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Illustration of person stealing time

30 November 2022

Why you procrastinate – and how to stop

Procrastination is the thief of time.
— Poet Edward Young

‘Lazy. Undisciplined. Unmotivated. Poor time management skills.’

If you procrastinate – where you unnecessarily and voluntarily delay doing something, even though you know there may be negative consequences – you might think it’s because you’re guilty of one or more of the above.

So, you may be surprised to learn that procrastination is more likely to be about managing your emotions than your time – for example, feelings like:

Procrastinating is a common habit, but it creates a lot of stress. As well as making your uni assignments harder, procrastinating can also affect your health and wellbeing. But never fear! There’s some simple strategies you can implement to make your study a more positive experience.

How to stop procrastinating

Procrastination is an active process – you’re choosing to do something else instead of your work. You need to recognise that you’re doing it and remember that the reward and relief of finishing an assignment you’re proud of will feel way better than the quick fix you get from procrastinating.

Here’s some simple and practical ways to focus on your study:

  1. Start right now – once you get the ball rolling, it’s much easier to return to something that you’ve already started. It can also help to tackle the least pleasant aspects first, so you get them out of the way early. 
  2. Set realistic or SMART goals – don’t attempt to do a whole assignment in one night. Break down your work into smaller, more achievable tasks, and try to complete them one at a time. One great tool to use is the Pomodoro Technique, a popular time management strategy that divides your studies into easily completed pieces. 
  3. Ask someone to check up on you – feeling accountable to someone else can help you stay focused. You could try a self-monitoring app like Procraster or even start a study group. Collaborating with your classmates can make study more fun and may even give you a fresh perspective on tricky concepts you’re struggling to understand.
  4. Minimise distractions – turn off your phone, avoid checking email and ignore the temptation to monitor your social media feeds.
  5. Reward yourself – do something you love after completing each task (instead of doing it beforehand).
  6. Plan ahead – mark dates and times for study in your diary or use our online study planner.
  7. Study smarter – check out our dedicated workshop on Overcoming procrastination, to be held via Zoom on Wednesday 21 December. Understand the emotions behind procrastination and learn how to overcome the habit.

Where to get more help

The below services are free and available to all Deakin students:

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