Strategies for Managing Procrastination, Part One

Tips and Tools for Procrastinating Students

Author: Christopher Matthew Cavanaugh

If you find yourself delaying and avoiding something you need to do, what do you do? What strategies do you have handy?

If you're anything like how I was, you don't use a strategy at all. Even if you wanted to use a strategy, you wouldn't know which one was best for your situation. Instead, you may not know where to begin, and continue to worry and procrastinate until a mysterious spark or switch finally activates you. You are not alone in this—most people are in this situation because treatments and techniques were not made available to us. Our culture does not instill effective methods for increasing our motivation.

The main advice I received when I was young amounted to an order to "Just do it!" There was never any strategy—no proven rules to follow. As a kid, I had no lessons or tools to use—and people aren't better equipped today. Tools that exist on the internet are narrowly targeted. I haven't found a resource that offers a comprehensive approach to improving motivation.

This series aims at providing holistic advice. This is achieved by providing many strategies instead of just a few. My goal is to spread these methods with hopes that they eventually become common knowledge. Procrastination is an ancient problem that deserves a more complete treatment, accessible to everyone.

Here we cover an initial strategy you can use immediately. This approach uses tips and tools organized by keywords (categories). Keywords give a good picture of the whole situation. A large list of tools and tips ensures that each keyword is covered. This way it is more likely that no aspect of the situation is overlooked, and some technique is available to assist. You can add additional keywords and tips to expand coverage to even more circumstances.

The student experience is the focus of the series, although it is just a convenient example. Each of the tools listed below can be adapted for other types of procrastination.

Below are tips that I provided a student who came to me in need (in expanded and edited form). These are informal and conversational. If you are not a student, try to receive this information as a student would. Of course, these apply to more than just the school experience.

Tips and Tools for Procrastinating Students

These factors and suggestions can be used to gradually evolve into a position where goals tend towards completion naturally. The environment itself can come to invoke the correct feeling and mood, and repeated use of that environment leads to habituation and therefore transformation. If I had to choose a factor that yields the greatest reward, it would be a change of environment and position in that environment. Sticking to the same old places creates the same distractions, cravings, compulsions, and preserves general tendencies. New situations may not be better—one has to select carefully. It is wise to choose the right places and companions for your goals, and commit. If you would like to become like people who are productive, you should seriously consider going to places they would go, and being around people they would choose to be around. Where does your future self spend time? Not the same places! Who will your friends be? The environment played a key role in making you who you are today, and it will make you almost the same person tomorrow if you're not careful. If you are resistant about changing your environment, this will likely slow your progress or stop it entirely. A change of surroundings decreases the chances of reverting to old ways. You should be prepared to change environments routinely to support improvements in motivation that you require.