7 common student procrastination excuses and how to overcome them

“Nothing is so fatiguing,” famous 19th century philosopher William James explains, “as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” This fatigue of procrastination is a university and college student’s worst enemy. When we asked what your biggest struggle is as a student on Instagram, most of you said procrastination and motivation.

Here are 7 of the most common procrastination excuses we hear from university and college students and how you can overcome each one:

1. I’m too tired, lazy and stressed.

Tell yourself you only have to do 10 minutes of work today. Find an easy task (i.e. read over your assignment, write one paragraph) and just start. When you finish, you can put it away guilt-free.

Chances are, starting will create a momentum for you to do more. Even if you don’t, doing a little every day is better than not starting at all.

Doing a little every day is better than not starting at all.

2. I’m feeling too overwhelmed with all I have to do.

Do a brain dump. Write down everything that’s on your mind: tasks, worries, feelings, events, deadlines. This practice will help clear out the clutter from your mind and give your brain space to process how to take action.

After your brain dump, break any large projects and tasks (i.e write sociology paper) into small chunks (i.e. research point #1 for sociology paper). Every time you finish a small task, reward yourself or take a short break.

Don’t aim for perfection or over-plan as it’ll give your brain the chance to come up with excuses. Remember to spread these bite-sized chunks over several days. A long to-do list—even if filled with small tasks—will only overwhelm you more.

3. I don’t understand the material and my instructor isn’t available to explain it to me.

Use all the resources available to you, even if they aren’t required for grades. Additional readings give you new perspectives which can help you understand course concepts better.

Your instructor may also have recommended study resources like MyLab and Mastering that act as your 24/7 tutor. Take advantage of their tutorials, videos, immediate feedback, and other study tools when your instructor isn’t available.

(Click the images to see what study tools you can use)

4. I’m afraid I won’t do well.

It’s okay to get things wrong. In fact, it’s good: the quicker you break things, the quicker you learn and improve.

Remember that the learning process is more important than the outcome. The first go may be miss, but a bad first draft is better than no draft at all.

The quicker you break things, the quicker you learn and improve.

5. Studying is too boring

Turn it into a game.

Compete with your friends to see who can reach your study goal fastest. Aside from keeping eating other accountable, conquering the same task together can seem less daunting.

Or compete with yourself. Set a timer and a study goal for what you want to accomplish. Try to beat that goal during that time.

Use flashcard apps like Pearson Prep to play matching games and earn coins to redeem skins. Try to fill up your progress bar in the app as quickly as possible.

Image: Allie Cui.

6. I never seem to be able to find motivation

Find what gets you into the zone. Maybe it’s a type of music, coffee, a setting, an outfit, or even a walk. Use them to cue your brain into focusing. Motivation can be fleeting and unreliable.

Motivation can be fleeting and unreliable.

7. I’m too easily distracted

Work in an unfamiliar location. A change in environment can not only be inspiring but also eliminate all the distractions you’re used to.

If you’re easily distracted by social media, go to the park where there’s no Wi-Fi. If you’re using a Pearson textbook, make sure to download the Pearson eText or Revel app to access your textbook offline.

Use these tips to avoid procrastination this exam season and start studying.

Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up over your urge to procrastinate. It’s human, even your professors struggle with it! The more negative you are towards yourself, the more you will want to avoid the situation.