Do you struggle with procrastination? Get help with these strategies.

One of the most common issues students report is difficulty achieving balance between their academic work and their social lives, hobbies, and self-care activities. Procrastination is often a major part of this struggle, as are time management skills (or lack thereof). Disability Support Services offers time management workshops and can help with individualized time management plans, even if you are not seeking disability accommodations.

Procrastination can be a tricky thing to work with, because it is often symptomatic of other things. Depression often brings a lack of motivation, as do general fatigue and burnout, two things that are very common on the RISD campus! It can seem counterintuitive to work less, or to prioritize sleep and exercise over work, in order to reduce procrastination, but this is often what is needed. Getting adequate sleep, while it may mean you have fewer waking hours to work, can make you so much more effective during those hours that it quickly pays for itself.

Other strategies that can help:

  • Break big goals down into smaller goals. Then break the smaller goals down into even smaller ones. It is difficult to know where to start on a large, vague goal. Keep breaking it down into smaller and smaller steps until you have SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
  • Start with a task that is very meaningful or very easy. An easy task will give you some momentum and a sense of accomplishment that can help motivate you to tackle bigger things. A meaningful task can inspire you and make a to-do list feel like something you want to tackle.
  • Limit multi-tasking. Many people think that they are particularly bad at multi-tasking, but the truth is, we all are. Most people work much better in small, focused chunks than when trying to do several tasks at the same time.
  • Notice your own accomplishments. Spend a few minutes at the end of each day reviewing what you have done. This can help you make sure you’re on track for your larger goals, and begin to build a sense of yourself as someone who is active, productive, and hard-working. This can have far-reaching effects on your self-esteem.
  • Minimize distractions while you are working on a task. Turn off notifications or set “do not disturb” on your phone for an hour or two.
  • Try keeping a time log. Notice how long you spend on each activity. We often put off a hard task that really only takes a few minutes, because we perceive it as taking longer. Similarly, we believe that we spend only brief moments checking social media or watching videos, when these activities occupy more of our time than we think.
  • Identify your own priorities. What projects are most important to you? What are your goals beyond RISD? What kind of artist do you want to be? What kind of life do you want to live? What is meaningful for you? Let these priorities be your guide, even when they sometimes have to be balanced with a professor’s goals for you, or your parents’ ideas of what is best. College is a transition to adulthood, when you will no longer have a syllabus to structure your time. Start considering how to prioritize with your own goals in mind.
  • Make your physical and mental health priority one. You cannot work effectively or create fully when sick, exhausted, or ill. Letting your health slide seems like no big deal, and is often encouraged by a high-pressure environment, but we promise: you will make better work if you are in good physical health and have access to a rested, flexible, responsive mind.

Inside the mind of a master procrastinator

Tim Urban | TED2016

Tim Urban knows that procrastination doesn’t make sense, but he’s never been able to shake his habit of waiting until the last minute to get things done. In this hilarious and insightful talk, Urban takes us on a journey through YouTube binges, Wikipedia rabbit holes and bouts of staring out the window — and encourages us to think harder about what we’re really procrastinating on, before we run out of time.



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