Skip to Main Content

Time Management

Procrastination involves delaying or putting off tasks until the last minute, or past their deadline—even when we know there could be negative consequences for doing so.

Whether you're putting off finishing a class assignment or you're avoiding studying for a test, procrastination can have a major impact on your success at Sheridan and on your life outside of school.

In this section, we'll talk about why students procrastinate, and we'll explore strategies to help you avoid procrastinating this term!

Why We Procrastinate

Watch the video to learn more about what happens in our brains to trigger procrastination, and what strategies you can use to break the cycle.

Types of Procrastinators

We all have different reasons for delaying or putting off tasks, and it's important to understand why we act in certain ways if we want to change these behaviours.

In Dr. Linda Sapadin's book How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age (2012), Sapadin describes six procrastination personality types and identifies separate programs to help students overcome their specific challenges.

Check the boxes below to learn more about each procrastination personality type and learn some strategies tailored to your unique challenges:

The Perfectionist lives with an all-or-nothing perspective—if the project they're working on fails or is not the best possible version, then the Perfectionist feels like a failure too. The Perfectionist's greatest fear is that they will not measure up to their own expectations or the expectations of others. Procrastination allows the Perfectionist to postpone completing an assignment because if it's not complete, it can't be judged.

Tips for the Perfectionist: Be clear about the purpose of your tasks and assign a time limit to each one—this will force you to stay focused and finish the task within a specific time frame.

The Dreamer loves making ideal plans more than taking action—they're highly creative, but find it hard to actually follow through on tasks. When their perfect plan is challenged or disrupted, the Dreamer might retreat into a new perfect vision to cope. Despite the comfort of their new dreams, their lack of action creates damaging consequences in all other parts of their lives, including late assignments, unfinished tasks, and broken promises.

Tips for the Dreamer: Get your feet back on the ground by setting specific and achievable goals for each day. Start by setting a SMART goal and break down the plan into smaller tasks you can take action on right away.

You should also track your progress while you work. Track how much work you put in and how much you complete during that session so you can tell which tasks are wasting your time—this approach can help you focus on doing the things that bring positive results, which can also improve your productivity.

The Worrier lives with a "better safe than sorry" attitude and has an overpowering need to feel safe. Worriers are nervous or unsure of risk and change, which paralyzes them from acting outside of their comfort zone. The Worrier expects the worst to happen, and creates a stream of negative "what if" scenarios that makes them assume that taking action will lead to terrible outcomes. Worriers are afraid to take on tasks they think they can't manage, and would rather put off work than be judged by others when they make mistakes.

Tips for the Worrier: Focus on the so-called "Worst First" task on your to-do list in the morning. Use your morning to figure out which tasks will be the most challenging that day, and do that first. Completing the task will give you a great sense of achievement, and will help you build momentum to finish the rest of your work.

Try to break down your tasks into smaller sub-tasks so you can cross them off your list faster. Also, understand how much time and energy you'll need for a given task so you can add structure to your day.

The Crisis-Maker deliberately pushes back deadlines and waits until the last possible minute to get things finished. They under-react to situations where they have lots of time to finish work (e.g. "I don't work well until I really start to feel the pressure"), and then over-react with huge bursts of activity right before a deadline. Deadlines (or crises) are exciting to Crisis-Makers, and they believe they work best when working under pressure. Over time, it becomes harder to rely on those adrenaline bursts to finish work, which causes them to manage their time poorly.

Tips for the Crisis-Maker: Being forced to rush your work because you perform better under pressure is an illusion, mostly because it leaves you no room to review your work to make it better.

Try using the Pomodoro technique to work in short, intensely focused bursts that also build in short breaks to help you recover before starting over. Giving your brain a regular break can boost your performance by recharging your brain's energy, which means you could complete tasks earlier and still have time to review your work before the deadline.

The Defier holds a deep resentment toward authority—when asked to complete a task, the Defier will usually accept the task, and then "forget" to do what they promised. Defiers might see class assignments as boring, mundane, or just downright stupid to do and will resist working on them. By procrastinating, the Defier sets their own schedule, which no one else can predict or control. They often blame others when a task doesn't get finished (e.g. "My professor doesn't know anything", "I got stuck in a terrible group", etc.), and don't acknowledge their own responsibility over assigned tasks. The Defier will likely have an especially hard time working on group assignments.

Tips for the Defier: Find ways to take ownership of your assignments—even though your professor has assigned a certain task, you have control over the content and how you'll go about completing the work. Remember, you do have responsibility over where you are right now and the choices that brought you to Sheridan.

Make sure to set time aside in your schedule that's entirely yours—you can decide what you feel like doing during that time, and no one else has control over it.

The Pleaser is the busiest procrastinator you'll meet, so it doesn't seem like they're procrastinating at all—their focus, however, is not so much on getting their own work done, but on pleasing other people. Pleasers often have trouble prioritizing tasks because their own work can come into conflict with requests from other people. The Pleaser might think they can do it all but, over time, they lose balance between school and fun, and the professional and the personal—soon, they'll disappoint the people they want to help most, and they'll also fall behind on their own work.

Tips for the Pleaser: You'll need to focus on prioritizing your tasks, including requests that come from other people. Important tasks should take priority over urgent ones, because "urgent" doesn't always mean important. You only have so much time and energy, and you need to have energy available to focus on those important tasks first.

Identify the purpose of your tasks and the expected outcome. Important tasks are the ones that will add value in the long run.

For example, if you're working on a report that's due at the end of the week, but you get a request from a friend to help them study for an upcoming test, then you need to think about how important each task is compared to the other. You might really want to help your friend study for their test, but your report will affect your final grade.

"Do You Have a Procrastination Problem?" Quiz

Take this quiz to find out if your procrastinate, how you procrastinate, and what you can do to change your behaviours!

Tips to Avoid Procrastination

  • Just get started!: Motivation builds the closer you get to completing a task. Waiting for enough motivation to get started can be the biggest challenge—once you've started a task, you'll find the task easier to work on.
  • Change the task to make it enjoyable: Take a boring task and make a game of it. Some examples include:
    • Use flashcards to make studying more interesting.
    • Challenge yourself to get 80% of practice questions correct.
    • Reward yourself after every chapter of assigned reading you finish.
  • Learn to spot the tricks: Your brain uses tricks to get you to procrastinate, like downplaying the importance of a task or telling yourself that the professor didn’t provide clear instructions. Learn to recognize these tricks so that you aren’t fooled.
  • Give yourself a time limit: Put a firm time limit on how long you will give yourself to work on a task. Dragging unpleasant tasks out only helps you procrastinate longer. A time limit encourages you to finish the task faster.
  • Disconnect from your tech: Social media and video games are a breeding ground for procrastination. Limit yourself to using only the technology you need to complete your task.