Struggling to Stay on Track
Students fall victim to unproductive patterns throughout an academic term such as starting an assignment close to its deadline, doing unrelated activities instead of the assignment, and saying that they will start ‘later.’ These issues all boil down to one common habit– procrastination. Professor Piers Steele of the University of Calgary defines procrastination as, “[being] composed of four elements. First, there must be a legitimate, intended task. Second, we must choose to delay this task, that is we must delay it voluntarily. Third, there should be practically foreseeable consequences of delaying and not delaying. Fourth, when these consequences are evaluated, we should expect by delaying to achieve a worse overall outcome.” It is difficult to completely rid of our habitual procrastination since it is often a form of stress relief from the pressure of perfectionism and sense of directionlessness on how to start working on a task. Distancing ourselves from the assignments ahead allows us to have a peace of mind that while we do not feel prepared to work at the moment we will be prepared at some point down the road, hence the habit of saying ‘later.’
Accomplishing Small Goals
Creating productive habits begins with having a clear vision of what lies ahead, therefore every time you sit down to study make a realistic goal for what you are specifically studying such as reviewing a certain amount of questions from a previous test. This will allow the material to feel much more manageable and increase your productivity as you will be able to check off that set of questions. Studying a whole semester’s worth of material ultimately leads you to feel incredibly overwhelmed instead of making progress. Rather than creating a to-do list stating that you must complete an essay then study for an exam, create a list that breaks down those specific tasks. For example, setting aside one day to find academic sources and completing the abstract of your essay will feel much less daunting. Smaller tasks are always much easier to accomplish than tackling monumental ones and by accomplishing things bit-by-bit that sense of procrastination will gradually drift away before you know it.
We as humans are creatures of habit and actively building a habit of productivity while simultaneously reducing our habitual procrastination presents challenges. Developing self-discipline through a rewards-based system compels our minds to subconsciously look forward to working and naturally feel productive in our daily lives. Scheduling a set amount of time towards studying and time for breaks is imperative. These breaks should be dedicated towards non-academic activities so set an alarm with a specific time frame to watch your favorite show, play video games, and talk with loved ones. After writing a thorough body paragraph for your essay, treat yourself to your favorite snack or briefly enjoy window shopping. Rewarding ourselves for working diligently is necessary to create a healthy balance between productivity and personal enjoyment, which is why setting a schedule of completing assignments and then indulging in our interests will train our minds to concentrate when we need to. Completing tasks in intervals will reduce the habit of spending too much time on relaxing and pushing off important assignments. Additionally, do not feel as though you need to completely stay away from these activities since they make you happy! The importance of a healthy balance will create a steady schedule to accomplish everything ahead of you.
Here is an example of an effective schedule to follow:
Create a list of tasks you will complete for that day
- Make flashcards of terms from a chapter you are learning
- Specify the goal you would like to accomplish
Set an alarm to work for at least 1-2 hours uninterrupted
- Create and study the flashcards of chapter terms
- Begin memorizing the terms
Treat yourself with a break for 30 minutes to 1 hour
- Allow yourself to not focus on academic work
- Take the time to stretch your muscles and hydrate
Set an alarm to work for at least an hour uninterrupted
- Study the flashcards of terms
- Make sure to note the terms which are most difficult to understand
- Which terms do you need to focus on more?
- Would you be able to explain in detail the meaning of each term to another person?
Benefits of Learning with GTL
Lastly, another culprit for habitual procrastination is the intense feeling of isolation in which we feel unsure of how to navigate through our academic workload and seemingly we are the only ones who are struggling. However it is important to know that you are not alone in these moments and we all experience the pressure to succeed, and in these moments there is no better solution than having a welcoming community to turn towards. With Global Talent Link, students are provided with the support and guidance needed beyond the classroom to hone in on skills they would like to further develop while being kept on a productive track. No task is too big or too small to accomplish together and with GTL we can ensure your procrastination is a thing of the past! Join GTL’s learning community!
Steel, Piers David Gareth.
The Measurement and Nature of Procrastination,
University of Minnesota, Ann Arbor, 2002.