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How to Do Your Homework on Time if You're a Procrastinator
Last Updated: February 23, 2023 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Katie Styzek . Katie Styzek is a Professional School Counselor for Chicago Public Schools. Katie earned a BS in Elementary Education with a Concentration in Mathematics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She served as a middle school mathematics, science, and social studies teacher for three years prior to becoming a counselor. She holds a Master of Education (M.Ed.) in School Counseling from DePaul University and an MA in Educational Leadership from Northeastern Illinois University. Katie holds an Illinois School Counselor Endorsement License (Type 73 Service Personnel), an Illinois Principal License (formerly Type 75), and an Illinois Elementary Education Teaching License (Type 03, K – 9). She is also Nationally Board Certified in School Counseling from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 100% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 548,978 times.
Procrastinating on your homework assignments can make school more stressful and can hurt your grade if you're always finishing homework at the last minute. Once you learn a few techniques to beat procrastination can make homework much easier for you! By keeping organized, setting specific goals, and asking for help, you can transform yourself into an academic star who still has time to watch TV and catch up with friends on Facebook.
Establishing a Routine
- Set an alarm on your phone to remind you when to get back to work!
- Very few people can actually work effectively with music playing. If you like to listen to music while you work but find you aren't getting anything done, try going without it for an hour to see if your concentration improves.
Asking for Help
- This doesn't work for everybody. If you find another person distracting, quit working with them.
- Good health can improve your study habits and can help you retain what you learn. Exercise, eat well, get plenty of sleep, and skip the alcohol and caffeine. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 1
- Ask your parents or a friend to keep your smartphone so you don't get distracted. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 1
- Try to set an alarm or a task reminder in your phone. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 2
- Even the best students know that they can't work all of the time. Allow some relaxation time for yourself, particularly on the weekends. Good study habits make you work smarter, not harder. Thanks Helpful 119 Not Helpful 9
You Might Also Like
- ↑ Katie Styzek. Professional School Counselor. Expert Interview. 26 March 2021.
- ↑ https://www.grammarly.com/blog/how-to-stop-procrastinating/
- ↑ https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/focused.html
- ↑ https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/homework.html
- ↑ https://childmind.org/article/strategies-to-make-homework-go-more-smoothly/
- ↑ https://learningcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/take-charge-of-distractions/
- ↑ Ted Coopersmith, MBA. Academic Tutor. Expert Interview. 10 July 2020.
- ↑ https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/school-help-teens.html
- ↑ https://blogs.iu.edu/dbauman/2018/12/18/homework-writing-tips-for-college-students/
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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, how to do homework: 15 expert tips and tricks.
Everyone struggles with homework sometimes, but if getting your homework done has become a chronic issue for you, then you may need a little extra help. That’s why we’ve written this article all about how to do homework. Once you’re finished reading it, you’ll know how to do homework (and have tons of new ways to motivate yourself to do homework)!
We’ve broken this article down into a few major sections. You’ll find:
- A diagnostic test to help you figure out why you’re struggling with homework
- A discussion of the four major homework problems students face, along with expert tips for addressing them
- A bonus section with tips for how to do homework fast
By the end of this article, you’ll be prepared to tackle whatever homework assignments your teachers throw at you .
So let’s get started!
How to Do Homework: Figure Out Your Struggles
Sometimes it feels like everything is standing between you and getting your homework done. But the truth is, most people only have one or two major roadblocks that are keeping them from getting their homework done well and on time.
The best way to figure out how to get motivated to do homework starts with pinpointing the issues that are affecting your ability to get your assignments done. That’s why we’ve developed a short quiz to help you identify the areas where you’re struggling.
Take the quiz below and record your answers on your phone or on a scrap piece of paper. Keep in mind there are no wrong answers!
1. You’ve just been assigned an essay in your English class that’s due at the end of the week. What’s the first thing you do?
A. Keep it in mind, even though you won’t start it until the day before it’s due B. Open up your planner. You’ve got to figure out when you’ll write your paper since you have band practice, a speech tournament, and your little sister’s dance recital this week, too. C. Groan out loud. Another essay? You could barely get yourself to write the last one! D. Start thinking about your essay topic, which makes you think about your art project that’s due the same day, which reminds you that your favorite artist might have just posted to Instagram...so you better check your feed right now.
2. Your mom asked you to pick up your room before she gets home from work. You’ve just gotten home from school. You decide you’ll tackle your chores:
A. Five minutes before your mom walks through the front door. As long as it gets done, who cares when you start? B. As soon as you get home from your shift at the local grocery store. C. After you give yourself a 15-minute pep talk about how you need to get to work. D. You won’t get it done. Between texts from your friends, trying to watch your favorite Netflix show, and playing with your dog, you just lost track of time!
3. You’ve signed up to wash dogs at the Humane Society to help earn money for your senior class trip. You:
A. Show up ten minutes late. You put off leaving your house until the last minute, then got stuck in unexpected traffic on the way to the shelter. B. Have to call and cancel at the last minute. You forgot you’d already agreed to babysit your cousin and bake cupcakes for tomorrow’s bake sale. C. Actually arrive fifteen minutes early with extra brushes and bandanas you picked up at the store. You’re passionate about animals, so you’re excited to help out! D. Show up on time, but only get three dogs washed. You couldn’t help it: you just kept getting distracted by how cute they were!
