The Pitfalls of Procrastination

‘How’s that project going? You know, the one due tomorrow?!’

‘Yeah, great, I’m going to get around to it just after I finish playing Fortnite.’

Does this conversation ever happen in your household? It can be very frustrating to watch our kids make poor choices in relation to study or homework, but often procrastination can mask some deeper issues going on.

Procrastination isn’t just a student problem. We all know the feeling of avoidance – whether it is those overdue dental check-ups, the bills that are still sitting on the kitchen table or the phone call to a relative that we just keep putting off.

Tim Urban has a hilarious TED talk about this issue. Giving vivid language to the realities of procrastination, he speaks about how his Instant Gratification Monkey often is the one calling the shots. Living wholly in the present moment, this Monkey just wants to have fun and and make things easy. Then the deadline begins to loom and suddenly the one thing the Monkey is afraid of appears – the Panic Monster. With the Monkey out of the way, the Rational Decision-Maker can take over once again – allowing us to work double and overtime to get it done.

The uncanny accuracy of his descriptions bring much laughter, however Urban finishes by showing how these habits can become destructive later on in life, particularly in issues with no foreseeable deadline. The habits that we cultivate in our youth can linger on with ill effects on  health, careers or relationships. They can also lead to negative outcomes in the present such as anxiety, insomnia, issues with self-esteem and regret.

When you see your kids putting off something difficult, it might be time to ask some pertinent questions. What is it that is feeding this behaviour? Is it a lack of motivation or interest in the topic? Issues of low-self-confidence? A fear of failure? Is it actually that they don’t understand and need some help? Perhaps it could be perfectionism? Check out this article ‘Why do kids procrastinate’ for a broader discussion of the underlying issues. Whatever the reason, it is worth having a conversation about it.

In the meantime, here are some practical tips to help avoid that last minute rush:

  1. Set up a designated study area, a place that has minimal distractions and allows your child to concentrate to the best of their ability.
  2. Work with your child to figure out what motivates them. Perhaps they can use gaming as a reward instead of a distractor, once they have completed a set amount of words/time. Maybe a favourite treat when they achieve a part of the goal. Having something to look forward to can have a positive effect on behaviour.
  3. Get out the calendar when deadlines are set and help your child choose how to break up the assignment or study time into smaller, more manageable chunks.

What are your tips for getting it done? We would love to hear them!
If you want more, check out ‘Stop procrastinating’, ‘10 foolproof tips for overcoming procrastination’, or ‘11 ways to overcome procrastination’. For anxiety-related procrastination, check out our previous article: ‘Five tips to helps students deal with anxiety’.

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