As a student, you live a busy life. Many of you are trying to balance schoolwork, a part time (or full time) job, family obligations and social life. If you are a freshman, then you will recognize a newfound freedom with your time that can be a little intimidating. On top of trying to balance your life, there are times when something unexpected happens like an illness or death in the family. During these times, it is important to take time for self-care or your grades will suffer. In addition to all of these demands to your schedule, you may have difficulty managing time because of procrastination.
Procrastination is a very common complaint among college students. Many students tell themselves “I’ll get to it tomorrow” but then tomorrow comes and goes and it doesn’t get done. So what causes procrastination? There are several thought patterns and behaviors that are common of procrastinators. First of all, students who procrastinate often think that motivation has to come before action. They are waiting for that magical motivation to appear. When motivation doesn’t appear out of thin air, students get discouraged and just don’t get their work done. On the other hand, successful students know that action often comes before motivation. This means that you sometimes have to force yourself to start work on that calculus assignment even though you have little to no motivation to do it. After you get started, you are more likely to feel motivated by the fact that you have some work completed. It is encouraging and motivating to see those 10 calculus problems solved (or at least attempted).
Another reason that some students procrastinate involves a fear of failure or perfectionist standards. Some students are so afraid of failure or falling short of perfect, they don’t even try. If they don’t try, then they don’t have to explain why they failed or why they made less than a perfect A. The procrastination then serves as a defense mechanism. However, you can relax those standards by reminding yourself that no one is perfect, failing a class does not make you a failure as a person, and everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Once you relax those standards, then you are more likely to get your school work done experiencing a feeling of success.
Some students procrastinate because they lack rewards. We all respond well to positive reinforcement. Promising yourself a special treat, time spent with a friend, or some other fun activity can serve as a motivator to complete your class work. You will be motivated to finish the school work in order to go out and watch that exciting new movie you’ve been waiting for.
Many students are searching for the antidote to their procrastination. Although we don’t promise that these techniques will solve all of your problems, they are certainly a step in the right direction to reducing procrastination to get on the road to academic success. The first technique is called the Five-Minute Plan. Many people with writer’s block stare at a blank computer screen because they don’t feel motivation or inspiration but if they set out to commit at least 5 minutes to writing something then they will feel a sense of accomplishment. Dedicating yourself to only five minutes of school work is something we all can do. In addition to feeling a small sense of accomplishment, most students don’t stop after five minutes because they start to feel a sense of momentum.
The Bits and Pieces Approach takes a large assignment and breaks it into small manageable pieces. For example, let’s say you have a lengthy chapter to read for your English 101 class. Break the chapter into 3 or 4 sections. Read a section and then take a break. Come back to it again later.
The Switch-Over Technique helps you avoid getting bored by focusing on variety. Let’s say that you have Art History and Physics assignments. You like your art history class but are not as crazy about physics. Start out with Physics. When you get tired or physics, switch over to art history as a reward. You can go back and forth this way.
It’s always good to have built in rewards for completing an assignment. The reward doesn’t have to be anything pricey. It could just be watching your favorite television show. Alternately, you may want to try associating the procrastinated task with a regular daily routine. If you eat breakfast every day, you might want to associate studying for a particular class with breakfast. You review your notes while eating breakfast every day (except weekends). Pretty soon, you will mentally associate breakfast with studying!
Organization is a vital part of time management. Unorganized students may spend hours just trying to find their assignments. Others have difficulty trying to figure out where to start. To be a well organized person, you must learn to set effective goals, use organization resources, and prioritize.
It is important to set realistic goals for yourself. This means a goal that you can achieve within a reasonable amount of time. It also helps to have a way to monitor your achievement toward the goal. If you never spend more than an hour studying, than setting a goal of a 5 hour nightly study routine would not only be unrealistic but it would set you up for failure. A more realistic goal might be spending 2 hours 4 nights a week. If your goal was to make a certain grade in a class, you can monitor your progress with graded assignments. Your grades, study routines, and general schedule (don’t forget to plan for personal time or social functions) can be maintained with planners, calendars, electronic devices such as smartphones, and to-do lists. Make sure to review your syllabus at the beginning of the semester and mark important assignments in your organizer.
Some students complain of having too much on their plate. Multiple class assignments can feel overwhelming at times. However, you can avoid that overwhelmed, stressed feeling by prioritizing your life. After writing out your to-do list for the day, you can prioritize with the ABC method. Label each item on your to-do list as either A (high priority), B (medium priority) or C (low priority). Tackle the A’s first. Now that you have a prioritized to-do list for daily goals, start on developing your prioritized list of weekly goals and semester goals. With these time management and organization skills in hand, you are well on your way to becoming a successful student and a very employable job candidate!
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