We all procrastinate in one way or another. Some of us are regular offenders; others do so just occasionally or even rarely. Believe it or not, the tendency to procrastinate isn’t necessarily your fault, but the fact that you keep letting it run your life certainly is.

According to Psychology Today, “Procrastinators are made, not born,” but chronic procrastination is something that can be cured. College students are some of the worst offenders, and one study found that up to 75 percent of students regularly procrastinate on academic work. Why? And how can we change our ways?

We seem to have different reasons for procrastinating, but most of the reasons boil down to the same things: thrill seeking and avoidance. We often use excuses like, “I work best under pressure” and “I need to be in the right state of mind for this,” but neither of those is technically true. Plenty of smart and successful people are capable of completing tasks in a timely manner, and you can be too! The first step is to identify the real cause of your procrastination.

Are You a Thrill Seeker?

For those of us who like to live life a little closer to the edge, procrastination is a way to up the risks and add a little extra drama to every day life. The thrill-seeking procrastinators often miss out on deals and coupons, save gift-shopping for Christmas eve, and often miss concerts and trips because they wait too long to purchase a ticket. They like that last-minute euphoric rush that comes with completing tasks at the last possible minute.

Do You have Avoidance Issues?

Do you avoid confrontation? Are you the type of person who has trouble making decisions on your own? Do you like to get the input of the entire group before selecting a restaurant or a movie? If so, you might be functioning under decisional avoidance.

Perhaps you’re avoiding failure or disappointment. Maybe you would rather been seen as lazy than incapable. And if you don’t make any decisions, then you’re not responsible for outcome. Without becoming completely anal or overly punctual, here are a few tips for overcoming your procrastination after you’ve identified the source.

RelatedThe Stages of Procrastination

Think of the Consequences

Paying bills and tickets on time can help you avoid late fees. Turning your paper in by the due date avoids penalties to your grade, and scheduling out your work can eliminate stressful all-nighters.

There are almost always penalties for procrastinating, so next time you put off an assignment or a parking ticket or a registration form, remind yourself of the consequences of delaying too much, and it might just be enough motivation to take care of it right now!

Remove Known Distractions

Facebook, cell phones, roommates, and hunger can all be major distractions on your time. Just one little peek online can have you clicking through page after page and article after article learning about god-knows-what when you should be reading Introduction to Quantum Mechanics. Know your distractions and block them!

Whether that means you head to the library and leave your cell phone and laptop at home (gasp!) or you use a browser blocker to keep you on track when you need the Internet, you’ve just got to do it! Both thrill seekers and avoiders look for these distractions, so move past them and defeat the procrastinator within!

Be Honest With Your Excuses

If you have a broken ankle, then yes, it’s okay to put off cleaning your room for another week. If you’ve stubbed your toe, then no, this is not a good excuse. Do not rationalize your poor decisions by saying, “It’s okay if I have a glass of wine right now instead of completing my paper. I deserve it. I’ll do the paper tomorrow.”

Allow Wiggle Room

Guess what? It is absolutely essential to your health, happiness, and success that you enjoy your life. It truly is. So that means you really should allow time to unwind, goof off, and let loose. That doesn’t mean you deserve a case of beer after reading the first chapter of your history book. It means that you should give yourself something to look forward to when you finish a certain number of assignments.

Ignore Perfectionism

Many of us procrastinate because we want things to be perfect, and we’re afraid that unless we have the appropriate amount of allotted distraction-less time, we can’t possibly do our best work. It is always better to at least begin working on something than to ignore it just because you’re a perfectionist.

If you wait until the last minute, you definitely won’t have enough time for it to be perfect. But then, you’ll have the perfect excuse for why it’s not perfect, right?

RelatedDon’t Be Obsessed with Productivity


Image: Aaron Concannon