4. You have an hour of downtime, so you decide you’re going to watch an episode of The Great British Baking Show. You:
A. Scroll through your social media feeds for twenty minutes before hitting play, which means you’re not able to finish the whole episode. Ugh! You really wanted to see who was sent home! B. Watch fifteen minutes until you remember you’re supposed to pick up your sister from band practice before heading to your part-time job. No GBBO for you! C. You finish one episode, then decide to watch another even though you’ve got SAT studying to do. It’s just more fun to watch people make scones. D. Start the episode, but only catch bits and pieces of it because you’re reading Twitter, cleaning out your backpack, and eating a snack at the same time.
5. Your teacher asks you to stay after class because you’ve missed turning in two homework assignments in a row. When she asks you what’s wrong, you say:
A. You planned to do your assignments during lunch, but you ran out of time. You decided it would be better to turn in nothing at all than submit unfinished work. B. You really wanted to get the assignments done, but between your extracurriculars, family commitments, and your part-time job, your homework fell through the cracks. C. You have a hard time psyching yourself to tackle the assignments. You just can’t seem to find the motivation to work on them once you get home. D. You tried to do them, but you had a hard time focusing. By the time you realized you hadn’t gotten anything done, it was already time to turn them in.
Like we said earlier, there are no right or wrong answers to this quiz (though your results will be better if you answered as honestly as possible). Here’s how your answers break down:
- If your answers were mostly As, then your biggest struggle with doing homework is procrastination.
- If your answers were mostly Bs, then your biggest struggle with doing homework is time management.
- If your answers were mostly Cs, then your biggest struggle with doing homework is motivation.
- If your answers were mostly Ds, then your biggest struggle with doing homework is getting distracted.
Now that you’ve identified why you’re having a hard time getting your homework done, we can help you figure out how to fix it! Scroll down to find your core problem area to learn more about how you can start to address it.
And one more thing: you’re really struggling with homework, it’s a good idea to read through every section below. You may find some additional tips that will help make homework less intimidating.
How to Do Homework When You’re a Procrastinator
Merriam Webster defines “procrastinate” as “to put off intentionally and habitually.” In other words, procrastination is when you choose to do something at the last minute on a regular basis. If you’ve ever found yourself pulling an all-nighter, trying to finish an assignment between periods, or sprinting to turn in a paper minutes before a deadline, you’ve experienced the effects of procrastination.
If you’re a chronic procrastinator, you’re in good company. In fact, one study found that 70% to 95% of undergraduate students procrastinate when it comes to doing their homework. Unfortunately, procrastination can negatively impact your grades. Researchers have found that procrastination can lower your grade on an assignment by as much as five points ...which might not sound serious until you realize that can mean the difference between a B- and a C+.
Procrastination can also negatively affect your health by increasing your stress levels , which can lead to other health conditions like insomnia, a weakened immune system, and even heart conditions. Getting a handle on procrastination can not only improve your grades, it can make you feel better, too!
The big thing to understand about procrastination is that it’s not the result of laziness. Laziness is defined as being “disinclined to activity or exertion.” In other words, being lazy is all about doing nothing. But a s this Psychology Today article explains , procrastinators don’t put things off because they don’t want to work. Instead, procrastinators tend to postpone tasks they don’t want to do in favor of tasks that they perceive as either more important or more fun. Put another way, procrastinators want to do things...as long as it’s not their homework!
3 Tips f or Conquering Procrastination
Because putting off doing homework is a common problem, there are lots of good tactics for addressing procrastination. Keep reading for our three expert tips that will get your homework habits back on track in no time.
#1: Create a Reward System
Like we mentioned earlier, procrastination happens when you prioritize other activities over getting your homework done. Many times, this happens because homework...well, just isn’t enjoyable. But you can add some fun back into the process by rewarding yourself for getting your work done.
Here’s what we mean: let’s say you decide that every time you get your homework done before the day it’s due, you’ll give yourself a point. For every five points you earn, you’ll treat yourself to your favorite dessert: a chocolate cupcake! Now you have an extra (delicious!) incentive to motivate you to leave procrastination in the dust.
If you’re not into cupcakes, don’t worry. Your reward can be anything that motivates you . Maybe it’s hanging out with your best friend or an extra ten minutes of video game time. As long as you’re choosing something that makes homework worth doing, you’ll be successful.
#2: Have a Homework Accountability Partner
If you’re having trouble getting yourself to start your homework ahead of time, it may be a good idea to call in reinforcements . Find a friend or classmate you can trust and explain to them that you’re trying to change your homework habits. Ask them if they’d be willing to text you to make sure you’re doing your homework and check in with you once a week to see if you’re meeting your anti-procrastination goals.
Sharing your goals can make them feel more real, and an accountability partner can help hold you responsible for your decisions. For example, let’s say you’re tempted to put off your science lab write-up until the morning before it’s due. But you know that your accountability partner is going to text you about it tomorrow...and you don’t want to fess up that you haven’t started your assignment. A homework accountability partner can give you the extra support and incentive you need to keep your homework habits on track.
#3: Create Your Own Due Dates
If you’re a life-long procrastinator, you might find that changing the habit is harder than you expected. In that case, you might try using procrastination to your advantage! If you just can’t seem to stop doing your work at the last minute, try setting your own due dates for assignments that range from a day to a week before the assignment is actually due.
Here’s what we mean. Let’s say you have a math worksheet that’s been assigned on Tuesday and is due on Friday. In your planner, you can write down the due date as Thursday instead. You may still put off your homework assignment until the last minute...but in this case, the “last minute” is a day before the assignment’s real due date . This little hack can trick your procrastination-addicted brain into planning ahead!
If you feel like Kevin Hart in this meme, then our tips for doing homework when you're busy are for you.
