Procrastination: (n) the action of delaying or postponing something

Procrastination is something that almost everyone experiences. Some reasons for it are unique to the individual and their personality; some are a reaction to the task that needs to be completed. Most people procrastinate because:

  • The task feels too big and/or too hard.
  • It has to be perfect (or they feel that they have to be perfect).
  • They feel there is no point—the task has no real meaning or purpose.
  • They don’t know how to start.

Avoiding the task is one major sign of procrastination, but it can manifest in other ways, too:

  • Feeling anxiety or dread when thinking about the task.
  • Engaging in peripheral tasks of lesser priority or distracting oneself.
  • Waiting for the right mood or the right time in order to start.
  • Starting the task and then stopping before completion.
  • Coming up with excuses or rationalizations for not approaching the task.

What can you do if you find yourself procrastinating?

Start by identifying things that might be preventing you from being productive. For example:

  • Electronics
    • Phones, social media, Netflix, YouTube, etc. may be constant sources of interruption.
  • Your physical environment
    • Some places (and people) may help or hinder your ability and willingness to work.
  • Time of day
    • When is your focus, energy, and productivity the highest?
  • Substances
    • Consuming (or not consuming) food and drugs may impact your ability to concentrate.

Next, try using “approach behaviors,” or actions that bring you one step closer to your task:

  • Committing yourself to the task and making meaning out of it.
  • Rewarding yourself for completing the task or a portion of the task.
  • Finding an accountability partner.
  • Starting the task early to allow for time to get help or work through difficulties.
  • Writing a to-do list that is measurable and achievable.
  • Making time-bound goals like “I am going to work for 1 hour at 3 p.m.”
  • Using apps that support your goals (Focuswriter, Procraster,Habitica, [email protected]).
  • Use the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique

This technique is named with the Italian word for tomato because the creator of this method used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer. To use this method, set a timer for 25 minutes and work with no distractions until the timer is finished. Take a five minute break. And then start the process again. After four 25-minute sessions, take a longer break before starting the process over.

If these suggestions aren't working...

Find someone to help! You can meet with peers (like the tutors at the Writing Center) or contact faculty. If procrastination is particularly severe or frequent, you might want to get a better understanding of what is underlying it. You can contact any of these offices on campus to help: