Fight procrastination with self-compassion

Procrastination is the bane of every college student’s existence. Up to 95 percent of college students report procrastinating!

Most advice for how to stop procrastinating isn’t actually helpful. Many articles on procrastination give tips like “just get started!” This kind of advice treats procrastination like a time management problem – which isn’t always the case.

Sometimes procrastination is a way we cope with stress and anxiety. For example, if you feel anxious about writing a 10-page paper, you might put it off and distract yourself for several hours in order to avoid those feelings.

Procrastination can be a self-perpetuating cycle. When we put things off, we tend to get mad at ourselves and feel frustrated about all the work we need to do. And in turn, these negative feelings make us more anxious and more likely to procrastinate.

So how can you stop this cycle? Recent research suggests that practicing self-compassion may be more effective for reducing procrastination than trying new time management strategies.

The next time you find yourself procrastinating on an assignment, try some of these strategies for cultivating more self-compassion.

Just notice. Most of us don’t realize how negative our self-talk can be. Listen to how you talk to yourself. What’s your internal dialogue like after you experience something frustrating, challenging or embarrassing? Whatever you notice, label it non-judgmentally.

Take a breath. When we slow our breathing, every other system in the body follows, including our thoughts. After you’ve labeled your negative self-talk for what it is, take a deep breath and notice how you feel. Frequently practicing deep breathing will also help you manage stress!

Remind yourself that you’re human. Just about everyone struggles with procrastination and getting work done. Picture what you would tell a friend who was struggling with this problem and try to take your own advice.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out self-compassion.org for more details and tips for practicing self-compassion.