We’ve all been there: It’s the night before your test and you’ve just started studying, or it’s the night before your paper is due and you’ve only got an outline. Everyone, especially college students, are no stranger to the late nights of cramming or writing after having procrastinated for at least a week. And while it may not be fun, it oftentimes just seem like you can’t help yourself to putting everything off for one more day. However, according to a recent study, procrastinating may say more about you than just you “were too busy to do your work.”
In a recent article by Jeanna Bryner called “Why We Procrastinate,” she interviews Piers Steel of the University of Calgary, who recently analyzed over 200 studies on procrastination dating from the 1920s through 2006. According to Steel, one of the major themes he found was impulsiveness, or what he calls the “I’ll-do-it-tomorrow” phenomenon.
Steel says, that these are the people who live in the “now.” “[Impulsive people] can’t feel motivated, deadlines don’t feel real, they have no energy until just before they happen.” However, once that deadline is near, Steel says that impulsive people work at about 11 times the average rate.
Steel also cites high distractibility, low self-confidence, and low internal motivation as some of the other determining factors of procrastination. Perfectionists, he says, are actually less likely to procrastinate, although it may be their guilt, perhaps, that drives them to report higher levels of procrastination.
So if you fall into any one of these categories, what are you to do? Are you to just concede to a life full of all-nighters and delayed motivation? Not necessarily. There are certainly some things you can do to limit your procrastination.
Set small goals for yourself. By setting smaller goals and deadlines, you bring the deadlines to you. This way you don’t get overwhelmed trying to meet a larger deadline and you still get the jolt of needing to meet that deadline to motivate you.
Stick to any deadlines you set for yourself. You shouldn’t let yourself get away with not meeting a deadline. It will not only mess up the rest of your schedule, but it will also put you one step closer to having to pull an all-nighter.
Make your goals reasonable. You don’t want to set ridiculously difficult goals for yourself; you’ll be less likely to stick to any of it. Set reasonable goals for yourself. Just avoid making them too easy so that you get bombarded with work closer to the REAL deadline.
Change where you work. Especially when you’re in school, it can be incredibly tempting to watch TV with your roommate or hang out with the guys down the hall when you’ve got a mountain of work waiting for you. The best thing to do is to find what environment you work best in, whether it’s a coffee shop or the library, make a plan to go there when you have a lot of work to accomplish.
Work in teams or groups. Find a study buddy (or group) who you can study/work with. This way you can motivate each other to stay on task.
Reward yourself for a job well done. After working hard, it’s a good idea to treat yourself. Take time to do your hobbies, spend time with a friend, or go to your favorite restaurant. If you take some time for you and reward yourself, you’ll be that much more relaxed, AND that much more likely to work just as hard next time.