June 17, 2019 | 78° F

Counselor, students explain how to put off procrastinating

Photo by Katie Park |

There is a very good chance the person reading this has a task they need to complete, but are putting it off for the moment.

A number of reasons encourage student procrastination, said William Mayer, a counseling psychologist with the University’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS). These reasons can vary from one person to the next.

“Lack of experience with good study or work habits, difficulties with time management or organization, too many distractions, perfectionism or fear of failure or mental or emotional difficulties (might all lead to procrastination),” he said in an email.

Tatsat Parekh, a School of Engineering junior, said procrastination is an issue many students have.

He has procrastinated on assignments himself, but tries to limit himself. Often his level of procrastination varies by class.

“It depends on what kind of class,” he said. “If it’s a really hard class, I have to study early, whereas an easier class (I can hold off on).”

Students should be aware of their abilities, he said. This especially applies to students who hope to do well in their classes instead of just passing.

Procrastination typically leads to lower grades, Mayer said. While some students may claim to perform better by pushing assignments off to the last minute, none have been able to convince him they actually perform better.

Procrastination becomes a problem when it forms into habit, and can have a negative impact on both physical and mental health, he said.

“Stress stemming from procrastination can lead to a variety of ... consequences,” he said. “(These include) sleep difficulties, decreased energy, stomach upsets, head or body aches (or) an increased heart rate.”

Procrastinators often end up worrying more than they might otherwise would, he said. They might also have lower self-esteem due to this sort of stress.

A lot of times students avoid work, including studying for an exam, despite knowing they really should not, Parekh said. They are generally aware that they do not know enough of the subject matter to do well.

It is more probable than not that they will still expect to get a “decent” grade, said Parekh, who experienced physical side effects from not studying until the day before an exam.

“I procrastinated for (Engineering Mechanics: Statics until) a day before the final exam, and I knew almost nothing about what we did through the year,” he said. “I spent a day just studying (and) I was physically weak the next day.”

Chronic procrastinators must be honest with themselves about the problem and its effects, Mayer said. The first step is to acknowledge there is a problem. 

One in 5 people may be a chronic procrastinator, according to an article by the Association for Psychological Science (APS). These individuals are unable to stop themselves from pushing off assignments.

Certain people may be able to determine ways to stop procrastinating and get back on top of their grades, Mayer said.

Creating a study routine, asking professors questions during office hours, avoiding distractions and reducing non-academic activities are all changes students can make within their lifestyles to become more effective at studying, he said.

Students who are able to complete their tasks on time will earn higher grades and likely learn some life skills they can use after graduating, he said.

Each student should find what works best for them, he said. There is no specific method or group of methods that will work for everyone.

Fu Liu, a Graduate School of New Brunswick first-year student, said creating a list of tasks with their due dates helps him stay organized.

He also imposes punishments or rewards on himself, he said. If he finishes an assignment early he will let himself watch a movie, for example.

Other students are simply unable to make this type of lifestyle change, according to the APS article.

These students should find help, Mayer said.

University resources to help avoid procrastination and more efficiently adapt to other issues within their lives include CAPS, which offers psychological counseling for all students.

Students who need assistance can call CAPS at 848-932-7884.

Nikhilesh De

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