How to Avoid Falling Back on Old Habits: 5 Ways to Beat Procrastination Once and For All

Throughout high school and my freshman year of college, I was driven by procrastination. I had plenty of excuses: “I am too busy”, “I would do it sooner if I had time,” and “I’ll do it later.” I would stay up until 4 am every night and nap everywhere, desperate for sleep and more time. I would have given anything to break the cycle, but I was trapped between having assignments due the next day or some other activity taking up my time. I thought I could do it all, but when I found myself writing a ten-page capstone the day before it was due, I realized I needed a change. Now, I have assignments done months before the due dates, and I haven’t pulled an all-nighter in two years. Here are my five tips for fighting procrastination as the semester gets underway.

  1. 1. Use a Planner

    Okay, when I say use a planner, I mean actually use the planner. Don’t just buy a really cute one from the store, use for a week to post on Snapchat about how productive you are, and then toss it in your desk drawer, never to be seen again. Set time at the beginning of each semester to go through your syllabi for your classes and write down every due date. Write down upcoming meetings and events you wish to attend and even plan out when you will start working on assignments. Make your planner your Bible and bring it everywhere you go. 

  2. 2. Set Goals

    Setting reasonable and accomplishable goals makes big assignments so much simpler. I was recently assigned a lengthy research and evaluation paper for my Social Policy Analysis class complete with a reference page and an abstract that is as complicated as it sounds. To make this project simpler, I set a task for each week that ranged from finding two sources to writing the introduction. These tasks are much easier and more manageable than writing the whole paper in one week (or one night).

  3. 3. Make a List

    While your planner is a great resource for due dates and managing events, it is not very helpful for deciding when to do things, especially when you four, five or even six classes with assignments to complete along with a plethora of other activities. I use the Notes app on my phone to make a daily list of every activity I need to complete. While this may seem intimidating, having everything I needed to do plotted out really relaxes me because if an activity comes up that is not on my to-do list for that day and isn’t immediately due I put it on my to-do list for another day. I even put fun, relaxing tasks on my to-do lists like face masks and movie nights, so I remember to practice self-care. Plus, the satisfaction of checking off another item on the to-do list is unbeatable. 

  4. 4. Say No (and Yes!)

    One of the reasons behind my chronic procrastination was my over-taxing life. I was in every club, and I couldn’t say no. If my friends wanted to go out, I went. If a club needed posters printed, I was your woman. If someone needed something done, I did it. My inability to say no meant I did not have time for my own work. I needed to start saying no and prioritizing myself. Just because I could get everything done (by giving up my beauty rest) did not mean I should, and neither should you! So say no once and while.  Your friends, your classmates and your club’s executive boards will not be mad; they’ll understand. There’s also nothing wrong with saying yes either! Too often I would get in a rut of doing everything other people wanted to do, and then I would skip activities I really wanted to do because I was just too tired or stressed. A healthy balance of saying yes and no to fun events and club activities means you will have time for yourself and for others. 

  5. 5. Organize Time

    This goes hand and hand with the other tips discussed above. Even if you have a healthy balance of work and extracurriculars and you have to-do lists and planners and easily managed tasks, the work will never get done if you don’t make time. I am incredibly lucky to have part-time jobs on campus that allow me to work on my homework in between answering phones, but I know not everyone has this ability. I found that for many of my classes, specific assignments like quizzes or discussion posts were due the same time each week. I carved out a specific hour each Wednesday between classes where I would do nothing but complete the quiz and discussion post for one of my classes. This helped me stay on track and to not feel pressured to work on it Monday or Tuesday because I knew I had that time Wednesday.