How to Do Homework When You’re too Busy
If you’re aiming to go to a top-tier college , you’re going to have a full plate. Because college admissions is getting more competitive, it’s important that you’re maintaining your grades , studying hard for your standardized tests , and participating in extracurriculars so your application stands out. A packed schedule can get even more hectic once you add family obligations or a part-time job to the mix.
If you feel like you’re being pulled in a million directions at once, you’re not alone. Recent research has found that stress—and more severe stress-related conditions like anxiety and depression— are a major problem for high school students . In fact, one study from the American Psychological Association found that during the school year, students’ stress levels are higher than those of the adults around them.
For students, homework is a major contributor to their overall stress levels . Many high schoolers have multiple hours of homework every night , and figuring out how to fit it into an already-packed schedule can seem impossible.
3 Tips for Fitting Homework Into Your Busy Schedule
While it might feel like you have literally no time left in your schedule, there are still ways to make sure you’re able to get your homework done and meet your other commitments. Here are our expert homework tips for even the busiest of students.
#1: Make a Prioritized To-Do List
You probably already have a to-do list to keep yourself on track. The next step is to prioritize the items on your to-do list so you can see what items need your attention right away.
Here’s how it works: at the beginning of each day, sit down and make a list of all the items you need to get done before you go to bed. This includes your homework, but it should also take into account any practices, chores, events, or job shifts you may have. Once you get everything listed out, it’s time to prioritize them using the labels A, B, and C. Here’s what those labels mean:
- A Tasks : tasks that have to get done—like showing up at work or turning in an assignment—get an A.
- B Tasks : these are tasks that you would like to get done by the end of the day but aren’t as time sensitive. For example, studying for a test you have next week could be a B-level task. It’s still important, but it doesn’t have to be done right away.
- C Tasks: these are tasks that aren’t very important and/or have no real consequences if you don’t get them done immediately. For instance, if you’re hoping to clean out your closet but it’s not an assigned chore from your parents, you could label that to-do item with a C.
Prioritizing your to-do list helps you visualize which items need your immediate attention, and which items you can leave for later. A prioritized to-do list ensures that you’re spending your time efficiently and effectively, which helps you make room in your schedule for homework. So even though you might really want to start making decorations for Homecoming (a B task), you’ll know that finishing your reading log (an A task) is more important.
#2: Use a Planner With Time Labels
Your planner is probably packed with notes, events, and assignments already. (And if you’re not using a planner, it’s time to start!) But planners can do more for you than just remind you when an assignment is due. If you’re using a planner with time labels, it can help you visualize how you need to spend your day.
A planner with time labels breaks your day down into chunks, and you assign tasks to each chunk of time. For example, you can make a note of your class schedule with assignments, block out time to study, and make sure you know when you need to be at practice. Once you know which tasks take priority, you can add them to any empty spaces in your day.
Planning out how you spend your time not only helps you use it wisely, it can help you feel less overwhelmed, too . We’re big fans of planners that include a task list ( like this one ) or have room for notes ( like this one ).
#3: Set Reminders on Your Phone
If you need a little extra nudge to make sure you’re getting your homework done on time, it’s a good idea to set some reminders on your phone. You don’t need a fancy app, either. You can use your alarm app to have it go off at specific times throughout the day to remind you to do your homework. This works especially well if you have a set homework time scheduled. So if you’ve decided you’re doing homework at 6:00 pm, you can set an alarm to remind you to bust out your books and get to work.
If you use your phone as your planner, you may have the option to add alerts, emails, or notifications to scheduled events . Many calendar apps, including the one that comes with your phone, have built-in reminders that you can customize to meet your needs. So if you block off time to do your homework from 4:30 to 6:00 pm, you can set a reminder that will pop up on your phone when it’s time to get started.
This dog isn't judging your lack of motivation...but your teacher might. Keep reading for tips to help you motivate yourself to do your homework.
How to Do Homework When You’re Unmotivated
At first glance, it may seem like procrastination and being unmotivated are the same thing. After all, both of these issues usually result in you putting off your homework until the very last minute.
But there’s one key difference: many procrastinators are working, they’re just prioritizing work differently. They know they’re going to start their homework...they’re just going to do it later.
Conversely, people who are unmotivated to do homework just can’t find the willpower to tackle their assignments. Procrastinators know they’ll at least attempt the homework at the last minute, whereas people who are unmotivated struggle with convincing themselves to do it at a ll. For procrastinators, the stress comes from the inevitable time crunch. For unmotivated people, the stress comes from trying to convince themselves to do something they don’t want to do in the first place.
Here are some common reasons students are unmotivated in doing homework :
- Assignments are too easy, too hard, or seemingly pointless
- Students aren’t interested in (or passionate about) the subject matter
- Students are intimidated by the work and/or feels like they don’t understand the assignment
- Homework isn’t fun, and students would rather spend their time on things that they enjoy
To sum it up: people who lack motivation to do their homework are more likely to not do it at all, or to spend more time worrying about doing their homework than...well, actually doing it.
3 Tips for How to Get Motivated to Do Homework
The key to getting homework done when you’re unmotivated is to figure out what does motivate you, then apply those things to homework. It sounds tricky...but it’s pretty simple once you get the hang of it! Here are our three expert tips for motivating yourself to do your homework.
#1: Use Incremental Incentives
When you’re not motivated, it’s important to give yourself small rewards to stay focused on finishing the task at hand. The trick is to keep the incentives small and to reward yourself often. For example, maybe you’re reading a good book in your free time. For every ten minutes you spend on your homework, you get to read five pages of your book. Like we mentioned earlier, make sure you’re choosing a reward that works for you!
