5 Ways to Help Students Conquer Procrastination

How To Combat Procrastination & Master Productivity

It can take decades to learn how to combat procrastination and master productivity. That is why it is best to get an early start on developing strategies that can turn lost time into success.

As many students studying classics may already know, the word procrastination comes from the Latin words pro (for) and cras (tomorrow). It quite literally translates to for tomorrow.

The idea of waiting for tomorrow may be one that parents and educators are familiar with. Most students will battle procrastination at some point in their academic careers. Many of them are aware of the consequences of skipping a study session or putting off a research paper until the last minute, while others may only see the decision to put aside their to-do list as a temporary one.

While adults may have already learned some essential skills for coping with procrastination at work and at home, students do not always have these same strategies. Therefore, it is important for parents and teachers alike to help students develop these abilities before bad habits become unmanageable.

The first step to help students conquer procrastination is to gain insight into why individuals put things off in the first place. According to a study by psychologists Axel Grund and Stefan Fries at the University of Bieleland in Germany, procrastination is often related to self-determination.

To put it more simply, it comes down to a question of whether an individual prioritizes self-assigned tasks or tasks assigned by someone else. Students who fall into the former category may be more likely to put off homework in favor of personal interests such as reading for pleasure or socializing with friends. This same study concluded that trying to force procrastinators into completing tasks they were not interested in had little success.

So how does one help a student overcome the tendency to procrastinate? Here are some useful tips to keep in mind when dealing with this challenge.

Start with a self-assessment

The first step to overcoming procrastination is to get to the root of it. Not all students procrastinate for the same reasons.

Parents might consider sitting down with their child and having an open conversation about why he or she is delaying homework and studying. Reasons might include trouble focusing, lack of organization, the self-fulfilling prophecy of believing oneself incapable of success, having too much to do at one time.

Break complex assignments into manageable pieces

This strategy is especially helpful for students feeling overwhelmed by a heavy course load as well for students who are unable to stay organized. Parents can encourage students to share everything they currently have to do and help develop a plan to break it into pieces so that it seems more manageable.

This approach can help when viewing an academic course load as a whole or when viewing a larger task, such as studying for SATs, writing an important paper, or completing homework for a difficult class.

Practice time management with a scheduling system

Implementing a schedule can help students stay on task. A schedule can be customized to fit the responsibilities of the student and to take on a form that makes the most sense to that student.

For example, a schedule might be broken down hourly, allotting specific hours to specific tasks. Or it may be structured as a to-do list with tasks that the student must fit into the specified day at whatever time they see fit. Technology-savvy students may prefer digital schedules, while more visual students may prefer physical calendars.

Associate tasks with goals

Circling back to Grund and Fries’ study, it is important to note that overcoming procrastination may be difficult for students who prioritize activities that are personally meaningful over tasks that are assigned by a teacher or parents.

It might be helpful to reframe dreaded tasks so that they are associated with goals that matter to the student. If a student is passionate about getting into a certain college, it is important to remind him or her that completing a homework assignment will help get the grades required to attend that school. If a student dreams of being a writer, a parent can encourage him or her to spend extra time on required reading.

Utilize rewards

Rewards can be vital to overcoming procrastination. Instead of threatening to take away pleasurable activities – such as time spent with friends, Netflix binges, and weekend outings – parents can reframe the conversation to position these events as rewards for completing tasks.

Parents should also encourage students to determine their own rewards system so that they have a hand in the process and do not feel micromanaged. Whether the reward is a pizza night after a week of getting homework done on time or a shopping trip after turning in a paper, this can create a system that students will use throughout their academic careers and beyond.


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