Procrastination – you know what it is.

Starting and finishing that assignment the night before? Stressing about stress before there’s even any stress to stress about?Choosing a trip to the fridge over starting your assignment?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you my friend, are what people call a procrastinator.

This is the art of intentionally putting off something that should be done. 

However you define it, procrastination is a huge problem for many students and can severely affect academic achievement. Therefore, overcoming this significant issue is extremely important.

I’m going to take you through the six steps to avoid procrastination, so that you can get things done and kick ass this year!

Step 1: Identify why you procrastinate and find solutions
Step 2: Set realistic goals
Step 3: Write your goals down
Step 4: Commit to your goals
Step 5: Establish a reward-based learning system
Step 6: Just do it!

Step 1: Identify why you procrastinate and find solutions

Be honest with yourself and understand why you procrastinate. In my opinion, the average student will encounter 4 different causes of procrastination:

Lack of understanding

Use your teachers, ask questions after class or send them draft emails of assignments; they get paid to help you!!

Otherwise try teaching yourself by searching up videos on YouTube – there’s an abundance of resources available.

Try googling various HSC forums and see what ex-HSC students have utilised to help them.

Art of Smart also provides awesome free resources for every. single. subject.

Feeling overwhelmed

Take a breath, walk away from the task and do something that relaxes you for a while.

Or even try breaking up the task into different sections.

For example, if you have to write a Modern History essay due, break up the essay into different paragraphs and assign each paragraph to a different day.

Having perfectionist tendencies

Being a perfectionist involves setting yourself extremely high standards. For perfectionists, anything less than perfect is terrible.

The best way to overcome this issue is to just sit down and get it done.

For instance, if you have an extended response question for homework, sit down, turn off spellcheck and just write.

Don’t stop fix spelling or grammar mistakes – just write it out. It sounds extremely easy, but it really isn’t; however – YOU CAN DO IT.

Try get it all done then go over grammar, sentence structure and fleshing out your analysis AFTER!

Feeling bored

If you’re one to always feel bored when doing work, try working with friends! (make sure they’re friends that will actually get stuff done).

Or maybe use a reward-based systems of study / bribe yourself. E.g for every paragraph you write in your essay ,you can watch 1 episode of your favourite TV show.

Otherwise, make study fun! If you need to memorise formulas for Maths, turn the formula into a rap and send it to your friends. It sounds silly but it works.

Step 2: Set realistic goals

Unrealistic goals can be detrimental and even make you procrastinate more because everything seems impossible.

So, avoid self-sabotage and create realistic expectations for yourself.

Business Studies students are probably cringing right now, but I find that using the SMART technique is pretty useful in setting realistic goals.

SMART Goals to avoid procrastination

SMART = Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Trackable

Instead of setting “to get a good ATAR” as a goal, it’s more powerful to use the SMART technique and set a goal such as, “to get an ATAR of 75 and enrol in a Communications degree”.

Your goals could be:
  • Immediate = between today and the next 2 weeks
  • Short-term = 6 months
  • Long-term = 12 months
  • Future = 5 years

For example…

Immediate Goals – 1-2 Week goals

  1. Finish Legal Studies homework (p70-73)
  2. Finish Modern History draft essay to hand in on 27th February

Short Term Goals – 6 month goals

  1. Achieve average of over 90% in trial exams
  2. Be able to run for 30 minutes non-stop

Long Term Goals – 12 month goals

  1. Get Ps
  2. Achieve an ATAR of 90+

Future Goals – 5 year goals

  1. Graduate from university
  2. Go on a trip to Lebanon
  3. Attend a Frank Ocean concert

Step 3: Write your goals down

“People with written goals are 50% more likely to achieve than people without goals”

Different things work for everyone but the options are endless:
  • You could type your goals up in Notes on your phone
  • Write them on Post-It Notes and stick them on your wall
  • Draw pictures of you smashing your goals or even make a mood board
  • Download heaps of images of your different goals (travelling, graduating, studying at uni) and turn them into a collage

I’ve personally got my goals typed up on sticky notes on my laptop desktop and have also got them on sticky notes on the wall where I study.

When it’s 1:30 am and you’re falling asleep in your chair, hating your life and thinking about procrastinating – looking up and glancing at your goals can give you that extra push to get it done.

You can even use our free downloadable goal setting printable to set and track your goals! 

Step 4: Commit to your goals

According to goalband.co.uk, 92% of New Years resolutions fail by January 15th.

This is why it is so important to not only create realistic goals, but to also – COMMIT.

It’s all well and good to set some goals that look awesome on paper and make you feel good every time you look at them, but arguably the toughest part is committing to these goals and prioritising them over other aspects of your life.

So how does one commit?

As I mentioned before, I’m pretty boring and just give my phone/laptop/tub of ice cream to my parents and tell them that under no circumstances can they give the item back unless I have achieved one of my tasks/goals.

Commitment can also be achieved through focusing on what’s important to you and holding yourself accountable.

For example, if you are aiming to get 70% on your next Maths exam, tell a friend what you’re hoping to achieve.

You’re more likely to try harder and not procrastinate to make sure that you achieve those goals if you have shared your ambitions with someone!

It’s extremely important that you have a social life throughout the HSC, but there are going to be times when you will have to choose between going to that party or staying home to finish your Maths revision.

Make sure that the decisions you make throughout the HSC align with your long-term and future goals.

Step 5: Establish a reward-based learning system

According to Dr. Pychyl, an expert in Psychology, the essence of procrastination is “we’re giving in to feeling good”.

He says, “Procrastination is ‘I know I should be doing it, I want to, it gets under my skin [when I don’t]’”.

In short, putting important things off makes us feel bad, but putting important things off by binge-watching on Netflix makes us feel good.

Many of us have felt the cocktail of emotions that arise when we procrastinate – that mixture of self-loathing, rage, laziness and anxiety.

If procrastination is this avoidance of important tasks in order to feel good, then what if we made those important tasks feel good?

Obviously, it’s going to be a bit of a struggle getting excited about the intertextual connections between Shakespeare and Al Pacino, but establishing a reward-based system of study can really help in the battle against procrastination.

How to implement your reward based system

Dr Stefano Palminteri, who conducted the study on reward-based learning systems states that:

“Unlike adults, adolescents are not so good at learning to modify their choices to avoid punishment. This suggests that incentive systems based on reward rather than punishment may be more effective for this age group.”

Therefore, it may be more useful for you to say “If I get this done, I’m going to watch that episode of House”, instead of saying “If I don’t get this done, I’m not going to watch any tv shows for a week”.

I feel like we sometimes forget that we are still basically children and we deserve a reward sometimes. After you smash out that boring ass paragraph about Wilfred Owen – treat yo’self!

Step 6: Just do it!

Often the hardest part of studying/getting stuff done is sitting down and getting stuck into whatever it is you’ve been putting off for 2 weeks.

I personally use this awesome app on my laptop called Be Focused.

It utilises the Pomodoro Technique. The technique breaks down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes of work with 5 minutes of break.

When I just need to hurry up and do a task I set the timer, put my head down and just do it.

Remember, if it was easy, everybody would do it! I hope that these tips help you to avoid procrastination in the future. Believe in yourself, you got this.

Keep your nose down and your tail up; but make sure to smell the roses.

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Daide Chaker is a sleep-deprived student at Wyndham College who is aiming to make it through the HSC with her mind, body and soul still intact. Daide is a chronic procrastinator, Frank Ocean aficionado and Pringles connoisseur. She is an expert in the art of binge-watching and is also an avid reader.