How to Prevent Procrastination

Procrastination—it happens to the best of us. Even though the deadline for an upcoming project, test, or assignment is looming, you still find yourself watching Friends reruns on Netflix or scrolling through Twitter. Once the deadline arrives, you’ve scrambled to turn something in on time. Why didn’t you just start sooner?

Don't let procrastination take over your life. There are small steps you can take to prevent this pesky habit and get your work back on track.

Find a study space

You may procrastinate because you don’t have a clean, quiet space dedicated to studying. You aren't going to be very productive if you're lying in your bed with your TV on. Your bedroom should be used for sleeping and relaxing—not taking an ACT practice test. Instead, find a different study space—at the library or even at your favorite coffee shop—or create a good study environment at home. Limit distractions by turning off your electronics, and consider wearing earplugs if the space tends to be noisy, like a student center or Starbucks.

Find a study buddy

There are many benefits to group study. Sometimes the best way to get work done is to find someone or a group of people who can inspire or support you. Do you have a friend or classmate who always seems to meet deadlines? Ask that person if you can be his or her study buddy. In addition to teaching you strong study habits, having company when studying can be that extra push you need to crush procrastination.

Reward yourself for meeting deadlines

Another way you can avoid procrastination is to reward yourself. Set study or academic goals that are tied to a reward, such as a night at the movie theater or studying abroad over winter break. For example, make a commitment that you’ll read 100 pages of your textbook before you head out to meet your friends for dinner. The key here is to stick with your plan, and only reward yourself if you actually meet your deadline. Receiving positive reinforcement after completing work can keep you motivated.

Make your work more manageable

The key to dealing with deadlines is to break up your work into more manageable pieces. For example, if you know you have a 20-page paper due in a week days, set small deadlines every two days to ensure you’re working on the paper throughout the week, rather than spending an all-nighter finishing it in time. The first deadline could be to finish all of the research components. The next deadline could be to write at least six pages of the paper. Before you know it, your 20-page paper just got a whole lot easier. If you can, set a deadline to finish your paper a day or so before the actual deadline, just in case you need to make any last-minute adjustments. This tactic will only work if you actually follow your deadlines, so treat them as you would any deadline put in place by a professor.

Follow these small tips to prevent procrastination and take control over your academic life. If you ever find yourself faltering, try to remember how you felt the last time you were rushed to complete a project or assignment. You can beat procrastination if you put your mind to it and stick with it.