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July 28, 2008 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]


If you weren’t sure, Procrastination is avoiding doing things which need doing, and Yep, It’s that time again at Uni when everyone seems to have a phd in Procrastination…

We all do this at some stage, but it can get to a point where it becomes a real problem in our lives. The more we procrastinate the bigger the task ahead becomes, and the harder it is to take action. Failure to act can produce many undesirable feelings: guilt: “if only I had done such-and-such” inadequacy: “I can’t do it” stress and anxiety: “there’s never enough time”

Here are some tips to help you to understand and overcome the problem:

Why we procrastinate . . .

Procrastinators are often accused of being lazy and disorganised, but not getting on with your work is often symptomatic of other factors, such as: You may be setting yourself excessively high standards and, faced with unrealistic goals, you put off doing your work. You may not see the relevance of your work, and so you can’t be bothered. Sometimes it is unclear to you what is required and this leads to avoidance. Sometimes the task is new and fear of the unknown puts you off making a start. You may feel you do not have the skills to do what is asked and anxiety makes you avoid starting.

What to look out for . . .

There are many ways we avoid work, and half the battle in overcoming our inertia is to recognise our behaviour. If some of these quotes sound familiar, it’s because you are human:

Trouble ‘getting past go’

“I start on the bits I like, for example, reading for an essay topic, but never get started on the parts I don’t – like the actual writing!”


“In an exam I can’t decide which question to answer, and the process of deciding is so paralysing I don’t have enough time to do a good essay.”

Substituting work…

“I mean well, but instead of swotting I’ll go off and do other things – anything! – to avoid getting on with it.” “I’ll just do this little bit, then I’ll do my stats assignment.” “I can always tell when I’m avoiding something, because I insist on tidying my desk, reorganising my files, then I make a list of things to do … !” “I love the phone or other interruptions because it gives me an excuse to leave my work.” “I’m almost finished, so I’ll reward myself now for all my good work.”


“I pile my study spot with heaps of library books … or take home piles of work to do at the weekend but never actually touch them” “I have a friend who always goes on about how much she has to do, how hard it is to find books, how little time there is left – she should stop talking about it and get started!”

What to do about it . . . There is, of course, one simple thing which always works against procrastination: action! Get going and do something – each day you put it off, the task gets bigger and bigger.

To get things done efficiently it is important you plan your time effectively: Get an overview of the task – the ‘big picture’ – and jot down the various activities/tasks required. Break the project into smaller tasks using the ‘salami technique’ (a roll of salami is unappetising but sliced thinly on a platter it is far more appealing). Smaller tasks are manageable, make the whole thing look easier, and allows you to use small pockets of time rather than waiting to set aside a couple days, which may never happen. Set realistic time frames for each step. Have a flexible plan to allow for problems beyond your control. Emphasise effective time rather than time itself. Do short, effective study periods and balance your study/work with recreation activities. Reward yourself after you have completed a task Be honest with yourself. If you are going to skimp an assignment or an aspect of your work – admit it, forget the guilt and move on. Conversely, if you are going all-out to achieve a good grade, commit to planning and doing the work it takes to achieve this. Assess your progress. Regularly refer back to your initial planning – are you still on track? Move on quickly to a contingency plan if you strike problems. Be happy to reassess tasks.


About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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