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Learning Skills

Dealing with Procrastination

Procrastination is a fact of student life in college. Most students, at one time or another in their college careers, have academic problems because they fail to complete work on time. The attitude of some students seems to be "Why do today when I can put off until tomorrow?" A chronic procrastinator never studies until the night before an exam, and puts off writing papers until just before they are due. The chronic procrastinator frequently fails to complete work on time, and resorts to taking "Incomplete" in classes. As a result, the student is always behind and always struggling to catch up.

Procrastination interferes with academic performance in several ways. One problem is that term papers written the night before they are due are typically of poor quality. Writing effective papers requires some time for digestion and reconsideration of ideas and for careful revision of sentence structure, usage, and grammar. Sometimes the student gets a good grade on a paper written the night before, but few students are able to carry this off consistently.

A second problem with procrastination is that it results in poor performance on exams. Research on studying techniques shows clearly that cramming the night before an exam does not work nearly so well as studying for short periods every day or so. Studying all at once results in less retention of the material on the exam. Cramming works only when added to a previous study effort that has taken place over days or weeks.

A third problem with procrastination is that it leads to great mental stress and anxiety. Students who procrastinate tend to panic as the deadline approaches. They are motivated to get to work only when their state of anxiety reaches extremely high levels. College life for such students consists of cycles of anxiety and panic. The resulting stress is a high price to pay for the procrastination habit.