work unless they’re under a high amount of stress. This doesn’t mean they’ll work better or get better grades – it’s just that it’s the only way they know how to work. The trick is to identify and isolate this detrimental behaviour and break it.

Other excuses you might hear from procrastinators could include, “I can do that tomorrow” or “It’s too much work to tackle all in one go” or “I’m just too tired to look at this right now”.

So, how do you tackle procrastination and find ways to work effectively without causing yourself needless anxiety? How do you make more time in the day for yourself so that you’re not too burnt out to study?

Tips to beat procrastination!

If you’re prone to procrastination, the following tips could help you  live your best life!

  • Break tasks up into smaller and more manageable assignments and set personal deadlines. This could help you turn one large, somewhat daunting task into several smaller, easily achievable tasks.
  • Block access to distractions. For example, try going somewhere quiet that’s free from distractions (like the library or your favourite park) and switch off your phone while studying. This can be hard, as it requires self-regulation, but after taking that first step you might find that you’re able to focus better and have a clearer idea of what you want to achieve.
  • Find something positive about the task you’re completing. Think about why you need to complete the task and how it benefits you. This might help you focus on the here and now and boost your mood.

Has this helped you think of ways you can tackle procrastination?

Whether you’re studying online or in a bricks and mortar classroom, procrastination is the enemy of all students. And it can be an incredibly tough opponent to beat. But with the right kind of support and self-discipline, you can do it!

At Open Colleges, we take great pride in providing our students with a strong and robust support network. That’s just one of the reasons why our students choose to study with us, because they know we’ll support every step of the way through their studies.

If you’re an OC student and you’re struggling to meet your goals and stay motivated, you can always chat to our Learning Support team for help. They can help you craft an individualised study plan and also give you tips on staying inspired.

Because the sooner you complete your studies, the sooner you’ll graduate with a nationally recognised qualification that can help open new doors for you.

Dreaming of a new career? 

Stop dreaming and make it happen! Open Colleges offers a range of online course for you to choose from. Enrol any time and enjoy the flexibility of studying in your own time, at your own pace. 

Dreaming of a new career?

Stop dreaming and make it happen! Open Colleges offers over 150 online courses for you to choose from. Enrol any time and enjoy the flexibility of studying in your own time, at your own pace.

1 Response

  1. David Lang says:

    Blocking access to distractors is very important. Email is probably the worst thing for time wasting in the office. Some chats definitely need to be documented, especially with decision making and accountability, but it is so much easier to speak in person and clarify issues.

    Quite often the office environment can also cause problems with concentrating and it is always a great idea to have “breakout” areas or allow remote work as required. I know I can still work sitting in my lounge room and feel much more comfortable that being in the office most of the time – doing it right now in fact. But it really depends on the work environment and getting it right for staff to feel comfortable and focussed.

    The nasty old “ciggie break” is one of the greatest time wasters of all that I’ve seen in business, plus it creates issues with non smokers feeling animosity for the “extra” breaks.

    With the concept that “fear of failure” is a major cause of procrastination, that says plenty about the management of staff and lack of support and guidance – also very common in business.

    Great share.

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