So why does this technique work? Using small rewards more often allows you to experience small wins for getting your work done. Every time you make it to one of your tiny reward points, you get to celebrate your success, which gives your brain a boost of dopamine . Dopamine helps you stay motivated and also creates a feeling of satisfaction when you complete your homework !
#2: Form a Homework Group
If you’re having trouble motivating yourself, it’s okay to turn to others for support. Creating a homework group can help with this. Bring together a group of your friends or classmates, and pick one time a week where you meet and work on homework together. You don’t have to be in the same class, or even taking the same subjects— the goal is to encourage one another to start (and finish!) your assignments.
Another added benefit of a homework group is that you can help one another if you’re struggling to understand the material covered in your classes. This is especially helpful if your lack of motivation comes from being intimidated by your assignments. Asking your friends for help may feel less scary than talking to your teacher...and once you get a handle on the material, your homework may become less frightening, too.
#3: Change Up Your Environment
If you find that you’re totally unmotivated, it may help if you find a new place to do your homework. For example, if you’ve been struggling to get your homework done at home, try spending an extra hour in the library after school instead. The change of scenery can limit your distractions and give you the energy you need to get your work done.
If you’re stuck doing homework at home, you can still use this tip. For instance, maybe you’ve always done your homework sitting on your bed. Try relocating somewhere else, like your kitchen table, for a few weeks. You may find that setting up a new “homework spot” in your house gives you a motivational lift and helps you get your work done.
Social media can be a huge problem when it comes to doing homework. We have advice for helping you unplug and regain focus.
How to Do Homework When You’re Easily Distracted
We live in an always-on world, and there are tons of things clamoring for our attention. From friends and family to pop culture and social media, it seems like there’s always something (or someone!) distracting us from the things we need to do.
The 24/7 world we live in has affected our ability to focus on tasks for prolonged periods of time. Research has shown that over the past decade, an average person’s attention span has gone from 12 seconds to eight seconds . And when we do lose focus, i t takes people a long time to get back on task . One study found that it can take as long as 23 minutes to get back to work once we’ve been distracte d. No wonder it can take hours to get your homework done!
3 Tips to Improve Your Focus
If you have a hard time focusing when you’re doing your homework, it’s a good idea to try and eliminate as many distractions as possible. Here are three expert tips for blocking out the noise so you can focus on getting your homework done.
#1: Create a Distraction-Free Environment
Pick a place where you’ll do your homework every day, and make it as distraction-free as possible. Try to find a location where there won’t be tons of noise, and limit your access to screens while you’re doing your homework. Put together a focus-oriented playlist (or choose one on your favorite streaming service), and put your headphones on while you work.
You may find that other people, like your friends and family, are your biggest distraction. If that’s the case, try setting up some homework boundaries. Let them know when you’ll be working on homework every day, and ask them if they’ll help you keep a quiet environment. They’ll be happy to lend a hand!
#2: Limit Your Access to Technology
We know, we know...this tip isn’t fun, but it does work. For homework that doesn’t require a computer, like handouts or worksheets, it’s best to put all your technology away . Turn off your television, put your phone and laptop in your backpack, and silence notifications on any wearable tech you may be sporting. If you listen to music while you work, that’s fine...but make sure you have a playlist set up so you’re not shuffling through songs once you get started on your homework.
If your homework requires your laptop or tablet, it can be harder to limit your access to distractions. But it’s not impossible! T here are apps you can download that will block certain websites while you’re working so that you’re not tempted to scroll through Twitter or check your Facebook feed. Silence notifications and text messages on your computer, and don’t open your email account unless you absolutely have to. And if you don’t need access to the internet to complete your assignments, turn off your WiFi. Cutting out the online chatter is a great way to make sure you’re getting your homework done.
#3: Set a Timer (the Pomodoro Technique)
Have you ever heard of the Pomodoro technique ? It’s a productivity hack that uses a timer to help you focus!
Here’s how it works: first, set a timer for 25 minutes. This is going to be your work time. During this 25 minutes, all you can do is work on whatever homework assignment you have in front of you. No email, no text messaging, no phone calls—just homework. When that timer goes off, y ou get to take a 5 minute break. Every time you go through one of these cycles, it’s called a “pomodoro.” For every four pomodoros you complete, you can take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.
The pomodoro technique works through a combination of boundary setting and rewards. First, it gives you a finite amount of time to focus, so you know that you only have to work really hard for 25 minutes. Once you’ve done that, you’re rewarded with a short break where you can do whatever you want. Additionally, tracking how many pomodoros you complete can help you see how long you’re really working on your homework. (Once you start using our focus tips, you may find it doesn’t take as long as you thought!)
Two Bonus Tips for How to Do Homework Fast
Even if you’re doing everything right, there will be times when you just need to get your homework done as fast as possible. (Why do teachers always have projects due in the same week? The world may never know.)
The problem with speeding through homework is that it’s easy to make mistakes. While turning in an assignment is always better than not submitting anything at all, you want to make sure that you’re not compromising quality for speed. Simply put, the goal is to get your homework done quickly and still make a good grade on the assignment!
Here are our two bonus tips for getting a decent grade on your homework assignments , even when you’re in a time crunch.
#1: Do the Easy Parts First
This is especially true if you’re working on a handout with multiple questions. Before you start working on the assignment, read through all the questions and problems. As you do, make a mark beside the questions you think are “easy” to answer .
