Procrastination: The stages of (not) writing your assignment

Have you been staring at your computer screen for too long? Have you been unable to tick anything off your to do list for the day, or worse, for the entire week? Is the night out plan with your mates clearly more tempting than finishing the reading that you were meant to be done with yesterday? If all or most of these things apply to you, clearly you prefer the short-term pleasure over the long-term gain. In short: you are procrastinating. Has this behaviour become cyclical? Are you ready to convince yourself to break out of it? If so, continue reading this article (or just carry on reading it because you’re going to procrastinate anyway).


One of the most common reasons why people procrastinate and put assignments off to the last few days (or hours) is because they think they “work best under pressure”. I won’t pretend to be an expert and analyse the psychology or effectiveness behind this idea. However, it should be noted that even though you may feel more ready and compelled to do your work in the last minute, it does becomes very obvious to the marker that you rushed through the assignment. And that’s because you didn’t give yourself enough time to add the final touches and proofread your work. So, you may end up losing marks merely because you didn’t notice a few grammatical errors or because you messed up the references in the rush to submit your work. These situations can often be attributed to procrastination and in order to polish your work and gain the extra marks, you should leave yourself plenty of time to complete your assignments.

But there is another type of procrastinators: those who don’t start their work because they lack motivation and are too focused on short-term rewards. If you’re one of these people, then I have one suggestion for you: CARPE MOMENTO! Yes, seize the moment and get done with the task at hand now. You will feel so much better if instead of postponing your work, you give it your full attention for a few hours and then reward yourself! All those things that are distracting you right now can be done without any guilt after you complete your most important tasks first. It all comes down to prioritising. Yes, that night out sounds more tempting and one more episode of your favourite show won’t hurt, but you will probably be fully able to enjoy these things once you start to make some progress on your assignment. The feeling of having earned that day off and the liberty to binge-watch an entire show is amazing. Keep in mind that your stress levels will grow more and more when you’re running out of time and the deadline is looming around the corner. Instead, try to motivate yourself by imagining how great you will feel once the task is over.


And finally, some of us end up procrastinating because we’re too focused on trying to make our work perfect. The fear of not achieving perfection can take away all your motivation if you get even the slightest hint that your work is not flawless…and the real problem appears when you can’t start doing your assignment because making it perfect seems too overwhelming. However, there are ways to make constructive use of this state of mind. Just be gentle to yourself and focus on the fact that you already started taking action by thinking about your assignment or maybe you already wrote something even if it’s just a draft. There’s really no benefit in postponing your work until you find the right time to create a masterpiece, so you should instead re-examine your standards and set more realistic expectations of what you can achieve in the time you were given.

So, in essence, it’s within your ability to stop procrastinating. If you want to find out more about what you can do to start getting things done, come to our workshop “Managing procrastination” run by the Counselling Service or check these online resources on how to deal with procrastination effectively.

By Sheza from the Student Team


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