We’re just over a month into Fall Quarter, and at least for the classes I’m in, that means that there have been midterm exams. That has exposed a problem that I believe a decent amount of people have, or are at least are familiar with, and that’s procrastination. Maybe there was a paper that was due in three weeks, so instead of starting it out then, you waited until the day before it was due to turn it in. Or, more accurately, the first week you were too busy and the second week it became a blip in the back of your mind. Finally, during that third week, you felt so guilty for not starting the paper earlier but somehow ended up not wanting to start the paper even then. Perhaps you scrolled through TikTok for several hours, but it doesn’t matter exactly what you did. Either way, the story still rings true. I know this because I procrastinated while writing this article. But how do you prevent this from happening in the future?
There’s a decent amount of advice on the internet about procrastination, from a hilarious TED talk that explains procrastination with MS Paint, to articles that list easy-sounding steps to stop procrastinating and actually get your work done on time and at a decent hour (ideally not around or past midnight), but it’s rare that they actually spark change. In the TED talk, Tim Urban talks about how things without deadlines or deadlines that are far away can sneak up on you, and that’s a valid point. Another point that was made by Urban was his vivid description of the guilt and panic that comes whenever you procrastinate on something important. One article in particular, from Princeton’s McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, has some very sound advice for preventing procrastination. It was thought-provoking, and doubly so when I was supposed to be studying for my organic chemistry exam last week.
The article stated that we need to actually reflect and understand why we procrastinate. Instead of thinking, “I really don’t want to study for this exam,” think, why do I not want to study for that exam? That’s the only way to do well on the exam, so what’s standing between me and actually getting my act together? Once I knew that, then I could actually move past it. Their next step is to break a task into smaller pieces in order to get things done. Then you need to commit to getting them done. In my experience, having a to-do list and getting to check off steps as I finish the task has helped a lot. And finally, the standard practice for personal goals, such as being realistic and focusing on what you want to do, will always be relevant. That also serves to prove the point that focusing on what you want to do, rather than what you should have done, is important.
All of that is good advice, but it’s important to realize that change doesn’t just have to come next quarter. Fall Quarter isn’t over, and there’s still time to improve studying habits, and in turn, grades. Just remember to figure out why you procrastinate, break tasks into smaller tasks and then give yourself the satisfaction of completing them. Finally, and most importantly, remember that change doesn’t come overnight, so you can do this!