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Study Strategies: A fresh take on “Procrastination”

View of Center City from the Gershwind-Bennett Terrace
Source: University of Pennsylvania flickr

At Weingarten, we like to ask,

“What’s your favorite form of procrastination?”

The question is often welcomed with puzzled enthusiasm. Students are at first taken aback by our directness, but find relief in the straightforward candidness and empathy. The discussion that ensues is always lively!

This is the time of the year, Spring semester, when things are ramping up (e.g. 2nd mid-term examinations, finalizing mid-term projects, and launching final term papers), and many students struggle with procrastination.

Perspective is important. Let’s first acknowledge that there are many varied and legitimate reasons for procrastination, with differing impact on the student-scholar. For instance, procrastination can often be a form of perfectionism. Also, procrastination is often a direct result of additive and competing demands upon our schedules. In other words, it is never a character flaw. It is a response, and often, an internal coping mechanism.

Today, I’m offering a fresh take on procrastination:

“Is procrastination keeping you from reaching the world or is it helping you to stay connected to the world?”

View of College Green from the Moelis Reading Terrace
Source: University of Pennsylvania flickr

For instance, if you know that a task only actually takes you 2-hours to complete, is it really necessary to spread it out over two-weeks or 8-hours just because of an arbitrarily imposed external norm?

Imagine instead, what you could do during those extra weeks or hours to nourish your wellness or enrich your other personal, academic or professional goals.

This requires, of course, self-knowledge and (evidence-based) discernment. But no one is born with this precise form of calibration and insight. It takes commitment, mindfulness and reflection.

At Weingarten, we recommend keeping a procrastination and productivity diary. Take an inventory of your habits and life. When, how, how often, and in what patterns do you procrastinate? It reveals what you value, what you crave, where the redundancies are, which gates (e.g. activities, tasks, relationships) require opening up…

A strategic, intentional and mindful reflection on procrastination may actually help us to “march by our own drumbeat”, with the result being self-knowledge, awareness and acceptance instead of criticism and guilt. So,

“What’s your favorite form of procrastination?”

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Instructor

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