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Counseling Center
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Procrastination & Time Management

Do you find yourself avoiding specific tasks or not getting around to things that need to get accomplished? Guilt, though a common reaction, guilt is of little use, and often serves to just discourage you further. If this is an issue for you, try focusing on the following ideas.


  • Being overextended
    Is it humanly possible to meet all the obligations you currently have? If not, can you omit or reschedule some of these obligations?
  • Low motivation
    Is the task relevant to you personally? If it is another person's goal rather than your own, try to find some personal reward or relevance for your completing the task. Are you really interested in the project? If not, can you find a way to make it interesting or let go of it?
  • Lack of training
    Are you unprepared or incapable of completing the task? On a new task do you find you afraid of the unknown? Are the expectations ambiguous? You may want to ask for guidance, support, or a new perspective from someone who is more familiar with the process or skilled in the area.
  • Faulty assumptions
    Are you assuming that if you ignore the task long enough it will disappear? Do you tend to underestimate how much time and effort the job will take? Do you have a tendency to over-estimate the difficulty of getting the task done? Try sitting down and writing out each step of the job, how long each step will take, and then tackling the job one step at a time.
  • Perfectionism
    Are fears of doing a less than perfect job interfering with your productivity? Remember that perfection is unobtainable. Often it will feel worse to not do a job at all instead of doing it in a less than perfect manner. Try to assess how important the task is, and what level of performance really matters in relation to the task. Ask yourself "what level of performance on this task would I expect from a friend/co-worker?"
  • Fear of Evaluation
    Are you over concerned with another individual's response to your performance. Try to evaluate how much total impact upon your life this one reaction will have. No one performs highly all the time, or in every area. Try to focus on completing the task in with a goal of lessening your workload and anxiety, regardless of the evaluation.
  • Avoidance of negative experience
    Do you just HATE DOING THIS TASK? Does it rate up there with dental visits or cleaning out the refrigerator? Is there any way to make it more pleasurable or enjoyable? If not, try doing the dreaded task first, while you still have energy. Often it can be helpful to have a friend or co-worker nearby for encouragement (and to keep you on task!).


  • Create a work area for yourself free from distractions (phone calls, roommates, tv), and commit to staying there for a one to two hour period.
  • Recognize that your obligations and resulting stress are as important as other people's needs, and set limits around being interrupted or rescheduling your work time.
  • Break larger tasks, such as papers or projects, into smaller goal steps. For example, most papers have at least five stages: picking a topic, researching the topic, reading and taking notes on the articles, organizing the information, and writing the paper.
  • Create a schedule for yourself, by doing the following:
    1. First list all projects, exams, and papers with their due dates.
    2. Break larger tasks into smaller goals, such as "library research for paper 2" and select target dates for completion of the smaller goals.
    3. Identify what time of day you have the highest energy and what time of day is your low energy period. Plan to schedule tasks that take your greater effort (concentration, enthusiasm) during high energy periods and plan rest breaks and more mundane tasks (such as laundry) during low energy periods.
    4. Plan out a weekly schedule hour by hour. Remember to schedule time out every day for sleep, meals, social time, and some exercise and/or relaxation time. It is important to create a realistic schedule for yourself.
    5. If possible, have someone who knows you well look over your tentative schedule and give you feedback.

Try your new schedule. Remember, you're trying something new. It's okay to fine tune it or adjust it after you give it a try for a week.

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