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Washington State University

Wellbeing Online

Procrastination Buster

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How many times have you completed a task, sat back and thought, “Next time I am giving myself more time.” only to repeat the process again? As people who fulfill multiple roles it can become easy to let big tasks slip to the last moment.

According to Psychology today roughly twenty percent of people chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions. That number dramatically escalates to seventy percent when examining college students.

So, how do we break the cycle?

Figure out where it starts.

  • Difficulty-Sometimes tasks can seem too large and difficult to accomplish. These huge tasks are often put off there is no other choice but completion.
    • Resolution-Truly examine how the giant task is full of smaller tasks that you have already accomplished. For instance, if you are faced with a long term paper think of it as three short papers.
  • Time-If a tasks takes a large amount of time we are likely to avoid it. Especially if it means trading in time that is normally devoted to fun.
    • Resolution- Time management is key. Find ways to schedule tasks into your week. If you have certain times set aside for studying you can create time free of guilt for play. 
  • Fear-Tasks arise that require us to learn and do new things. However, no one likes to fail. Perfection is a difficult thing to live up to especially when it is a new task.
    • Remind yourself that everyone starts somewhere. You just have to start. Write one sentence. Go to one class. Start somewhere and the skill will build itself

Map your goals.

  • Create a list- Grab a paper and pen and think about the tasks that you have been avoiding. It may be helpful to make lists for different areas of your life. For example, one list for each class and a different list for finding a job.
    • Prioritize your list-Now that you have the items you want to accomplish order them by priority. If you have an assignment due tomorrow it goes to the top of the list. An assignment that isn’t due for two weeks finds its way lower on the list.
  • Simplify- Break your big goals down into manageable chunks. That term paper can be turned into two paragraphs an evening.
  • Celebrate success- Take a small break in-between tasks to do something fun. This will help reinforce the completion of tasks!

Keep doing.

The good news is that procrastination is a learned behavior.  The cycle can be broken. 

If you would like more information about procrastination and how to beat it email wellbeingonline@wsu.edu or visit the Stress Management page.