Once you’ve finished going through the whole assignment, you can answer these questions first. Getting the easy questions out of the way as quickly as possible lets you spend more time on the trickier portions of your homework, which will maximize your assignment grade.
(Quick note: this is also a good strategy to use on timed assignments and tests, like the SAT and the ACT !)
#2: Pay Attention in Class
Homework gets a lot easier when you’re actively learning the material. Teachers aren’t giving you homework because they’re mean or trying to ruin your weekend... it’s because they want you to really understand the course material. Homework is designed to reinforce what you’re already learning in class so you’ll be ready to tackle harder concepts later.
When you pay attention in class, ask questions, and take good notes, you’re absorbing the information you’ll need to succeed on your homework assignments. (You’re stuck in class anyway, so you might as well make the most of it!) Not only will paying attention in class make your homework less confusing, it will also help it go much faster, too.
If you’re looking to improve your productivity beyond homework, a good place to begin is with time management. After all, we only have so much time in a day...so it’s important to get the most out of it! To get you started, check out this list of the 12 best time management techniques that you can start using today.
You may have read this article because homework struggles have been affecting your GPA. Now that you’re on the path to homework success, it’s time to start being proactive about raising your grades. This article teaches you everything you need to know about raising your GPA so you can
Now you know how to get motivated to do homework...but what about your study habits? Studying is just as critical to getting good grades, and ultimately getting into a good college . We can teach you how to study bette r in high school. (We’ve also got tons of resources to help you study for your ACT and SAT exams , too!)
Need more help with this topic? Check out Tutorbase!
Our vetted tutor database includes a range of experienced educators who can help you polish an essay for English or explain how derivatives work for Calculus. You can use dozens of filters and search criteria to find the perfect person for your needs.
Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.
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Homework Procrastination: Why You Procrastinate on Homework and How to Stop
Homework procrastination involves unnecessarily postponing working on homework assignments. For example, if a student delays starting a homework assignment until right before its deadline for no good reason, even though it would have been better for them to start earlier, that student is engaging in homework procrastination.
Homework procrastination can take various forms, from wasting hours trying to bring yourself to start writing an essay, to putting off an important project until the end of the semester. This is a problem not only because it can harm your performance at school, and therefore cause you to receive lower grades , but also because it can cause you to suffer from various other issues , such as frustration, anxiety, and stress .
If you often procrastinate when it comes to doing homework, know that you’re not alone. Procrastination is a common problem among students ; in terms of statistics, studies show that approximately 80%–95% of college students engage in procrastination to some degree, approximately 75% consider themselves to be procrastinators, and approximately 50% say that they procrastinate in a consistent and problematic manner.
Fortunately, however, there are some things that you can do to solve this problem, as you will see in the following article. Specifically, you will first see an explanation about why students procrastinate on their homework, so you can understand your own behavior better. Then, you will see what you can do in order to stop procrastinating on your homework, so you can start getting them done on time.
Why you procrastinate on homework
You procrastinate on homework because issues such as exhaustion and anxiety outweigh your self-control and motivation. These issues include personal factors, like fear and perfectionism, and situational factors, like distractions and unclear instructions.
Specifically, when you need to get homework done, you rely primarily on your self-control in order to get yourself to do it. Furthermore, your self-control is sometimes supported by your motivation, which helps you complete your homework on time.
However, in some cases, you suffer from issues that interfere with or oppose your self-control and motivation, such as exhaustion and anxiety . When these issues are stronger than your self-control and motivation, you end up procrastinating, until you reach a point where the balance between them shifts in your favor, or until it’s too late.
This explains why you might end up procrastinating on your homework even when you have the necessary motivation and you truly wish that you could just get started. This also explains why you might end up procrastinating on your homework until right before deadlines , when the increased motivation, often in the form of stressful pressure, finally pushes you to get to work.
Accordingly, common reasons for procrastinating on homework include the following :
- Abstract goals , in terms of being vague about how and when you intend to do the homework.
- Feeling overwhelmed , often while being unsure of how to complete the homework.
- Perfectionism , in the form of refusing to create work that has any flaws.
- Fear of failure , often because of concerns over how such failure might reflect on you.
- Anxiety , often in light of potential negative feedback.
- Task aversion , especially in cases where you find the homework boring or unpleasant.
- Lack of motivation , often as a result of feeling disconnected from your future self or having rewards that are far in the future.
- Physical or mental exhaustion , often due to a combination of reasons, such as a high academic workload and associated stress .
- Resentment , generally toward the homework, toward its source, or toward something related, such as a parent pushing you to do well in a subject that you’re not interested in.
- Sensation seeking , generally in the form of enjoying working on things right before the deadline, when there’s intense time pressure.
- Problematic work environment , generally as a result of having many distractions or temptations around.
- Lack of sufficient communication from instructors, for example when it comes to not having clear directions and due dates for a certain class project.
In addition, other issues can also make you more likely to procrastinate on your homework. For example:
- Problematic behaviors like self-handicapping , which involves procrastinating so that if you fail you can blame your failure on procrastination rather than your abilities, and self-sabotaging , which involves procrastinating as a result of a tendency to sabotage your progress.
- Personality traits like distractibility and impulsivity .
- Underlying issues like lack of sleep , ADHD , and depression .
Finally, note that some of these issues can lead to problematic procrastination cycles . For example, this can happen if you’re anxious about your homework, so you procrastinate on it, which makes you even more anxious about your homework due to the added negative emotions that you now associate with it (e.g., guilt and shame), which in turn makes you more likely to keep procrastinating on your homework in the future.
