Overcoming Procrastination

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Overcoming Procrastination Powered By Docstoc
     Eric Rosenthal, Ph.D.
Director, Academic Advising and
        Workshop Overview
• Introduction and rationale
• Causes of procrastination
• Cures for procrastination
• Cognitive-behavioral solutions
      ●   Procrastinator phrases
      ●   Procrastinator log
      ●   Procrastinator contract
• Time management tips
• Procrastination afflicts millions of people
  and almost always has negative effects on
  productivity and sense of well-being.

• Although everyone procrastinates in
  his/her own way, it can best be defined as
  delaying required or desired tasks by
  choosing other activities.
  Why Overcome Procrastination?

• Putting things off to the last minute almost
  always reduces your ability to perform at
  your best.

• Procrastinators often never perform the
  required or desired task (they wait until it is
  too late).
  Why Overcome Procrastination?
• Procrastination leads to stress and/or decreased
  sense of well-being and/or self-esteem.
     ●     Last-minute pressure produces stress.
     ●     Daily delaying of required or desired
           tasks leads to chronic worry.
     ●     Knowing that the task still needs to be
           done may make it harder to enjoy the
     ●     Knowing that you are letting yourself
           down can impair self-esteem.
    Causes of Procrastination
Although everyone procrastinates for unique
  reasons or combinations of reasons, the most
  common causes are:
• Rebellion: I don’t want to do it! I don’t have
  to do it! You can’t make me do it! I won’t do
• Fear of Failure: I don’t have confidence in
  my ability, and I’d rather believe ―I didn’t
  study enough‖ than ―I’m not smart enough.‖
     Causes of Procrastination
• Lack of enjoyment: I don’t like this class, this
  book, these problems, this paper. So I turn to
  more enjoyable, immediate activities such as
  T.V., the internet, talking on the phone.
• Fear of success: If I do well, people’s
  expectations of me will grow and I won’t be able
  to live up to them!
• Lack of motivation: You may not have enough
  natural incentive to spur you to action.
      Cures for Procrastination
• Replace ―shoulds‖ and ―fears‖ with ―wants‖ and
  ●   Ask yourself why you are planning to accomplish
  ●   If it’s based on what others expect or fear of
      negative consequences, you may not be very
  ●   If it’s based on what you truly want or need, you’re
      likely to be more motivated.
  ●   Be careful to avoid sabotaging your own
      wants/needs just because others also think you
      ―should‖ accomplish something – it’s more important
      to take care of yourself than to spite others.
      Cures for Procrastination
• Getting a bite sized mentality: When confronted
  with 150 pages to read or 50 problems to solve, I feel
  overwhelmed. However, if I decide to study for 20
  minutes or read 30 pages I can do that. I can endure
  for that amount of time. Maybe I’ll even continue on—
  maybe NOT. The most significant barrier in
  procrastination is getting started.

• Set up a reward-punishment system: If I read for
  twenty minutes I get to call John – if I don’t I need to
  do the dishes. These rewards and punishments only
  matter if I consistently implement them.
      Cures for Procrastination
• Study in a place reserved for study ONLY: Joan
  always promised herself she’d study in her room after
  she ate. However there were always too many
  distractions and she rarely studied in her room. When
  she went to her favorite place in the library, she was
  always more successful.

• Become a groupie: When possible study with a
  group of dedicated students. Others can be an
  inspiration to keep up and learn and support your
     Cures for Procrastination
• Seek a counselor’s help:
  Academic Advising and Counseling Center
     I-117 847-925-6393
  Center for Multicultural Learning
     D-142 847-925-6522
  Career Center
     A-347 847-925-6220
  Health and Psychological Services
     A-364 847-925-6268

• Use online resources
  Student Counseling Virtual Pamphlet Collection
 Cognitive Behavioral Solutions

• These are derived from a theoretical
  model from the field of psychology
• Basic idea – thoughts/beliefs cause
  feelings and actions
  ● Situations don’t cause feelings and
  actions – our interpretations of them cause
  feelings and actions
 Cognitive Behavioral Solutions
• Example: Situation = parent tells you to do
  your homework

             Thought          Feeling      Action

  Person 1    He’s always       Angry      Rebellion –
              bossing me                   doesn’t do
                around.                    homework

  Person 2   I do want to      Energized      Does
             do well                        homework
              in the class.
 Cognitive Behavioral Solutions

• To change procrastinator behavior, we
  must change the thoughts/beliefs that
  cause it.
• First step: identify the thoughts/beliefs.
• This is easier if we know what to look for…
         Procrastinator Phrases
• Phrases we use reflect our underlying
• The following are typical of people who
  I should …       I probably will …    I think I could …
  I shouldn’t…     I hope to …          I’m going to try to …
  I have to …      Pretty soon I’ll …   It’s so hard to …
  I had better …   I wish I could …     I need to …
  If I don’t …     Maybe I will…        If only I could …
  Anti-Procrastination Phrases
• The following are more typical of people
  who do not procrastinate:

