Procrastination: Tips to get your uni work on track

Procrastination is when you deliberately delay completing (or perhaps even starting) a task, despite the negative consequences that might come of it. It is a normal part of life and can happen to all of us at different times. It might mean that you never get around to finishing your readings before class, submitting assignments on time, or studying for exams. The obvious outcomes are that you might lose marks or fail the subject, but perhaps you had not considered that it might place stress on other aspects of your life as well? When you miss deadlines, or recognise that your work is not as good as it can be, this can lead to feelings of anxiety and low mood, which can then have a direct impact on feelings of self-worth. These feelings can then disrupt your studies and your life.

Procrastination works in a cycle: we approach a task and have negative feelings about it (e.g., “writing essays is boring”, or “I’ll never get this done”), so we try to avoid this discomfort by ‘escaping’ and doing something else! This might initially feel rewarding but it will actually increase the likelihood of procrastinating again next time. We need to find a way to break this pattern.

Solutions
1.Identify what you want to achieve, then put in place some strategies to get the task done. For example, write a to-do list, break the task down into smaller more manageable parts, be realistic about how long each task will take, and make a weekly schedule of the tasks that you have been putting into the too hard basket!

2.You can either begin with the worst task first, to get it over with, or by doing something that feels more manageable, and gradually build up to the trickier ones. It can help to set a time limit for yourself to do as much as possible and reward yourself with a break. Perhaps you could use an interval timer app on your phone where you set your work time, your break time, and the number of cycles you could do that for before having a bigger break. E.g., 20 minutes work, 5 minutes rest, repeat 3 times then have 30 minutes break.

3.Work out when is your best time of day, i.e., when your brain works best. Use that time for the tasks that need the most concentration. Find the best location for yourself to get tasks done, remove any distractions like your phone or social media (there are apps which can block devices or websites for a certain amount of time), and plan rewards for yourself when you actually do complete something!

4.Utilise the resources available to you at uni and online.
CAPS have a booklet with ideas on how to deal with procrastination (http://sydney.edu.au/current_students/counselling/download-docs/learn-to-deal-with-procrastination.pdf) and also provide one on one counseling appointments which can help you develop strategies for dealing with procrastination, and can help to identify if you have any other underlying difficulties. The Learning Centre has workshops and online resources https://www.sydney.edu.au/students/learning-centre/learning-centre-workshops.html.