Understanding why you procrastinate on your homework can help you learn how to overcome your procrastination. However, while understanding why you procrastinate can be helpful, in many cases you can reduce your procrastination even without figuring this out. As such, if you find that you’re struggling with this step, don’t worry, and don’t get stuck; simply move on to the next step, which involves trying out various anti-procrastination techniques, until you find the ones that work best for you.
How to stop procrastinating on homework
To stop procrastinating on your homework right now , you should identify the smallest possible thing you can do to make progress on it, and then modify your environment to make it as likely as possible that you will do it.
For example, if you need to write a paper for a university course, the smallest possible step that you can take toward finishing it might be opening the relevant document on your computer, and writing just a single opening line, even if it’s poorly phrased initially. Once you realize that this is all you need to do, you can start modifying your work environment to help yourself achieve that, for example by going to a room with no distractions, leaving your phone outside, and turning on airplane mode on your laptop to disable your access to online distractions .
There are many other anti-procrastination techniques that can help you stop procrastinating on your homework. You don’t need to use all of these techniques, since some won’t be relevant in your case, and since you will generally need only a few of them in order to make significant progress toward overcoming your procrastination. As such, try skimming through this list, and finding the techniques that you think will work best for you.
Improve your planning:
- Set concrete goals for yourself. For example, instead of a vague goal, such as “finish my psychology paper over the weekend”, set a concrete goal, such as “start writing an outline for the psychology paper on Thursday at 5 pm in the library, right after I finish the last class for the week”).
- Break your homework into small and manageable steps. For example, if you need to write a research paper, you can start with steps such as “(1) brainstorm three potential topics, (2) figure out which topic I like best, and (3) find five relevant sources”. If the project that you’re dealing with is large and will therefore require a large number of steps, don’t worry about outlining the whole thing from the start; simply identify the first few steps that you need to take, and add new ones as you go along, to avoid feeling overwhelmed or getting stuck.
- Set a series of milestones and deadlines for yourself. This will help you be accountable and plan ahead, and can also motivate you and give you a rewarding feeling of continuous progress.
- Identify your productivity cycles. Different people are more productive at different times, based on factors such as whether it’s morning, noon, or evening. To reduce procrastination, you should take your personal productivity patterns into account, and schedule your homework for times when you’re most likely to be able to actually work on it.
Improve your environment:
- Change your environment to make it easier for you to focus. For example, if you know that you work best when there are no distracting noises, go somewhere quiet, or put on some noise-blocking headphones.
- Change your environment to make it easier for yourself to get started. For example, if you know that you will need to write an essay tomorrow after you wake up, then leave the document open on your computer before you go to bed.
- Change your environment to make it harder for yourself to procrastinate. For example, if you tend to procrastinate by browsing apps on your phone , leave your phone outside the room where you plan to work.
Change your approach:
- Start with a tiny step. For example, if you need to write an essay, help yourself get started by committing to only write a single sentence at first. This can help you push yourself to get started on homework, and often, once you do so, you’ll find it easy to keep going.
- Start with the best or worst part first. Some people find that starting with the most enjoyable or easiest part of an assignment helps them get going, while others find that getting the worst part out of the way first helps them avoid procrastinating over time. Use either approach if you feel that it works for you.
- Add a time delay before you procrastinate. If you can’t avoid procrastinating entirely, try committing to having a time delay before you indulge your impulse to do so. For example, this can involve counting to 10 before you’re allowed to open a new tab on the social media website that you usually use to procrastinate.
- Use the Pomodoro technique. This involves alternating between scheduled periods of work and rest. For example, you can work on your homework for 25-minute long stretches, with 5-minute breaks in between, and a longer 30-minute break after every 4 work sets that you complete.
Increase your motivation:
- Make doing the homework feel more rewarding. For example, you can gamify your work, by marking down streaks of days on which you’ve managed to make sufficient progress on your assignments, and potentially also give yourself some reward once you reach a sufficiently long streak.
- Make doing the homework feel more enjoyable. For example, you can do your homework in a pleasant location, while listening to energizing music.
- Visualize your future self. For example, you can visualize yourself being able to relax after you finish working, visualize yourself being rewarded for getting a good grade in a course, or visualize yourself having to handle the issues associated with not finishing your homework on time.
- Focus on your goals instead of your assignments. Instead of focusing on the fact that you have an aversion to your homework, for whatever reason, try focusing on your end goals for completing the homework, such as getting a good grade in an important class so you can have a better application for grad school.
Change your mindset:
- Give yourself permission to make mistakes, and accept the fact that your work won’t be perfect, especially at first. This can be helpful, for example, when it comes to assignments that involve writing, where you can give yourself permission to write a bad first draft, and then edit it afterward.
- Address your fears. If you’re procrastinating because you’re afraid of something, try to identify your fears and resolve them. For example, if you’re afraid that your writing won’t be good enough, you can say to yourself that your goal is to just start by getting something written down, and that you can always improve it later.
- Develop self-compassion. Self-compassion can help reduce your procrastination, as well as various issues that are associated with it, such as stress. It consists of three components that you should develop: self-kindness , which involves being nice to yourself, common humanity , which involves recognizing that everyone experiences challenges, and mindfulness , which involves accepting your emotions in a non-judgmental manner.
- Develop self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the belief in your ability to carry out the actions that you need to achieve your goals, and it can help you reduce your procrastination. To develop self-efficacy, try to identify the various strategies that you can use to finish your homework, and think about your ability to execute those strategies successfully.