 I will … because I want to.
 I will definitely …
 I am confident I can…
 I will start … at X o’clock and continue until…
 After I … I will reward myself with …
          Procrastinator Log
•   Now that you’re aware of types of
    thoughts that lead to procrastination, we
    suggest that you keep a log for at least 2
•   The steps:
     • Whenever you are aware that you are
       procrastinating, write down:
       a. The task you had intended to
          accomplish (e.g. , read 20 pages of
          History text)
          Procrastinator Log
•   The steps (cont’d):
     • Whenever you are aware that you are
       procrastinating, write down:
       b. What you have been thinking/saying
          immediately before you began to
       c. Your current behavior (e.g., watching
       d. Your current feelings (e.g., guilty)
          Procrastinator Log
• The log will allow you to see patterns.
  Once you are aware of these, you will be
  more able to apply appropriate ―cures,‖
  such as:
  • Change procrastinator phrases to anti-
    procrastination phrases.
  • Add positive reinforcement to provide
  • Break a large project into manageable tasks.
         Procrastinator Log
• Once you make some positive changes,
  continue to keep a log to see patterns of
• Based on what you see, fine-tune your
  plan as needed.
• Using this approach, you will likely reduce
  procrastination and feel more in control of
  your own behavior.
      Procrastinator Contract

• For large projects such as a term paper, it
  often helps to create a specific plan.
• Breaking it down into specific, smaller
  tasks is helpful.
• Building in rewards for short-term
  accomplishments increases motivation.
• The following format is suggested…
         Procrastinator Contract
• I am going to …              Because …(Source of
• Requirements needed to complete this activity:
• I will start this project on …(date) at …(time)
• I will continue this project on …(dates) at …(times)
• I will complete this activity by …(date)
• When completed I will reward myself by …
• If I don’t complete the activity, I will punish myself by …

  Signed: _______________
  Witness: _______________
  Completed: (date) _______________
      Time Management Tips

Now that you’ve learned strategies specific
 to overcoming procrastination, try these
 general time management strategies.
 They often help prevent procrastination…
        Time Management Tips
Step-by-Step Game Plan

• 1st step = assessment of current patterns. Record activities
  for last 2 weeks on calendar grid. Include classes, job, meals,
  sleep, showers, studying, exercise, socializing, TV, etc.
• 2nd step = use ―ABC‖ priority system: rank items as ―A‖ (high
  value items that must get done), ―B‖ (important but not
  essential items), or ―C‖ (items that are of low value and can be
  easily discarded).
• 3rd step = design balanced schedule, including reinforcement
  system (rewards for daily accomplishments). Eliminate ―B‖
  and ―C‖ items as necessary.
• 4th step = try out schedule for 2 weeks.
• 5th step = fine-tune schedule/reinforcements as needed.
      Time Management Tips
Rationale for Scheduling
1. Increases efficiency, so actually provides more
   time for fun/flexibility.
2. Gives you a better sense of control and balance,
   so stress and depression are less likely.
3. Allows for self-pats on the back (positive
4. Less chance of forgetting—so less worry and
   allows enjoyment of recreation.
        Time Management Tips
General Guidelines

• Try to study when you are most psychologically alert
  (this is between 8am to 4pm for most people).

• When you have a free period of 3 or 4 hours, break it up
  by studying 3 or 4 different subjects. If possible, study
  your least favorite subjects first, followed by your favorite
  subjects (this makes use of the ―Premack Principle‖ –
  less desired activities are more likely to occur if followed
  by more highly desired activities).
        Time Management Tips
General Guidelines (cont’d)

• A good general strategy is to reward yourself for each 50
  minutes of study with a 10-minute break, during which
  you may choose to relax, exercise, call a friend, or just

• Leave some free time each day and call it ―flexible time‖.
  This is time you can use to take care of emergencies or
  unexpected catch-up work. If these do not occur, it can
  be used for pleasure!
        Time Management Tips
General Guidelines (cont’d)

• Be sure to plan a good balance of activities, including time
  for recreation, exercise, small study breaks, eating, and
  adequate sleep.

• When planning your schedule, use your prior experience to
  estimate the amount of studying you will need to get the
  grades you desire.

• While you study, observe and write down your behaviors,
  their consequences, and the environments you are in. This
  will help you become aware of the factors that facilitate and
  interfere with your ability to study more efficiently.
        Time Management Tips
General Guidelines (cont’d)

• It is important to be aware of whether you have ―bitten off
  more than you can chew‖ when you planned your
  academic and work loads. If you find yourself unable to
  find time for your ―A‖ items despite eliminating most or all
  of your ―B‖ and ―C‖ items, you may need to consider
  dropping a class or working fewer hours.

• If you find that the reading is too plentiful, you may
  ―share‖ the work with other trusted students. Each
  student is responsible for reading and
  summarizing/outlining a subset of the material.
        Time Management Tips
General Guidelines (cont’d)

• When planning your schedule, be aware of the
  schedules/habits of others in your life (such as significant
  others or roommates) who may influence your ability to
  achieve your daily goals.

• It is often a good idea to plan a long-term project at the
  beginning of the semester and break it down into smaller
  weekly tasks. This allows you to ―make a mountain into
  mole hills‖ and reduces end-of-semester stress (e.g.,
  Week 1: decide on topic; Week 2: do computer literature
  search; Week 3: find and photocopy 10 articles; Week 4:
  read and highlight 5 articles, etc.).
         Need more help…?
• Although the information in this workshop
  may be all you need, you may benefit from
  working one-on-one with a professional
• Feel free to call 847-925-6393 to set up an
• Please mention that you completed this
  online workshop.
               Thank you!

Thank you for participating in this workshop!

We wish you the best of success in
 overcoming procrastination and achieving
 your dreams!