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Managing Time

Procrastination 

Why do we procrastinate?

  • Misguided perceptions. We mistakenly believe we’ll be more prepared tomorrow. It’s also easier to justify comfort in the present, even if this causes problems for our future selves. 
  • Failure to self-regulate. We don’t adequately manage our attention or focus.
  • Mood regulation. Overwhelming, uninteresting, unpleasant tasks lead to negative feelings. We cope by avoiding tasks we associate with worry, anxiety, etc. (Sirois & Pychyl, 2013).

Break the cycle: What’s holding you back? Do any of these feelings sound familiar? 

  • I don’t understand the task; I feel inadequate. 
  • I feel uncomfortable asking for help.
  • My perfectionism is causing me anxiety.
  • I don’t want to remember past failures.
  • I feel frustrated and/or annoyed by the task.
  • I have identified as a procrastinator for so long and I’m afraid to change how I see myself.
  • I resent using my time to complete the task.
  • I will feel bored when doing the task.

Be mindful: Observe your emotions without judgement. (Garland et. al, 2015) This way, you can understand your behaviour, adopt better habits, and manage your inner critics. Try walking meditation, body scans, and breathing exercises to notice your mental, physical, and emotional state. 

Be accountable: Find accountability buddies and reflect on your successes and failures. 

Trust yourself to act now

  • Take control of your environment by managing distractions (Ask a friend to change the Netflix password and use an app to block social media notifications) 
  • Break your project into smaller, concrete tasks like researching, outlining, drafting, revising, etc. 
  • Make a plan: “I am going to start _______ and I will work on it for ___ minutes. This amount of work is manageable and it will help me move through the _______ stage of this project.” 

Connect with campus resources: Talk to your TA and/or professor, a peer tutor through the Undergrad Peer Tutoring Network, and the Library Research Team for research assistance.

 

Improve your writing and study skills! Book an appointment with a writing advisor and/or academic coach on OSCARplus.  Questions? Email skills@mcmaster.ca.  

References 

Garland, S. N., Willoughby, B., Agagianian, N., Goldman, R. E., Carlson, L. E., & Ong, J.C. (2015). Mindfulness, affect, and sleep: Current perspective and future directions. In K.A. Babson & M.T. Feldner (Eds.), Sleep and affect: Assessment, theory, and clinical implications (pp. 339-376). Elsevier. 

Sirois, F.M. & Pychyl, T.A. (2013), Procrastination and the priority of short-term mood regulation: Consequences for future self. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7, 115-127. https://doi.org/10.1111/spc3.12011 

Teper, R., Segal, Z.V., & Inzlicht, M. (2013). Inside the mindful mind: How mindfulness enhances emotion regulation through improvements in executive control. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22(6), 449-454. https://doi.org/ 10.1177/0963721413495869 

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