Procrastination Cycle

When students procrastinate, there can be serious consequences such as missed deadlines, low grades, and increased sickness and exhaustion from pulling all nighters. Students who do not learn how to overcome their challenges with procrastination struggle in the workforce as well. For instance, studies show that individuals who regularly procrastinate see detrimental impacts on their careers including lower salaries, shorter job durations, and experience higher rates of unemployment. Despite knowing these negative outcomes, some people find it difficult to break free from procrastination. In many instances, they perceive themselves as being lazy or not working hard enough, and feel if they could simply just increase their working hours and intensity then they will overcome. However, working harder without an in-depth understanding of procrastination, and without a clear plan, often leads to no progress in overcoming the issue. This is because many individuals who struggle with procrastination do so due to challenges with emotional regulation rather than laziness. Once this is recognized and addressed, freedom from procrastination can start to occur. 

The Procrastination Cycle, featured here, traps students when negative emotions associated with certain tasks prompt them to engage in mood repair activities like socializing or entertainment, leading to temporary relief but stronger negative feelings afterward. To escape this cycle, students can decrease negative emotions by thinking of creative ways to make tasks more meaningful and increase motivation through rewards and self-forgiveness. Additionally, overcoming the desire to procrastinate involves recognizing the need to initiate tasks, regardless of mood, and using positive self-talk to remind oneself that delaying work does not improve feelings. Using visual cues and implementing boundaries to decrease distractions are also imperative. 

Here are a few strategies to help start the process of breaking free from this cycle:

  • Body Doubling: Find a responsible partner to be present while you complete the task you are delaying. This is the same concept as using a personal trainer or work-out partner when going to the gym. Body Doubling increases accountability since you agree to meet your partner at a certain time and then commit to working for a set duration. This is a strategy used often in academic life and adhd  coaching as well.
  • Using a Time Timer: A Timer Timer creates a visual cue to measure the passing of time and helps make one keenly aware of how much time they are either wasting or using efficiently. It also creates a stress-free sense of urgency which leads to increased dopamine and in turn improves focus and motivation. There are several versions of the Time Timer, but at Limitless Learning we recommend the Time Timer MOD for students. Time Timers may be purchased directly from the company’s website or from Amazon.
  • Envisioning Future Reward: Instead of focusing on how unenjoyable a task will be, a student should insead focus on the many positive outcomes that will result in completing the task. For instance, they can be intentional about envisioning how great it will feel to be accomplished, the high grade they will receive, the feeling of pride they will have instead of shame, or the increased free time they will enjoy. Like most strategies, this is one that will take consistent practice in order to build new ways of thinking. 

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