“He who has begun has half done. Dare to be wise; begin.”
Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus: 65 BC – 8 BC)
We all procrastinate in some form or fashion. Our human nature draws us away from doing tasks that require focused energy or concentration. While I can ignore doing “that dreaded task” for some time however, I can’t ignore the weight on my emotions, because it remains my constant, discouraging companion, who keeps me from fully enjoying anything else I am doing in its place.
Unfortunately, procrastination allows us to be content with second-rate results. To quote Richard O’Conner, “we can always tell ourselves we’d have done a better job if only we’d had more time. If you’re good at rationalizing, you can keep yourself feeling rather satisfied this way, but it’s a cheap happy. You’re whittling your expectations of yourself down lower and lower.”
When does procrastination become a problem? That question is best answered by examining the consequences we deal with as a result of this learned response:
1. Procrastinators can experience external consequence such as low grades or low performance marks due to not turning work in, missing deadlines, or last minute scrambling to prepare.
2. Procrastinators can also suffer internal consequences – they feel anxious even when they are doing something fun because the still-to-be-done task serves as a downer.
3. Procrastinators tend to experience higher levels of stress. With stress hormones coursing through their bodies, their immune system is weakened and their sleep is often disturbed.
4. Students who procrastinate have reduced initiative and passion for learning – resulting in a lowering of expectations – because the process of learning feels too burdensome.
If your procrastinating child is discouraged and overwhelmed by burdens, it is time to make some changes. Procrastinators are made and not born. They have learned this response over time. (maybe from you?)
Why do students procrastinate?
1. Fear of failure: If they are scared that an assignment may not turn out as desired, they may avoid working on it in order to avoid feeling fear.
2. Fear of success: If they stop procrastinating, and start doing better, then it will increase expectations and ultimately increase the pressure they feel. Or they fear if they work too hard, they will lose their capacity to be friendly and have fun.
3. Fear of losing autonomy: Procrastination allows students to maintain their independence and makes them feel more in control. “You can’t make me do this.”
4. Because they expect themselves to be perfect: Procrastination and perfectionism go hand in hand. Procrastination helps the perfectionist maintain their belief that they could have excelled if they had tried harder.
5. They don’t feel like doing the task: They mistakenly believe that succeeding at a task requires that they feel like doing it.
6. They don’t know how to tell time: They overestimate the time they have left to perform tasks and they underestimate the time it takes to complete tasks.
7. Because it works: Procrastination helps reinforce itself. When we avoid doing something we dread by doing something that we enjoy, we escape the dreaded task.
How do they procrastinate? By:
1. Ignoring the task.
2. Over- or under-estimating the degree of difficulty that the task involves.
3. Minimizing the impact that their performance now may have on their future.
4. Substituting something important for something really important: Doing good things rather than the best things.
5. Letting a short break become a long one.
6. Focusing on part of the assignment, at the expense of the rest.
7. Spending too much time researching or choosing a topic.
What to do about it….
1. Procrastinators need to just start. Even if they give five minutes to the “dreaded” assignment or to studying, their attitude will be better by the mere act of starting. They shoot themselves in the foot by not starting and then develop a negative, anxious mindset.
2. Procrastinators tend to be self-critical so rather than punish them when they put something off, try rewarding them for progress.
3. Guide them to challenge their myths: “I haven’t done enough research yet” or “I do my best work under pressure” or “in order to work, I need three uninterrupted hours” or “my work has to be perfect.”
4. They need accountability. Get a teacher or friend to be their “anti-procrastination” coach.
5. They need to recognize distractions. Procrastinators like distractions that don’t take heavy-duty commitment on their part. (Checking email or Facebook is tailor-made for this purpose!)
6. Teach them to make lists for all that needs to be done and to set realistic goals.
7. Teach them to break projects down into specific tasks.
8. Teach them to set a time limit. Before they begin, help them set a limit on how much time they will work. “I will only write for a certain amount of time” rather than “I need to write until this paper is finished.”
9. Check out the great quotes below about procrastination if you need convincing! Share them with your son or daughter.
If procrastination has become a problem, by all means don’t procrastinate doing something about it! “The really happy people are those who have broken the chains of procrastination, those who find satisfaction in doing the job at hand. They’re full of eagerness, zest, productivity. You can be, too.” ~(Norman Vincent Peale)
“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” ~William James
The greatest amount of wasted time is the time not getting started.” ~Dawson Trotman
“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.” ~Don Marquis
“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.” ~Olin Miller
“To think too long about doing a thing often becomes its undoing.” ~Eva Young
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” ~C. Northcote Parkinson
“Procrastination is opportunity’s natural assassin.” ~Victor Kiam
“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” ~Karen Lamb
“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right”. ~Napoleon Hill
“Procrastination is, hands down, our favorite form of self-sabotage.” ~Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby
“Procrastination usually results in sorrowful regret. Today’s duties put off tomorrow give us a double burden to bear; the best way is to do them in their proper time.” ~Ida Scott Taylor
“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot fun until you get the bill.” ~ Christopher Parker
“Procrastination is my sin. It brings me naught but sorrow. I know that I should stop it. In fact, I will – tomorrow!” ~Gloria Pitzer
“Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they started.” ~David Allen.
“Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.” ~Dale Carnegie.
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.
“Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.” ~ Thomas Huxley
“The dread of doing a task uses up more time and energy than doing the task itself.” ~Rita Emmett
“…who waits until circumstances completely favor his undertaking, will never accomplish anything.” ~ Martin Luther
“Well arranged time is the surest mark of a well arranged mind” ~Sir Isaac Pitman
“Whilst we deliberate how to begin a thing, it grows too late to begin it.” ~Quintillain
“Defer no time; delays have dangerous ends.” ~William Shakespeare
“Depression turned my body, mind and soul into concrete; procrastination turned my heart into a block of dirty ice.” ~Dolly Sen
“The greatest thief this world has ever produced is procrastination, and he is still at large.” ~Henry Wheelter Shaw
“It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.” ~J. R. R. Tolkien
“I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument, while the song I came to sing remains unsung.” ~Rabindranath Tagore
“During a very busy life I have often been asked, “How did you manage to do it all?” The answer is very simple. It is because I did everything promptly.” ~Richard Tangye