Five smart ways for students to avoid procrastination


Upon realizing that the deadline for your 10-page paper is fast approaching, you open a Word document to get started on it. After about a minute of staring at the blank screen, you remember that last night may or may not have been cause for never leaving your dorm again, so you absolutely have to look through photos from the night’s shenanigans. 

And after reading through a few Facebook posts, you’re now horrifyingly aware that you missed out on last week’s episode of Game of Thrones, so you have to catch up — no exceptions. When you finish the episode, you look up at the time only to discover it’s a few minutes past the start of the hour, and let’s be real, you can’t start an assignment unless it’s the start of the hour. It’s bad luck, right? Or at least you tell yourself it is, grab a snack and start browsing through Buzzfeed for “inspiration.” 

Procrastination happens to the best of us. But if you let it conquer your life, you might find yourself in a dark and terrifying place that involves a sad excuse for a GPA and less than pleased parents. So how do you avoid the traps of the Internet, food and everything in between? Here are some tips to ensure you won’t fall down the slippery slopes of procrastination: 

Don’t study in your room

I get it. Your bed is soft, cushiony and just the perfect combination of comforting and relaxing. And if you view your room as a place of Zen and solace, with the exception of a crazy-eyed roommate or two, it can’t simultaneously serve as the perfect study spot. If you want your brain to absorb information and fully concentrate on a task, you’ll need to ditch the TV and the chatter from your floormates, and embrace the quiet surroundings of a study room or a library. The lower level of the Undergraduate Library may seem scary at first. It can be unearthly quiet on a good day, but that’s exactly what you need. Start the habit earlier rather than later, and make sure to study for your first big assignment in a space designed for doing so. Then, come back to your room, turn on your favorite show of the moment and find your happy place again. 

Create a to-do list

If you’re a true procrastinator, you’ll take up a lot of time writing a list of priorities so that you don’t actually have to start them. Don’t do that. Look at what needs to get done, put it in order of most to least important, and then actually do it. Whether you need a big wall calendar to help you stay organized, sticky notes on your laptop or a weekly planner, don’t make the mistake of remembering all of your deadlines in your head. You’ll forget something at some point, and believe me, in some classes, that tiny assignment will be the difference between an A- and a B+ at the end of the semester.  

Take breaks

Have you ever set aside an entire day to study one subject only to realize that after 20 minutes you’re already bored and desperate to stop? According to a study led by Alejandro Lleras, University psychology professor, prolonged attention to a single task deters performance. If you want to be successful, taking small breaks, rather than consistently studying, is the way to go. After an hour and a half, get coffee with a friend, watch silly cat videos or anything else that allows your brain some rest for about 15 minutes. You’ll come back feeling refreshed and more ready than before to tackle a daunting homework assignment or a tedious essay.  

Make yourself accountable

I’m not saying you need to live tweet the hardships of studying, but if it helps you stay on track, you might want to consider sharing your plans with others. Whether it’s through social media or in-person, letting others know could cause for future embarrassment if you’re not doing what you’re supposed to. By studying with a friend, you can promise to keep each other focused, and will have the ability to lean over and see what’s actually going on behind that computer screen. However, be weary, and don’t make your study session a four-hour long chat about so-and-so’s selfies and finding oneself in college. Make a pact to stay concentrated, and stick to it. 

Motivate yourself 

What are your goals? If you can’t think of the answer right away, that’s okay, but have some idea of what you want out of the classes you’re taking, your major and ultimately, your life. Is it an A you’re going for? If so, you may want to invest more time. If you’re just trying to pass, figure out what it will take to do so, and put your efforts into a class in that you can still achieve the grade you want. The hours you devote to studying won’t seem nearly as dreadful if you know that it’ll be worth it in the end. And, of course, realize that your social life, hobbies and pretty much anything more entertaining than staring at a textbook for hours won’t disappear in a day, or even in the week that you devote to working hard.  

Alice is a junior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]