Dealing with Procrastination

Academic Life

Articles for students and families transitioning into higher education.

Dealing with Procrastination

  • AsIAm
  • 10/05/2021
  • 5 minutes read

Are you putting things off and making excuses? Procrastination can sometimes make it harder to get your work done on time, particularly when a deadline might be approaching. Some people can procrastinate enough to get them in the right frame of mind to get their jobs done. Sometimes, too much stress can hinder you in getting things done, but too little stress can make it harder to get motivated to get the task done. This is where you might need to find a level of stress that’s just right for you to work effectively.

It might be important to remember that the workload you have as a College or University student will be considerably greater than the workload at secondary school, with deadlines coming thick and fast and a greater expectation that you study independently to achieve the grade you want. This can be daunting for an autistic student making the transition to College or University. This will take some time to acclimatise yourself to this new way of learning, and you also need to manage your stress levels so that you don’t procrastinate too often and become overwhelmed with deadlines.

Why do people procrastinate so much?

Feeling unprepared 

Sometimes the task or assignment you need to do might require a range of skills or expertise before it can be completed. For this reason, rather than starting immediately and risk failing the assignment, we might decide to defer starting the task, thinking to ourselves that it would be easier to wait until we have more knowledge to do the task properly.

What can help

Make a list of questions about the task that you might believe might be holding you back from progressing. Sometimes, it can be helpful to do some research into these questions as sometimes the answer can be more straightforward than you think! If you’re having a hard time finding the answer by yourself, you can always contact your professor or tutor about these questions, particularly if they’re related to exams or assignments.

If you fail an assignment or assessment, it’s not the end of the world and it doesn’t define your worth as a student. Try to think of failure as an opportunity to learn more about the topic, and you might surprise yourself on what you know about the topic.

Not having enough time to complete the assignment 

The task you’re expected to do seems to take a lot of time and effort, and you might be afraid that you won’t finish the task on time.

What can help

If you break down a task into smaller, more manageable chunks, and try to set a realistic time period for completing each part of the task. If there are no interruptions, sometimes it takes a little time to get a lot done, and you can complete parts of the task (reaching a word count each day). You can use your scheduler or time planner to mark out what parts of the day you can devote to the task and use this time to focus your energy to complete each step.

You don’t enjoy the task

What can help

Procrastination can be harder to overcome in situations where you might not feel passionate about having to do a task. To overcome this, we might need to link the task to an idea we’re motivated or attach some kind of positive motivation to a task to get started. This might entail asking yourself what parts of the task that you believe are important, or what ideas about the subject that you feel excited/passionate about and start from there. It is often easier to start an assignment or essay if it’s on a subject that you feel passionate about, but if the subject you want doesn’t appear, it can be just as good to find connections with the topics you’re passionate about and finding a way to channel that motivation into completing the assignment.


Sometimes if we’re in an environment we’re comfortable in, like our bedroom, where it might be easier to fall into our routine than setting time aside to do the assignment.

What can help

Make adjustments to your study space that you believe can help you to do the task. This might include putting away the phone, limiting social media, and finding a study space, either at home or at University or College, that can help you with your studies. Listening to music or podcasts over headphones can be helpful too if you need to hone in and concentrate on the task at hand.

The task might be too challenging

We might sometimes put off doing a task because we fear that it might be difficult and that it can be hard to know where to start the task.

What can help

Try to break the task down into smaller, more manageable steps. This makes the overall task or assignment less overwhelming and it can provide you with a step-by-step guide for doing each task.

We might have too many projects going on at once

We might often avoid or delay tasks because we might be overwhelmed. It can be easy to get bogged down on the minutiae of the task at the expense of the overall task at hand

What can help

Try to concentrate and prioritise on the most important assignments to your course first. 

Try to see that doing something is better than doing nothing. If you feel completely overwhelmed by a big essay or project, it might be good to focus on getting the finer details right first as long as you move on to the bigger task afterwards.

Feeling guilty

Sometimes we can delay or put off doing tasks because we might feel guilty about not spending enough time with family or friends, or forgetting to take part in an activity you like. It can be hard to strike a balance between life and study, particularly on your first assignments.

What can help

Try to reward yourself for doing a few hours of work or study – this might include meeting a friend for coffee, or indulging in a special interest, or a hobby that can help you to unwind.

 Schedule your allotted time in a planner or scheduler. Setting aside allocated hours for study and coursework and time for play or socialising can be a good way of ensuring that you’re keeping a good study-life balance.

Needing stress to produce our best performance

Sometimes, there might not be a negative reason why we might decide to defer or delay a task. It might be that we feel that we perform to our best under pressure. The adrenaline rush of doing an assignment close to the deadline can help some people to produce their best work. 

What can help

Give each task a reasonable amount of time to complete each part of the task you’ve been assigned. You might be able to get a lot done in a short period of time if there are no interruptions and if you’re “in the zone”. It might be helpful to use a scheduler with alarms for moving onto the next step to help you to stay focused when you’re working on an assignment.


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