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Mental Health

5 Ways to Overcome Anxiety-Related Procrastination

By 10 pm on Wednesday, I woke up, not realizing my 20 minute nap turned into a four hour slumber. Then, I remembered the 79 page reading and response due at 11:59. That. Night. I thought I was done. I had Zoom classes from 9 am to 6:30 pm that day, as I do every Wednesday. You want to know what I did? I went back to sleep. 

In the weeks leading up to my much needed hibernation, I was constantly worrying about which assignments were due and if I could fight past eye fatigue to see words on my computer screen. The moment I received my assignment two days earlier, I knew I was going to procrastinate before starting. I wasn’t being lazy. I simply needed a break.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably experienced something similar. There is a common misconception that procrastination is the result of laziness. In reality, people who procrastinate are actively trying to avoid anxiety triggers. Feelings of stress and anxiety are common amongst college students. They are known to increase procrastination and decrease productivity. 

Here are 5 ways to understand and overcome your anxiety-related procrastination. 

You’re Overwhelmed and Overcommitted


You have a mountain of tasks that keeps building. Just thinking about where to start or how long it would take to complete each task leaves you frozen. Brain freezes, disorganization, and scrambling to finish ahead of deadlines are the result of feeling overwhelmed and being overcommitted.

Still, no matter how organized your schedule may be, there are a limited number of hours in a day. If you plan back-to-back work sessions, you will get burnt out. Eventually, the drive to do work will leave as quickly as the next task arrives.

Take a few things off your plate.

It’s okay to say no, and it’s okay to let go. Prioritize the most important things first, like your health and well-being then your assignments. If you complete your priorities, your day is an automatic productive success!   

The Future Is Unknown

Fear of the unknown leads to overthinking and too much attention to details rather than the bigger picture. When you don’t know the outcome of a situation, you tend to avoid the task at hand. Avoidance doesn’t get the job done nor does it solve any underlying problems causing your stress and fear.

Figure out you can control.

When you act on what you can control, you gain self-empowerment. Determine what you can control, whether it is prioritizing tasks or emailing your professor for further assistance. It will take you out of your slump of powerlessness.   

You’re Prone to Positive Bias and Negative Bias

An example of positive bias is overloading yourself and assuming you are able to complete all your tasks within a short amount of time. With negative bias, you automatically assume the worst outcome which leaves you with fear and anxiety. Both prevent you from achieving your goals and give you unhealthy mindsets and beliefs about yourself.

Reconstruct your thinking.

We are creatures of habit. Affirmations challenge and reshape sabotaging thoughts and behavior. Create your own and use them with the intention to change and improve yourself.  

You Have Unrealistic Expectations

Having unrealistic expectations is related to positive and negative bias. You may want to be successful, but you prevent that from happening when you set unachievable standards for yourself. If you want a 4.0 GPA, you can’t achieve that by studying without breaks every night or without having a plan to get there. Abstract goals set you up for failure and disappointment.

Set SMART goals.

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART) goals focus your attention on the most important tasks. Instead of looking at your cumulative GPA, look what you can do in a single class. How much time do you need to study a topic? When will you study? Will there be mental breaks in between work sessions to prevent burn out? These are a few questions to ask when creating SMART goals.  

You Are a Perfectionist


Perfectionists are detail-oriented times a thousand. As a fellow perfectionist, I can attest to this. During a peer review, my peer marked my essay on the numerous typos and simple grammatical errors. I got so angry that I didn’t read her feedback. When I submitted my final draft, I got a lower grade than I expected because I did not fix the issue: lack of adequate evidence. Had I read the feedback, I would’ve made essential edits. Perfectionists, sometimes, forget to look at the bigger picture. 

Mistakes are opportunities to learn.

As humans, we are prone to mistakes, and that’s okay! Mistakes are opportunities to learn. Analyze what happened and how you can improve the next time. Dwelling on what went wrong will freeze you and put you back into that negative bias mindset.

Overall, we procrastinate because we are exhausted and unmotivated. To gain some sort of control, we focus on the things that bring us joy or rest from stressful situations. Follow these tips and you’ll never lose your drive.

A'Lyah Releford

Agnes Scott '23

A'Lyah Releford is a second-year English Literature - Creative Writing undergraduate at Agnes Scott College. Currently, she is working on poetry and short story fiction. Her future career plans are to be a published author and award-winning screenwriter.
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