We all procrastinate.
It’s one of those things that everyone just nods and agrees with. The majority of us fall into a procrastinating trap, especially when we’ve been doing it for so long. I held off doing assignments the whole way through high school until the night before, thinking I could keep doing that in college. And, to be fair, I got by doing it for the first few months. Until I sat down at 1pm to write a 5-page essay due at 11:59pm, only to find out that it was actually a 9-11 page paper.
I never felt that screwed before.
The annoying part about procrastinating is that there is only yourself to blame. But there’s a silver lining: you can fix it.
There are small but effective ways to stop scrolling through different open tabs, so you can sit and write your assignment. Not all of them will work—that’s the thing about procrastinating. Only you know why you’re putting off that assignment, so only you can decide which of these methods will work for you.
There’s a reason you’re ignoring a deadline. Why can’t you get yourself to write that essay? Usually, it’s because there’s a part of that assignment you’re dreading. Whether it’s the most monotonous portion, the part you know you’re going to struggle with, or the one that bores you the most—it’s probably the main reason you haven’t started working on it. If you begin the hardest part first and get that completed, the rest will be much easier and faster to finish. There’s nothing worse than saving the worst part for when you’re tired and ready to quit.
It’s easy to open a blank document and stare at it. We think, “I’m never going fill all those pages with words”. That’s when the need to procrastinate kicks in. Where we say, “It’s fine, I’ll come back in an hour and be way more ready then” OR “I still have four hours before it’s due, it’ll be fine”.
But doing that is only going to make you stress even more. If you break down what needs to be done in sections, then you’re going to visualize and manage the task much better. You can allow time to finish each section of the assignment and envision your end goal. If you’re writing an essay, break down those paragraphs and set a time goal for when you should be finishing each paragraph.
A lot of students can’t study where they sleep and there’s a reason for that. Your bed is for relaxing. When you go in there with a fried and stressed brain as well as an entire assignment to do—it won’t be in your favour.
Changing your environment can hold yourself accountable for getting things done. Your room is open 24 hours, but not every library is. Coffee shops aren’t either. If you’re working in a space that’s going to close, then you feel pressure to get work done BEFORE that time. Similarly, working in a public atmosphere can be another way to stop yourself from scrolling through Twitter—or any other social media. Especially if there’s someone in the corner judging your newsfeed.
Sometimes it’s easier to push the assignment back because it’s only ourselves we’re inconveniencing. And trying to motivate yourself to get into the right frame of mind can be hard. If you can study with friends, even just one, and do your assignment—you might find yourself in the ideal working environment. However, this could backfire and your friends could distract you even more. So make sure you’re only studying with friends who will focus.
There are times we procrastinate because we’re already stressed. Pushing an assignment back may temporarily relieve that stress but when that deadline arrives, you’re stressing even harder. It’s a rough cycle, and nearly everyone goes through it at some point. But don’t let yourself get stressed to the point where you feel like everything’s caving in. It’s just an assignment. You’re going to be okay.
This one paper probably isn’t going to matter in a year. Even though it isn’t the be all and end all, this paper still matters now. Therefore, you need to finish it so you don’t have to worry about it anymore. The more you procrastinate and wait, the more you’re allowing yourself to feel worse. It’s a hard cycle to break, but you can do it.
You’re not missing out on anything. Your assignment is the most important thing right now. That phone is still going to be there later, but your deadline won’t be. Prioritize!
English & Media Studies major at University of Toronto (2021). Freelance writer under the name Tahlie Purvis in web content, with experience writing custom promotional content for brands such as Netflix, TELUS and Lionsgate.