Study, stress and procrastination

As a teenager studying full-time, some of the biggest causes of stress can be homework, assignments and due dates. The stress then becomes amplified as the due dates draw closer and self-inflicted pain of procrastination can become a major problem.

Recently, I had been given an assignment by a teacher and the instruction was simple and clear: 8 pages in 4 weeks. That’s about 2 paragraphs a day? Not too bad right? And because it seemed relatively easy to achieve, I put it off, making excuses like “I’m too tired, I’ll do it tomorrow,” or “I’ve still got 2 weeks, I can do it later” and guess what? I ended up starting the day before it was due. So I stayed up all night, handed it in the next morning and that was that. I was tired, but hey, job done so I reassured myself that I’d done what I needed to do.

But after recouping my lost sleep, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t all over. So I stopped to ask myself whether what I had done was worth it. Had I have just sat down and done the assignment 4 weeks ago, I could be done and have enjoyed those 4 weeks instead of procrastinating and having it loom over me for the whole time. By delaying pain of actually doing the work, I created 4 weeks of dread and other bad feelings – and eventually still had to deal with the initial pain anyway!

Simple steps to avoid procrastination

After chatting to some of the talented psychologists at Revive where I work part-time, here’s what I’ve learned about some of the psychology of avoidance and some of the simple steps we can take to procrastinate less in the future:

  • Write yourself a list of the things you need to do
  • Give each task a realistic time frame – and allow for some “down time” so you don’t make a promise to yourself that causes you more stress.
  • Work in small bursts: if you start by saying you will write just 1 sentence, your brain has less ammunition to talk you out of doing it. The trick is to make it an easy to achieve one task. That will give you confidence and get some momentum going so the second sentence will come easier.  You can build your way up to a paragraph and before you know it, you will have written pages.
  • If you find you’re having trouble concentrating on the task at hand take a few minutes (literally time yourself) to take some deep breaths or do something physically active and then get straight back to the task. I’ve learned that a bit of distraction sometimes gives our brains more ability to focus when we need to. (but only a bit of distraction!)
  • Try to plan rewards for yourself every hour. The rewards themselves need to be in short bursts so they don’t become too distracting, but increase your sense of enjoyment or pleasure during your day.  I like the idea of going for a walk in nature or reading a chapter of a fiction book after I reach a big milestone.

What else can we do?

I know that in the grand scheme of things, procrastinating on high school assignments isn’t the biggest of issues but the team at Revive tell me that procrastination sometimes continues into adulthood and can be a serious problem for some. If your procrastination or stress about a looming deadline is causing you or a friend problems that you’d like some help with, get in touch with the friendly team at Revive to talk about what they can do to help.

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