Ann-Marie: Helpful strategies to beat study procrastination

At time of writing, Ann-Marie was working in USQ’s Health and Wellness Team and she has been a practicing psychologist for over a decade. She has enjoyed living and working in different locations such as South Australia, Darwin, Whitsundays, Wide Bay and Townsville, but is now happily living in Toowoomba with two children, a demanding dog, guinea pigs and chickens.


Have you ever decided to put off study so you can do something less important but more fun? While we always manage to convince ourselves that we have a valid reason to postpone study, be honest with yourself, do any of these excuses ring a bell?

Common signs of procrastination

“I will do a better job when I’m in the mood to study.” -  Seriously? Are you ever really in the mood to study?   

“I’m tired today, I will do it tomorrow.” – Will you really though?   

“I have heaps of time, I can start later.” - How many times have you said this and ended up throwing that assignment together at the last minute in a total panic?

“It’s such a nice day, I should not be inside studying.” - It’s spring… every day is a nice day but your study still needs to be done.   

“I will study after cleaning up a bit, or after I watch a movie.” - Hmmm will you now?    

If any of these excuses sound familiar, you’re not alone. Let’s take a look at the science behind procrastination.

Why we procrastinate

Put simply, it feels good. Sometimes when we are faced with a task, like study or assignments, we experience an uncomfortable emotional reaction such as; feeling stressed, anxious, bored, a fear of failure, frustration, or resentment. To avoid these feelings, we seek a short-term solution. Notice the moment you decide to do something else, you experience a sense of relief. Unfortunately, this soon disappears and the discomfort returns, often worse than before. Everyone procrastinates, but the better you understand your unhelpful habits the more likely you are to overcome them.

How to beat procrastination

  • Be aware of your emotions and discomfort (stress, anxiety, boredom, fear, frustration, resentment). Recognise the urge to procrastinate.
  • Try your best to tolerate this discomfort. Allow these feelings to come and pass as they will. It may help to spend a few minutes focusing on your breathing; taking slow, deep breaths.
  • Identify what environment you are most productive in and where you have the least distractions. Make this your study place.
  • Identify what time of day you are most energised and at your peak performance. This is your performance zone and your most productive study time, so make the most of it.
  • Set yourself a daily schedule where you record what you will do for each hour of the day. This means scheduling study, other commitments, rest breaks and reward activities.
  • Getting started is often the most difficult. Start with a task that you feel is easy and build momentum to tackle the more difficult tasks.
  • Commit to just 15 minutes of study. Once you have completed 15 minutes, see if you can commit to just another 15 minutes. It is likely you will want to keep going.
  • Reward yourself when you have completed a task, achieved a goal or earned a break.

Remember those excuses we talked about earlier? Now that you understand what procrastination is and how it works, you’re in a better place to dismiss these excuses when you find them creeping in on your study time. 

Excuse    Dismissing the excuse
I have heaps of time, I can start later  But better I start now and get on top of it
I’m tired today, I will do it tomorrow  Even though I am tired, I can start now and get something done so there’s less to do later
I will study after I clean up a bit, or after I watch a movie  But my study is more important, I can do these things after I study

It will take time and practice for you to change your procrastinating behaviour, but it is possible, and it will be worth it! If you’re still struggling to keep procrati-cleaning at bay, let Andrea’s experience be the kick-start you need to get back to the books! 


Related:  

Free your study from internal distractions

The 7 bad study habits... and how to combat them!

How to put the 'pro' in procrastination