Overcoming Procrastination: “Due Tomorrow” Shouldn’t Mean “Do Tomorrow”

By Elizabeth Kelly

Every semester starts the same way: we buy new notebooks and colored pens with hopes of staying on top of class assignments and study groups. Unfortunately, this motivation only lasts a few weeks before disaster strikes, and we begin functioning on two hours of sleep, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and emailing professors begging for an assignment extension during midterms. As college students, procrastination is a phenomenon most of us can relate to.

Although procrastination can push us to complete weeks of work in a matter of hours, this work typically isn’t our best—especially when writing is involved. Writing is a process, not just a single task, which is why procrastination can actually hinder the quality of our writing.

As a senior, I still struggle to break the old habits of procrastination. However, I’ve found a few strategies over these last few years that’ve helped me face my procrastination.

Using a planner. If I’m frantically trying to write a six-page research paper in three hours, it’s because I didn’t plan ahead properly. Writing down due dates simply isn’t enough to keep myself on track; I also need to plan when to start assignments. When I plan ahead, I can prioritize items on my to-do list. If a paper is due on a Friday, I may write “start PSY 240 paper” that Monday so the assignment doesn’t sneak up on me.

Utilizing self-discipline. I constantly tell myself, “Okay, just watch one episode of Friends; then, it’s study time.” Five hours later, I’ve watched a whole season, decided it’s too late to study, and headed to bed. Starting a show before starting an assignment can be risky. Instead, I’ve learned to use Netflix as a reward for completing a task in my planner.

Staying motivated. When I’m in the groove of writing a CHS 211 paper and get stuck, it’s easy to just take the easy route and quit. In this situation, I have to remember my primary goal: to earn my degree. Don’t get me wrong—it’s okay to stop and take a break—but I have to make sure my break doesn’t turn into three or four days. I usually use breaks to consider my next steps or outline a gameplan to move forward with my writing.

Setting attainable, smaller goals. The goal of writing a literature review by Sunday night is daunting. Instead of setting one goal for an assignment, I set smaller goals within each stage of the writing process. If the assignment is due Sunday night, I may set a goal of writing an outline the Wednesday beforehand. Then, I may plan to have a full draft written by Friday so I can dedicate the weekend to revising.

These tips and tricks have helped me stay ahead of the game, and I hope you can also use them to prevent those last-minute panics before an assignment deadline. Happy writing!

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