Students Can Overcome Procrastination: Here's How
Does your middle school or high school student procrastinate? Has he or she found ways to raise the art of putting off doing schoolwork to new levels?Middle school and high school students frequently struggle with putting off work because the thought of doing that work causes increased stress and anxiety.
Ask practically any student and he or she could easily create a lengthy laundry list of what he or she procrastinates, such as studying for tests, starting papers, doing math problems, working on vocabulary online on Membean, reading and annotating an assigned novel, and on and on.
Interestingly, it seems the higher the stakes (GPA, college applications looming, etc.) the more this anxiety leads to even greater work avoidance or more procrastination. I often hear my students bemoan their self-described chronic procrastination as laziness, but laziness generally has nothing to do with it.
Five Reasons Students Procrastinate
- When work is assigned, any stress or anxiety around a task or project impacts the student's ability to start and execute it.
- The student lacks tools, strategies, or a process for breaking down large assignments into manageable segments.
- Feelings of insecurity and self-doubt affect the student's ability to start a project, and unfortunately increase as procrastination continues.
- Distractions such as internet and social media present immediate, gratifying ways to avoid jump-starting assignments.
- Avoidance works to temporarily alleviate stressors.
The Latest Thinking
In a recent New York Times piece, researchers described their findings on the root cause of procrastination as one of emotional regulation, not one of time management. In the article, Dr. Fuschia Sirois, a professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield, explains that chronic procrastination is due to “an inability to manage negative moods around a task.” And it’s not rocket science to arrive at the conclusion that challenging or rote homework can trigger negative moods and procrastination in students.
Here’s another insight from the same article that is worthy of note: when the so-called “threat detector” of the prefrontal brain—the amygdala—sees a task as a threat to one’s self-worth or confidence, it triggers a response to eliminate or get away from that threat in any manner possible. Thus, students fall into a cycle of chronically procrastinating certain school tasks that create anxiety.
What do the researchers recommend? Certainly not productivity apps! Understanding why certain school assignments continuously generate avoidance is key.
So let’s use me as an example and then see what the experts would recommend.
I started writing this article on procrastination at 11:30 pm the night before it was due. Granted, I’m a bit of a night owl, but I did need to have it done the next day, which only added to my anxiety. Additionally, I worried about how to take the interesting research I’d reviewed in the New York Times article and incorporate it into a quick read for parents who, themselves, have too little time and often procrastinate reading their emails.
To avoid this late-night writing in the future, here’s what the experts say I should do (advice that you can easily apply to your own procrastinating student and even yourself in the future):
- Recognize what’s making me anxious. Name it and identify the sensations related to whatever it is.
- Identify the next action I can take. In other words, if I wasn’t avoiding getting started, what would I do? (In my case, I could write a title and the first sentence of the article.)
- Find ways to make it easier to move forward on my task, such as creating a quick list of major points or topics to be covered.
- Eliminate distractions, such as closing unrelated browser tabs that are open to Nordstrom’s Rack and my Pilates class schedule.
- Allow a certain level of self-forgiveness and compassion, knowing I’ll be more motivated if I eliminate the blame and tell myself “I can do this!”
Build More Productive Habits
Let’s demystify procrastination for students and help them build more productive habits around schoolwork. Not only will this help them as students, but also later in life. After all, adults put off work all the time. We just don’t have to worry about our GPA.
SOS4Students workshops offer tools and strategies your student can put to use right away to be avoid procrastination and better organize his or her studies and social activities. So, in keeping with the spirit of this week’s article, I urge you not to procrastinate signing up your student for one of our workshops (see listings below). Spaces are filling fast, and our first workshops begin at the end of this month.
We're Here to Help
Registration Now Open: Parenting U November 2, 2019!
SOS4Students and Julia Morgan School for Girls will proudly host the 3rd annual Parenting U event. It will be held November 2, 2019 at the Julia Morgan School in Oakland.
Come for the exciting breakout sessions covering a range of hot topics for parents of tweens and young teens. Our keynote speaker this year is renowned writer Peggy Orenstein, author of “Cinderella Ate My Daughter,” “Girls and Sex, Boys and Sex,” and now “Don’t Call Me Princess,” a book of essays on girls, women, sex, and life.
This is a can’t miss event. Spread the word to your friends and colleagues with kids ages 10 to 14. We’ll be sending out registration info later this summer, so stay tuned! Register Now
- Signing up for an SOS4Students Workshop or Summer Coaching is easy and can be done online. Our workshops tend to fill fast and start dates will be here sooner than you think, so act now.
- All workshops are held at Lafayette Library (Oak Room) Lafayette, CA.
- Summer coaching is available at our Walnut Creek and Montclair District offices, or online.
Middle School Workshops
High School Workshops
Can't make the workshop you need? Does your student benefit from more individualized attention? All ages and abilities gain from the one-on-one summer coaching sessions with our seasoned coaches.