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What is procrastination?

Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing something that must be done because it seems difficult or unpleasant. We procrastinate even when we know there will be negative consequences.


Acknowledging and addressing procrastination with positive behaviour changes can form lifelong habits that will support success beyond your tertiary study.

  • The human brain isn't set in its ways. It is possible to teach ourselves new, healthy behaviours to help overcome our tendency to procrastinate.
  • Everyone is different; we have different ways of approaching problems and the work we do. That doesn't mean there's one way of working that will suit everyone, and there isn't one technique that will help everyone remain focused on a task.
  • Being able to manage your time well means you will find tasks less stressful and have more free time. One of the best ways to ensure you get the most out of your time is to implement strategies to stop procrastination in its tracks.

“In many ways, procrastination is a fundamental law of the universe. It's Newton's first law applied to productivity. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest.” - James Clear

Reasons you might be procrastinating

Procrastination isn't laziness. Most people don't like procrastinating and want to change their work habits and behaviours. There are many reasons why you may find yourself avoiding certain tasks, such as:

  • thinking that the task is too difficult or not interesting;
  • fear of failure or judgement;
  • anxiety, depression or low self esteem;
  • having multiple tasks with looming deadlines;
  • other factors in your life like home, family or work issues that get in the way.

What can you do about it?

Understand your ideal workspace

We can't always have a distraction-free environment, but we can remove the distractions that may stop us reaching our goals. Being aware of what distractions exist can help you minimise their effect.

Identify when you are procrastinating

It's never too early to start an assignment! You may be doing things that are keeping you busy instead of getting work done. This could include:

  • preparing your workspace rather than working at it;
  • actively seeking distractions, such as checking your phone for updates, or starting new conversations with people online;
  • if you're at home, you may prioritise housework over your studies.

Tips to break procrastination cycles

  • Set small goals (unrelated ones are ok) to evidence achievement.
  • Break a big task into small pieces to make it easier to start working.
  • What are the easy solutions?
  • Study with your friends - “Shut up and write”.
  • Eliminate distractions – study in a quiet place like your University Library.
  • Explore tools like the Forest app, modify your phone (or computer) settings to only allow interruptions from important people.
  • You can turn off notifications on your devices or set them to ‘focus' mode.
  • Write up a 'Done' list as an alternative as a 'To-Do' list to remind yourself of your accomplishments. This may help break procrastination cycles if you feel you don't have momentum.
  • Plan regular times to focus on studying. Having a regular time to do something each day helps to form a good work habit.

Still having trouble focusing or getting things done?

These are established systems used by others to remain focused, and are popular worldwide. They might help break some bad habits when you're studying.

Pomodoro Technique

This technique involves choosing a task and working on it in 25-minute bursts followed by short breaks, as directed by a timer. After 4 Pomodoros, you can take a longer break. An online pomodoro timer that might help you stick to your task is Pomofocus.

SMART goals

SMART goals are those that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Review your plans and goals to ensure they meet the SMART concepts.

For more information on SMART goals and an activity to help you master them, visit our page on time management.

So, you could get back to what you should be doing or...

Read more on procrastination here