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4 Ways to Tackle Procrastination

It's getting to that time of the semester where the fun and excitement of O'Week and being back on campus is long gone, and we are all very much getting stuck into our topics for semester one. The days are getting shorter, the weather is getting colder, assignments, lectures and quizzes are all piling up, and motivation is running thin.

At this time, when things start getting more challenging, it is really important to prioritise our mental health and wellbeing, and make sure we are implementing the right strategies to stay successful not only in our studies, but also in other aspects of our lives.

For this month's feature article, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the work of Flinders' Health, Counselling and Disability's eMental Health Project Officer, Dr Gareth Fuber. Gareth runs the Student Health and Wellbeing Blog, which is an excellent platform where Gareth shares useful health and wellbeing news and articles, to make your time at Flinders healthier and happier. You can learn more about the blog, and subscribe to get all the latest updates HERE.

Earlier in the year Gareth shared an article titled '4 Ways to Tackle Procrastination' which summarises a very popular research paper that is all about procrastination, why people procrastinate, and how to tackle this common problem. We will include an excerpt of this article below, but please click the button at the bottom of this section to read the full article, and browse the other articles on the blog.

What is procrastination?

To procrastinate is “to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.”

To relate this to studies, procrastination is putting off starting assignments or exam revision, even when you know it will lead to poorer performance and grades.

And the research suggests that procrastination is indeed a threat to GPA, exam scores, assignment grades but also things like health and career and financial success.

Before you start self-flagellating yourself for your own procrastination, it is worth acknowledging again that it is incredibly common, suggesting it is a natural by-product of how humans have psychologically adapted to the world around them

Thus, you aren’t flawed because you have procrastination. We all have that ‘flaw’, and your job is to instead find what works for you in keeping on top of your procrastination tendencies.

What is driving procrastination?

The essence of Piers’ paper (I hope he doesn’t mind me using his first name) is an attempt to sift through the many proposed contributors to procrastination, to find those that are most strongly related.

Piers concludes that 4 groups of variables capture the bulk of the factors driving procrastination: expectancy, value, sensitivity to delay and delay (these form the elements of a theory called Temporal Motivation Theory – TMT that we’ll explore in future posts).

Expectancy is your perception of whether you will be successful with the task you are trying to complete (e.g. how well you think you will do that essay you have to write, or perform on that upcoming exam). The greater the doubt you have about your performance on the task, the more likely you will be to procrastinate. Such doubt may arise from previous setbacks/failures (e.g. bad marks on assignments) that have you doubting your own abilities.

Value is how important and/or attractive the task is to you. Tasks that you feel are fun and engaging are less likely to trigger procrastination. You are more likely to procrastinate on tasks that are aversive in some way: too difficult, boring, seemingly irrelevant.

Sensitivity to delay captures how impulsive and distractible you are. Are you able to focus on the task at hand and not be distracted by other more fun or interesting activities?

Finally delay is the length of time between now and when you’d experience the reward (or punishment) for completing the task. In academia, this is how long before the task due date, but also can be considered how long before you get your grade or mark on the task. The further away the due date, the more likely you are to put off doing the task. The closer the due date, the less likely you are to put it off. This is why most of us do most of our assignments in the days (and nights) before they are due.

What can you do about these 4 driving factors?

Thankfully there are things you can put in place to address each of these factors.

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