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Break procrastination to improve your grades and mental health

By Christie Melhorn, September 29 2017 —

Sometimes, the motivation to start a class assignment is too far down the gutter to bother reaching for until you’re drowning in sewer water. Some students work well under pressure. Others don’t, but still need the sense of impending doom to push them. Whichever the case, procrastinating can produce strong results but also can be stressful, causing us to neglect other responsibilities. And the novelty of a heavily caffeinated night and hilarious typos in your work quickly loses its charm. Have a less traumatic university experience by trying out these following tips to break the pattern of procrastination.

Don’t beat yourself up:

In The Atlantic, DePaul University psychology professor Joseph Ferrari explains that procrastination often stems from emotional unrest. He says that telling a procrastinator to “just do it” is similar to telling someone who is depressed to “cheer up.” Commanding yourself to get something done and then beating yourself up for putting it off creates a damaging feedback loop of self-defeat.

As clichè as it sounds, check in with your feelings before starting an assignment. Emotions or insecurities we’re avoiding often cause us to seek distractions. The fear of failure can also deter us from hitting the books — either because you put too much pressure on yourself to perform perfectly or because of self-doubt.

Those feelings are draining and can occupy a lot of space in our minds.  Celebrity Instagram posts of luxurious vacations and trendy brunches are a nice distraction but don’t address the underlying issue. Settle into a comfortable space — your room, a café or a particular floor of the Taylor Family Digital Library — and write out by hand how you’re feeling. Don’t put a time limit on this. Release whatever repressed thoughts you’re harbouring and take a short walk afterwards. With less emotional white noise bouncing around your head, you will likely be more productive.

Study with others:

Try arranging study dates with friends who don’t doddle with their homework. Working around others can hold you accountable and offers moral support. Verbalizing your thoughts about something you’re learning is also a great way to retain information and explore it creatively. It’s also nice to have someone watch your stuff when you need to grab food or use the bathroom. Just be careful about distracting each other or taking too many study breaks!

Pursue your interests when you can:

When professors give you creative freedom on an assignment, choose a topic you’re sincerely interested in. The assignment will feel less like a ball and chain on your leg and will be more rewarding to complete. It may even introduce you to more bodies of knowledge and research prospects that you want to pursue.

Ask for an extension:

Even the most diligent, hyper-engaged students can drown in a flood of papers and tests at some point. Professors generally want you to excel. They understand that extra time is sometimes needed to produce the best results. Don’t feel guilty or irresponsible for asking for more time. But don’t abuse the privilege of receiving an extension by handing an assignment in past the agreed submission date — or not handing it in at all.

At some point in university, you will likely have a long, lonely night in front of your laptop. Once in a while, delaying an assignment is worth it to catch a last-minute concert, grab dinner with a friend or just take a break. Just try not to let habitual procrastination create too many of those problems.

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