By Jason Carr
You know that you have that paper to write or the next chapter to read, but instead of knocking it out you let it linger for weeks, or even months (YIKES!). As online university students, it is often easy to succumb to distractions that detract from our studies.
Procrastination is one of the biggest hurdles every WGU student deals with regularly, especially when it comes to completing tasks within courses that fall outside of our normal comfort zone. Nonetheless, these tasks must be completed if we are to ever reach our goals—obtaining our degree(s).
As possibly one of the worst procrastinators in the world, I have had to work hard to overcome what I call the "procrastination monster."
Here are five tips I’ve used that have helped me to "slay the procrastination monster" during the course of my studies at WGU:
- Recognize both your strengths and weaknesses. Set aside some time to map out your course of study. Recognize early on where your weaknesses lie (i.e., math, science, etc.). Those weaknesses, if not quickly dealt with, can significantly slow down your academic progress. If you are adept at math but loathe science, your science course(s) are likely the last ones you’ll start. My advice is just to jump in and ask for the help you need to get through. WGU offers many resources that will assist you in completing every course within your degree plan. The key is to ask for help, work through the course (without procrastinating every step of the way), and develop the competency required to pass the class. You will feel a great sense of accomplishment once you’ve done this and you’ll be one step closer to that degree!
- Just say no. I know, it’s a cliché, but whenever you have a task that you really aren’t excited about, it’s easy to let things distract you. You’ve got to say "no" to those distractions. I realize it’s difficult, but embrace "no" as part of your vocabulary!
- Understand task completion times. In reality, many tasks take longer than we expect. I’m sure many of you have planned to knock a paper out in a couple of hours only to find four hours later that you’re only halfway done! This invariably will knock your schedule out of whack and other planned tasks (especially those at the bottom of your to–do list) are pushed to another day. To break this cycle, err on the side of caution when scheduling your studies. In other words, if you think it will take you an hour to read two or three chapters, go ahead and add 30 minutes to your scheduled study time. You will have a more realistic outlook of what you can accomplish each day/week by doing this. If you finish a task early, you can always enjoy the free time by focusing on something else you enjoy!
- Stick to your schedule. Once you’ve estimated how long tasks take, look at a course or task you’ve been avoiding—and work it into your study schedule. If you want to complete a course, break it down into manageable and realistic tasks and set up a specific time to work each one. For example, you may have free time to commit to your course work on Mondays from 7–9 a.m. Each and every Monday during that time (barring emergencies), you should be at your desk (or wherever you study) working on your tasks—no matter what. Deadlines are your friend as well. Give yourself a deadline for completing each class. The date looming on your calendar can motivate you to get it done. I’ve found that one of the greatest motivators for completing courses is to either schedule objective assessments or set actual deadlines for performance assessments with my mentor. He holds me accountable to these deadlines and the fear of failure has pushed me through more than one class I was less than enthusiastic about. Please use caution here. I’m not suggesting that you set unrealistic deadlines that cause you to fail. This is when using realistic planning as mentioned above comes into play. The most important thing is that once you set a study schedule, stick to it!
- Fight those distractions. When you’re working on a task that’s necessary but not enjoyable to you, it can be tempting to check email (or Taskstream) repeatedly, jump on a social network, or give in to other distractions. A better plan: Do whatever you dislike the most at the start of EVERY study session—even if for only a short period of time. Chances are you will often progress farther than you expect and you won’t have to spend the rest of the day regretting that you didn’t work on the task. There is nothing worse than having a scary course hanging over your head. Just remember that you’re not alone. Course mentors, your personal mentor, and even other students are available to support you.
Hopefully this post will help you slay that nasty procrastination monster as well. In doing so, you’ll be one step closer to obtaining your degree. What are your strategies? How do you fight procrastination? Share your tips in the comments below!
Best of luck with your studies at WGU!
Jason Carr is a student in WGU’s online bachelor’s marketing management degree program. He lives in Tyler, Texas. He blogs at unastronomy.com.