I often find myself stressed about an assignment, reassuring myself that I can easily “do it tomorrow.” Soon enough though, tomorrow becomes today, later becomes now, and ultimately, I have to face the work I’ve been pushing off. Procrastination—it’s a double edged sword, often allowing us to enjoy the now at the expense of our future selves—but it only delays the inevitable, causing more stress. But why do we procrastinate? And how do we go about ending such a harmful habit? 

There can be a number of causes for procrastinating—especially as students, we often push tasks off out of fear, or because of perfectionism and distractions. Whether we’re worried about not being able to write the “perfect” paper or we start scrolling through social media, it seems there’s no end to the distractions. And while this at first seems to lower stress by pushing off dealing with it until later, it ultimately causes more anxiety and creates more problems than it solves. 

But there’s yet hope for those who, like me, chronically procrastinate. Part of the solution is practicing time management skills and setting goals; for example, rewarding yourself after completing a task, separating a daunting assignment into smaller pieces, and creating a distraction-free study area are all things that can help you stay focused. Another essential component, however, is keeping yourself motivated, and allowing that to come from your own sense of satisfaction—not just the fear of receiving a bad grade. For many of us, this is the really hard part, but keeping ourselves genuinely interested in what we’re doing, being intrinsically motivated to complete our tasks, and encouraging ourselves is the only way to fight procrastination long-term. 

The next time you have a far away due date, setting a schedule and not letting yourself cower in fear from how difficult it seems or how long it might take might just help you get through it with better planning and less anxiety. The endless cycle of procrastination—like all bad habits—can be broken with time, practice, and motivation. 

Photo Credit: the guardian.com

Sources: www.mcleanhospital.org, mcgraw.princeton.edu