When deciding which approach to use in order to overcome your procrastination , keep in mind that anti-procrastination techniques are especially effective when they’re tailored to the specific causes of your procrastination. For example, if you procrastinate because you set abstract goals for yourself, you should focus on setting concrete goals instead. Similarly, if you procrastinate because of available distractions, you should remove those distractions from your study environment, or go work somewhere else instead.
In addition, note that if you suffer from an underlying issue that leads to procrastination, such as lack of sleep , depression , or ADHD , you will likely need to resolve that issue, using professional help if necessary, if you want to successfully overcome your procrastination.
Finally, keep in mind that most people need more than one technique in order to overcome their procrastination , and that different techniques work better for different people in different circumstances. Accordingly, don’t expect a single technique to solve all your problems, and don’t feel that if some technique works well for others then it will necessarily also work well for you. Instead, try out the various techniques that are available to you, until you figure out which ones work best for you, in your particular situation.
Procrastination and Homework
A Little Procrastination is Okay, But Too Much Can Hurt!
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Do you procrastinate? Most of us put things off from time to time, like when we're supposed to be studying for a test or starting our lengthy research paper assignments. But giving in to diversions can really hurt us in the long run.
Procrastination is like a little white lie we tell ourselves. We think we’ll feel better if we do something fun, like watch a TV show, instead of studying or reading.
But when we give in to the urge to put off our responsibilities, we always feel worse in the long run, not better. And what's worse, we end up doing a poor job when we finally get started on the task at hand!
Those who procrastinate the most are usually performing below their potential.
Do you spend too much time on things that don’t matter? You may be a procrastinator if you:
- Feel the impulse to clean your room before you get started on a project.
- Rewrite the first sentence or paragraph of a paper several times, repeatedly.
- Crave a snack as soon as you sit down to study.
- Spend too much time (days) to decide on a topic.
- Carry books around all the time, but never open them to study.
- Get angry if a parent asks “Have you started yet?”
- Always seem to find an excuse to avoid going to the library to start on the research.
You probably did relate to at least one of those situations. But don’t be hard on yourself! That means you are perfectly normal. The key to success is this: it is important that you don’t allow these diversion tactics to affect your grades in a bad way. A little procrastination is normal, but too much is self-defeating.
How can you battle the urge to put things off? Try the following tips.
- Recognize that a feisty little voice lives inside every one of us. He tells us it would be rewarding to play a game, eat, or watch TV when we know better. Don’t fall for it!
- Think about the rewards of accomplishments, and put reminders around your study room. Is there a specific college you want to attend? Put the poster right over your desk. That will serve as a reminder to be your best.
- Work out a reward system with your parent. There may be a concert you're dying to go to, or a new coat you've spotted in the mall. Make a deal with your parents way ahead of time— make an agreement that you can receive the reward only if you reach your goals. And stick to the deal!
- Start with small goals if you’re facing a big assignment. Don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture. Accomplishment feels great, so set small goals first, and take it day by day. Set new goals as you go.
- Finally, give yourself time to play! Set aside a special time to do whatever you want. Afterward, you’ll be ready to get to work!
- Find a study partner who will help you stay on track. Meet regularly to discuss your commitments and deadlines. It's a strange thing about human nature: we might be willing to let ourselves down easily enough, but we hesitate to disappoint a friend.
- Give yourself ten minutes or so to clean your space before you get started. The urge to clean as a procrastination tactic is common and it is based on the fact that our brains desire the feeling of "starting with a clean slate." Go ahead and organize your space--but don't take too much time.
Still find yourself putting off those important projects? Discover More Procrastination Tips to help you manage your time effectively.
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What Is Procrastination?
Putting off tasks we don't enjoy is common, despite the consequences
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."
Why Do You Procrastinate?
Types of procrastination.
- The Negative Impact
- Strategies to Stop
Procrastination is the act of delaying or putting off tasks until the last minute, or past their deadline. Some researchers define procrastination as a "form of self-regulation failure characterized by the irrational delay of tasks despite potentially negative consequences."
According to Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago and author of "Still Procrastinating: The No Regret Guide to Getting It Done," around 20% of U.S. adults are chronic procrastinators.
No matter how well-organized and committed you are, chances are that you have found yourself frittering away hours on trivial pursuits (watching TV, updating your Facebook status, shopping online) when you should have been spending that time on work or school-related projects.
Whether you're putting off finishing a project for work, avoiding homework assignments, or ignoring household chores, procrastination can have a major impact on your job, your grades, and your life.
In most cases, procrastination is not a sign of a serious problem. It's a common tendency that most people give in to at some point or another.
Remember that time that you thought you had a week left to finish a project that was really due the next day? How about the time you decided not to clean up your apartment because you "didn't feel like doing it right now?"
We often assume that projects won't take as long to finish as they really will, which can lead to a false sense of security when we believe that we still have plenty of time to complete these tasks.
One of the biggest factors contributing to procrastination is the notion that we have to feel inspired or motivated to work on a task at a particular moment.
The reality is that if you wait until you're in the right frame of mind to do certain tasks (especially undesirable ones), you will probably find that the right time simply never comes along and the task never gets completed.
The following are a few other factors that cause procrastination.
Researchers suggest that procrastination can be particularly pronounced among students. A 2007 meta analysis published in the Psychological Bulletin found that a whopping 80% to 95% of college students procrastinated on a regular basis, particularly when it came to completing assignments and coursework.
According to researchers, there are some major cognitive distortions that lead to academic procrastination. Students tend to:
- Overestimate how much time they have left to perform tasks
- Overestimate how motivated they will be in the future
- Underestimate how long certain activities will take to complete
- Mistakenly assume that they need to be in the right frame of mind to work on a project
The present bias is a phenomenon observed in human behavior that may result in procrastination. The present bias means that we tend to be motivated more by immediate gratification or rewards than we are by long-term rewards. This is why it feels good in the moment to procrastinate.
