We’ve all struggled with procrastination in some form or another, but students are often battling it on a daily basis. Although frequently linked to anxiety, stress and poor academic performance in tweens and teens, it can still a difficult habit for students to break. However, this is in some ways the good news: procrastination is indeed a habit, and something that can be changed. Much of our focus at Green Ivy is about helping students build proactive, daily strategies around organization and time-management, and those that can shift chronic procrastination are no different.
Here are a few actionable tips to help students focus and remain productive:
Set up a distraction-free workplace: While doing homework, students often find themselves distracted, moving between apps like Snapchat and Instagram, or perusing YouTube and Netflix. Students don’t realize that each distraction comes with a cognitive cost, which extends beyond the time taken up by the distraction itself, and effects both focus and knowledge retention. To counter this, we advise that while studying, students keep their phones off and in another room, and if needed, they should install site blockers like Self-Control.
Pace yourself and take breaks: There’s a common myth among students that the only way to get their homework or studying done is to sit for hours at time, ceaseless focused, without breaks. There’s no mystery why that mindset might lead to procrastination! Studies have shown this way of working is actually less productive than working for shorter periods of time and taking breaks. Students who work with us are advised to use the Pomodoro Method, which means working for 25 minutes and then taking a 5-minute (technology free!) break, and repeating that pattern until their work is done.
Set aside time each day: There’s nothing more daunting to students than long-term projects or papers. Looking at these assignments broadly can be overwhelming, and because of this, students may put off starting them until the last minute. Procrastination can be curbed if students break down bigger tasks into smaller pieces, in tandem with setting up daily goals to complete work incrementally.
Be kind to yourself: Fear of failure and perfectionism are often at the heart of procrastination for all of us, but especially for teens and tweens. When negative thoughts come up, it can be a good strategy to start “doubting your doubts” or even doing something as simple as shaking those bad thoughts away and continuing to work on the task at hand. Also, forgiving yourself when you do procrastinate is the best way to keep moving forward and not get stuck in the cycle.
Reward yourself: Who doesn’t like a pat on the back when we finish something? It can be as simple as taking a few minutes to shoot some hoops, attending a special event, or going to a favorite diner or breakfast spot — providing some kind of reward for meeting daily, weekly, or monthly goals can serve as great positive reinforcement for students, and help build a bridge to new, procrastination-resistant habits.