With just 24 hours left before a deadline do you find yourself writing frantically, desperately trying to compensate for avoiding the task for weeks?

As frustrating as this is, you’re not on your own. Procrastination is a common problem amongst students. In an attempt to overcome this, productivity coach and study skills expert Juliet Landau-Pope spoke to UCFB and GIS students in the lead up to exam season about dealing with one of the most infuriating aspects of work: putting it off.

Astonishingly, 75% of students regularly leave work until the last minute and consider themselves frequent ‘procrastinators’. But Landau-Pope rejects this term. Procrastination is not, she says, a personality trait, so there is no such thing as a procrastinator. Rather, it is simply a bad habit that can be broken if approached with the right mentality.

It all starts, Landau-Pop claims, with re-writing the narrative you have constructed surrounding your work. We create problems by convincing ourselves that the task at hand is considerably more difficult than it actually is, which results in us procrastinating and destroys our chances of finding pleasure in the work. Therefore, we need to consciously change our perspective on the task so that the prospect of starting it, or overcoming barriers within it, seems less daunting.

In order to successfully do this, Landau-Pope, who has published a book on defeating procrastination, has put together seven top tips and tricks for students:

1. Notice what you’re doing (And what you’re not).

It is surprisingly easy to overlook the fact you’re procrastinating. We must, Landau-Pope claims, debunk the myth that procrastination is merely another word for laziness and involves doing nothing all day. In fact, most of the time we procrastinate it’s through ‘positive procrastination’; we complete an alternative task to make ourselves feel better about avoiding the primary one.

So the first step of overcoming procrastination is, quite simply, to recognise the fact you’re doing it.

2. What matters to YOU?

Rather than focusing on external pressures and deadlines, try to re-adjust your mentality regarding why you’re completing this work. If you focus on personal incentives, such as seeing the task as an opportunity to further improve and challenge yourself, it will seem less intimidating and so should reduce the chances of you putting it off. This is called intrinsic motivation and it removes numerous stress-causes that might be contributing to your procrastination, as well as reminding you of what you can personally gain from completing the work.

According to Landau-Pope, a particularly effective way of achieving intrinsic motivation is to imagine the moment you graduate. Doing this will remind you of the rewards to come if you’re willing to put in the work now…

3. Identify the very first step you have to take.

One of the most common causes of procrastination is not knowing where to start with a piece of work. By identifying this, not only are you breaking down the challenge in front of you but also shifting from an unspecified, overwhelming workload into a precise, actionable task. 

However, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the logical first step in completing your work. For example, if you’re completing an essay, you don’t need to start by attempting the introduction. If this is something you struggle with, and therefore a likely cause of your procrastination, then it may help to begin with a task you find easier, such as essay planning or the opening paragraph.

4. Decide what you need to find or find out.

Are there certain resources you need access to? Do you simply need to request help for the task at hand? These things are not always considered a part of procrastination, but failing to identify a gap in your knowledge can make a task feel extremely difficult to get to grips with. In recognising what you don’t yet know, you’re taking the necessary steps to make progress and setting yourself up to complete the task to the best of your ability.

5. Focus on a lifeline rather than a deadline.

The emphasis placed on deadlines means it can be tempting to base your entire work plan around this date, which inevitably means you leave it to the last minute and don’t allow for unexpected obstacles along the way. Instead, try and approach this as a lifeline; stop counting backwards from the deadline and see the weeks ahead as time to capitalise on. This shift in perspective is crucial for overcoming procrastination as there is less of a temptation of postpone your work when its completion doesn’t revolve around a specific date.

6. Make yourself accountable.

Studies have shown we’re considerably more likely to get something done when we tell someone else about it. In doing this, we’re making the self-imposed deadline feel more definitive and permanent, as it now exists outside of our own mind.

Even if you’re not able to talk to someone else, saying what you plan to do out loud or in front of a mirror will increase the likelihood of you sticking to the task. Landau-Pope admits this may sound daft, but give it a go – you might just surprise yourself!

7. Eat The Frog!

The final piece of advice Landau-Pope gave to students may need a bit of explaining, as if interpreted literally it could spark some alarm. But the argument goes if you have to ‘eat a frog’ that day, which would undoubtedly be the worst task of the day, make sure it is the first thing you do in the morning; that way your day can only improve as it goes on. All day you can enjoy the satisfaction of having got the frog-eating activity out of the way, and focus on your other tasks which probably aren’t so bad in comparison.

Of course, no one is expecting you to eat a frog to make your revision seem more bearable. But if you start the day with the task you’re dreading most, it can only get better from there!

Click here to chat to UCFB students about their advice in the lead up to exam season.