For example, the immediate reward of staying in bed and watching TV is more appealing than the long-term reward of publishing a blog post, which would take much longer to accomplish.
Procrastination can also be a result of depression . Feelings of hopelessness , helplessness, and a lack of energy can make it difficult to start (and finish) the simplest task. Depression can also lead to self-doubt . When you can't figure out how to tackle a project or feel insecure about your abilities, you might find it easier to put it off.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Procrastination is also pretty common in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder . One reason is that OCD is often linked with maladaptive perfectionism, which causes fears about making new mistakes, doubts about whether you are doing something correctly, and worry over others' expectations of you.
People with OCD also often have a propensity toward indecision, causing them to procrastinate rather than make a decision.
Many adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) struggle with procrastination. When you're so distracted by outside stimuli, as well as internal thoughts, it can be hard to get started on a task, especially if that task is difficult or not interesting to you.
Is Procrastination a Mental Illness?
Procrastination itself is not a mental illness. But in some cases, it may be symptomatic of an underlying mental health condition such as depression, OCD, or ADHD.
We often come up with a number of excuses or rationalizations to justify our behavior. According to researchers, there are 15 key reasons why people say they procrastinate:
- Not knowing what needs to be done
- Not knowing how to do something
- Not wanting to do something
- Not caring if it gets done or not
- Not caring when something gets done
- Not feeling in the mood to do it
- Being in the habit of waiting until the last minute
- Believing that you work better under pressure
- Thinking that you can finish it at the last minute
- Lacking the initiative to get started
- Blaming sickness or poor health
- Waiting for the right moment
- Needing time to think about the task
- Delaying one task in favor of working on another
Press Play for Advice On Completing Tasks
Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how to get tasks done with a science-backed trick known as 'temptation bundling.' Click below to listen now.
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Some researchers classify two types of procrastinators: passive and active procrastinators.
- Passive procrastinators : Delay the task because they have trouble making decisions and acting on them
- Active procrastinators : Delay the task purposefully because working under pressure allows them to "feel challenged and motivated"
Others define the types of procrastinators based on different behavioral styles of procrastination, including:
- Perfectionist : Puts off tasks out of the fear of not being able to complete a task perfectly
- Dreamer : Puts off tasks because they are not good at paying attention to detail
- Defier : Doesn't believe someone should dictate their time schedule
- Worrier : Puts off tasks out of fear of change or leaving the comfort of "the known"
- Crisis-maker : Puts off tasks because they like working under pressure
- Overdoer : Takes on too much and struggles with finding time to start and complete task
Procrastinators vs. Non-Procrastinators
"Non-procrastinators focus on the task that needs to be done. They have a stronger personal identity and are less concerned about what psychologists call 'social esteem'—how others like us—as opposed to self-esteem which is how we feel about ourselves," explained Dr. Ferrari in an interview with the American Psychological Association (APA).
According to psychologist Piers Steel, people who don't procrastinate tend to be high in the personality trait known as conscientiousness , one of the broad dispositions identified by the Big Five theory of personality. People who are high in conscientiousness also tend to be high in other areas including self-discipline, persistence, and personal responsibility.
The Negative Impact of Procrastination
It is only in cases where procrastination becomes chronic and begins to have a serious impact on a person's daily life that it becomes a more serious issue. In such instances, it's not just a matter of having poor time management skills, it's a major part of their lifestyle.
Perhaps they pay their bills late, don't start work on big projects until the night before the deadline, delay gift shopping until the day before a birthday, and even file their income tax returns late.
Unfortunately, this procrastination can have a serious impact on a number of life areas, including a person's mental health and social, professional, and financial well-being:
- Higher levels of stress and illness
- Increased burden placed on social relationships
- Resentment from friends, family, co-workers, and fellow students
- Consequences of delinquent bills and income tax returns
How to Overcome Procrastination
You might find yourself wondering, How can I stop procrastinating?
Fortunately, there are a number of different things you can do to fight procrastination and start getting things done on time. Consider these your procrastination exercises:
- Make a to-do list : To help keep you on track, consider placing a due date next to each item.
- Take baby steps : Break down the items on your list into small, manageable steps so that your tasks don’t seem so overwhelming.
- Recognize the warning signs : Pay attention to any thoughts of procrastination and do your best to resist the urge. If you begin to think about procrastinating, force yourself to spend a few minutes working on your task.
- Eliminate distraction : Ask yourself what pulls your attention away the most—whether it's Instagram, Facebook updates, or the local news—and turn off those sources of distraction.
- Pat yourself on the back : When you finish an item on your to-do list on time, congratulate yourself and reward yourself by indulging in something you find fun.
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American Psychological Association. The Psychology of Procrastination: Why People Put Off Important Tasks Until the Last Minute . 2010.
Bisin A, Hyndman K. Present-bias, procrastination and deadlines in a field experiment . Games and Economic Behavior. 2020;119:339-357. doi:10.1016/j.geb.2019.11.010
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Ferrari, Joseph & Johnson, Judith & McCown, William. (1995). Procrastination and Task Avoidance - Theory, Research and Treatment . doi: 10.1007/978-1-4899-0227-6
Beutel ME, Klein EM, Aufenanger S, et al. Procrastination, distress and life satisfaction across the age range - A German representative community study . PLoS One . 2016;11(2):e0148054. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0148054
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By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."
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