Overcoming Procrastination

On the surface, someone who procrastinates can look like someone who is unmotivated and doesn’t care about their grade. However, procrastination is often the exact opposite and is linked to strong emotions about grades, such as perfectionism, fear of failure, or confusion about how to proceed. With this insight, let’s think of procrastination as a decision that can be redirected into actionable steps. Let’s explore some steps you can try to overcome the desire to procrastinate.

Step 1: Get organized.
Step 2: Get focused.
Step 3: Get rewarded.

Check out our visual resource for Procrastination Blasting below!

Step 1: Get organized

Projects, readings, and tests are intimidating when you don’t feel ready. Organizing your work and creating a plan will help you maximize your studies while ensuring you create balance for mental wellness, physical health, and social time. No matter if this is week 1 or 6, the ASC has resources to help you plan your semester, your week, your priorities, or even plan your study schedule

If you believe you work best under pressure, use that to your advantage by setting up mini-deadlines that you can meet throughout the term.

Tip: establish a personal mantra. This mantra should be short, positive, and personal to you. For example, “Today I’m by doing my best, and I’m getting better every day”

Step 2: Get focused

Distractions are the enemy of action. They can be obvious distractions (i.e. social media, streaming shows) or sneaky distractions (i.e. cleaning your room again and again). Finding a method to keep you focused is your defense against the temptation of distraction.

Five Minute Motivator
Breaking down a large project into tinier pieces will help you to use the Five Minute Motivator approach to procrastination. Knowing you have a 1000-word essay due in two weeks is a large goal and cannot be done in five minutes. What if you broke it down into smaller pieces, what is something you could start on right now? Your next step could be “brainstorm essay topics,” which can be done in five minutes. At the end of the five-minute motivator, can you challenge yourself to another five-minute task? If not, stand up, move around, and come back to refocus on your next five-minute task.

Tip: If you are new to drafting S.M.A.R.T. goals, use the ASC’s handout on Weekly Task Planning to kickstart your projects.

Pomodoro Technique
Begin this technique by choosing a task that is the highest priority and/or highest immediacy. Set a timer for 25 minutes, then fixate and work hard on the task until the timer alerts. Now take a full five-minute break to rest, relax, and rejuvenate yourself. When the 5 minutes is complete, reset your alarm for 25 and repeat the work cycle. After you have completed four total cycles of ‘25 minute work + 5-minute rest’ you have won a long break, 20-25 minutes long. After this, review your tasks to choose the next highest priority or immediacy, start back at cycle 1, set the 25-minute timer and begin again.

Tip: Use a timer or app on your phone or laptop to keep time for you.

Distraction Disruptors
Keep a list near you while studying or working on coursework. Any time you find you’ve become distracted, write down on the list what you caught yourself doing. At the end of the day, look at your list. What repeats? What distractions did you expect? What distractions were a surprise?
Next, write on your list what you’ll use to disrupt that distraction tomorrow.

Tip: Next time you catch yourself distracted [e.g. scrolling social media], stop and recite a personal motivation statement [e.g. I am a work in progress, I am constantly improving, and one distraction will not derail me from my goals].

Step 3: Get rewarded

Simply, when you complete a task, congratulate yourself! Genuinely take a moment to feel good about the work you just accomplished. Next, have a reward that reflects the size of the task you just accomplished. Small task rewards include listening to a favourite song, going for a short walk outside, or having a quick chat with a friend. Large task rewards can be streaming an episode of your favourite show, video chatting with friends, or playing a video game for a set time length. Finally, celebrate your growth as a learner; every moment forward is progress!

Procrastination Blasting [Visual Resource]

Do you feel you work better under pressure? Do you struggle to get readings and coursework started? If you missed the ASC's short WebEx session to look at how you can introduce new methods into your academic toolkit to make your time work for you, feel free to use our resources below:




Devi, A. (2021). Combatting procrastination. University of Southern Queensland. https://usq.pressbooks.pub/academicsuccess/chapter/combatting-procrastination/

Grand Valley State University. (2021, November 4). Overcoming procrastination. Grand Valley State University. [Handout]. https://www.gvsu.edu/cms4/asset/91D2F15F-DAF4-C2F7-B659ECCACE9E7375/overcoming_procrastination.docx

Jones, R. P. (2021, February 18). Procrastination: it’s not what you think it is. University of British Columbia. https://students.ubc.ca/ubclife/procrastination-its-not-what-you-think-it

Oregon State University. (2012). Motivation techniques. Oregon State University: Academic Success Center. Retrieved December 20, 2021 from https://www.gvsu.edu/cms4/asset/91D2F15F-DAF4-C2F7-B659ECCACE9E7375/motivation_techniques.pdf

Queen’s University. (n.d.). Motivation and procrastination. Queen’s University: Student Academic Success Services. Retrieved December 20, 2021 from http://sass.queensu.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Motivation-and-procrastination-2020.pdf

Van Geel, K. (2020, October 26). How to work when you don’t want to. University of Calgary. https://news.ucalgary.ca/news/how-work-when-you-dont-want