By Helen Beth Driver
Faculty Member, School of Arts and Humanities, American Public University
Time ticks away as you stare at an empty document, watching that familiar blinking cursor on your computer screen. That feeling of dread hits you because, yet again, you have put off another assignment until the last possible moment.
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Most of us can relate to the feeling of relief when we tell ourselves to complete a difficult task in ‘five minutes’ instead of immediately, even though those five minutes often end up becoming 10 minutes or even longer. Unfortunately, this short-term, pleasurable feeling causes more stress and anxiety in the long term, because now there is less time to complete a difficult assignment.
Five Tips for Fighting Procrastination
Thankfully, there are techniques you can use to help ease school-related anxiety and combat procrastination. Using these strategies will allow you to complete your schoolwork on time and to the best of your ability:
1) Focus on beginning your most difficult activity first, which will remove much of your anxiety. However, when you begin a task, don’t focus on the entire activity if it seems overwhelming. Just focus on starting the assignment.
2) Work in small increments by breaking up your task into manageable chunks. For example, work on one task for 30 minutes. Then, move on to something else for a short while and return to the first task for another chunk of time.
3) Give yourself a small ‘reward’ for completing a class-related activity, like viewing a quick video or reading an interesting article. However, note how long that reward should last ahead of time, and do not use the reward until after you complete that school-related task.
4) If you must take a break, do another required school activity. For instance, if you just cannot figure out how to start a writing assignment, then begin your math homework. If your history assignment seems too difficult, complete your forum responses for a communications class instead.
This way, even though you might be temporarily avoiding one assignment, you are still completing a required activity. As a result, you aren’t wasting your time, and this brief, thoughtful, break may help you to refocus your mind.
5) Finally, turn off distractions. For example, if you are writing a paper, turn off your Wi-Fi access, put away your phone and stop answering your emails.
Although procrastination might feel good for the moment, it will only prevent you from achieving your educational goals in the long term. The next time you feel the urge to put off a tricky assignment, especially when you see that blinking cursor, just think about that first sentence and get started.
About the Author
Helen Beth Driver is a faculty member and English instructor of the School of Arts and Humanities at APU. She teaches courses in writing and literature, ranging from English Composition to Mythology and World Literature. Prior to joining APU, Beth taught at various colleges in New York state, including Saint Thomas Aquinas, Mount Saint Mary and Cayuga Community College. She also has experience working as an English Writing Lab Instructor for developmental and advanced students.