Ask Belle: Why do I procrastinate when I know it hurts my grades?

Dear Belle,

I have been having a tough time with my courses because of my tendency to procrastinate. I wanted to know what advice you have to help me get back on track so that I don’t fall behind.

Thank you,

Stalling in Sanford


Dear Stalling in Sanford,

Procrastination is something that every college student experiences at some point in their lifetime. With so many tasks that need to be accomplished, you may find yourself wondering how you are going to get it all done. I have struggled with this many times and I do have a few tips on how to overcome this common behavior.

First, you must identify what it is that is getting in the way of you putting your plans into action. Take a moment to think about the tasks that you are currently putting off and the tasks that you have put off in the past. Is there a pattern? Are there certain types of tasks that you put off until the last minute? Identifying the activities that you tend to place on the back burner will help you to figure out what you can do to bring them back into focus.

Second, you must recognize and free yourself from replacement activities. These are the things that you tend to do instead of working on your priority tasks. For instance, if your favorite go-to replacement activity is watching television, make sure that your work station is in a separate area so that you are not tempted to catch up on your favorite show when you should be studying.

We also often lose focus by engaging in a productive replacement activity, such as laundry or running errands, because much like course work, they do need to get done. Procrastinators are often convinced that its ok to stray from priority tasks to because they are getting something done in another area. 

Now, take out a sheet of paper and write down clear goals and objectives. Ask yourself three things; when does this need to be done? How long will it take? Where will I get it done? Create your own plan of action and find a way to follow through with it.

Perhaps the most important tip I can give on how to overcome this behavior is to prioritize your work. Figure out what it is that you need to get done and when you need to get it done by. 

For example, if you have a research paper that requires three different sources and is due in one month, you should start by breaking down the task into smaller units. You could research your first source on Monday, the second on Tuesday, the third on Wednesday, and bring all of it together by Thursday. Voila! Your research is complete and you still have three weeks to finish polishing up the paper up before you have to turn it in. 

In closing, I want you to remember to always reward yourself. Stephen King said it best in his novel, The Shining, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Each day, write down what you have accomplished so that you can clearly see that you have met your objective. Use your replacement activities as rewards for a job well done. Just remember work first, fun later. 

I hope this helps you get back on track!

All my best,



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