How to Not Procrastinate During Uni

Mark Barrow

Do you find yourself constantly putting off studying, assignments, and other important uni tasks? Procrastination is a common struggle for many students. Studies show that students who procrastinate, tend to achieve lower grades than those who don’t, but you can do something about it, and it certainly doesn’t have to define your uni years, or dictate your final results.

What causes Procrastination?

There are different causes that effect different types of personalities. Do you see yourself in any of these?

  • You believe that you work best with ‘the fear’ and wait until panic sets in before you make a start.
  • You avoid doing things you believe you won’t enjoy and therefore lack the drive to start them (this has been me in my past uni career).
  • You’re simply afraid that you’ll fail, so avoid the work entirely. Perfectionists often fall into this category.
  • You get overwhelmed by a big task and just can’t see a way to get it done, so keep putting it off.

All these examples show mindsets that are easy to fall into. This blog hasn’t been written to let you know how to not procrastinate once you’ve reached the point where it’s too late to complete an assignment. But I do hope it helps you to not fall into the same cycle next time.

How to not procrastinate - student wasting time on phone

How can you stop procrastinating?

The way to eliminate procrastination is to understand the causes and put a plan in place that will guide you through to the end of the task you’re trying to achieve. There is no sugarcoating it, you have to change your entire mindset, but it is doable, and definitely worth it in the long run.

To change your state of mind, you need to challenge yourself to ‘get this thing done’ and then make a plan that you can follow until the end. We are looking to replace ‘the fear’ with a lovely endorphin kick for a job well done.

You also need to learn how to control your need for instant gratification, this is the desire for immediate pleasure without considering the long-term consequences. More about this later.

Finally, you need to understand the consequences of your procrastination. Visualise your future self, do you see the person who is either hurriedly writing a poorly researched assignment the night before it is due, or the person handing in a piece of work that they have put their all into and are proud of? Here are the steps to become the latter, happier, more fulfilled version of you.

Recognise the importance of time management.

The first step in our guide on how to not procrastinate is to learn time management. This is a crucial skill that can significantly impact your performance and overall well-being. When you manage your time effectively, you have more control over your schedule, allowing you to allocate sufficient time for studying, completing assignments, and engaging in other activities.

The most effective way to manage your time is to set goals and create a schedule.

Start by identifying your priorities and what you hope to achieve during each study session or week. By setting SMART goals, you can focus your energy on the most important tasks and avoid getting overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work.

Once you have set your goals, create a schedule that outlines your study sessions, assignment deadlines, and other commitments. I cannot stress this enough, but do not rely on your memory, even with the best of intentions, something will slip, and you’ll be back to square one.

Your schedule will serve as a roadmap for your daily activities and help you stay on track. Be sure to allocate realistic amounts of time for each task, considering your personal study style and the complexity of the work involved.

Break tasks into smaller, manageable chunks

One common reason for procrastination is feeling overwhelmed by the size or complexity of a task. Breaking tasks into smaller, manageable chunks can help alleviate this feeling and make the work more approachable. This will alter your outlook so that you can see a way to complete each task (even boring or difficult ones). This had the biggest effect in my ability to learn how to not procrastinate.

For example, if you have a research paper to write, break it down into smaller steps such as brainstorming ideas, conducting research, outlining the structure, writing the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion, and proofreading and editing. By focusing on one step at a time, you can make progress without feeling overwhelmed by the entire task. You will have been supplied an assignment rubric by your tutor that breaks all the tasks out. Make sure you follow this, and make sure you cover all of the points to get maximum marks.

Consider using a to-do list or a task management app; such as Evernote or Remember the Milk, to keep track of your smaller tasks. This can provide a sense of accomplishment as you check off completed tasks, keeping you motivated and on track.

How to not procrastinate - student wasting time

Eliminate distractions.

Distractions are the gateway to that kick of instant gratification, if you are easily disturbed then you need to minimise them. Whether it’s your phone, social media, or the noise around you. Identifying and eliminating disruptions is crucial for effective studying.

Start by creating a dedicated study space. Find a quiet corner in the library, set yourself up at your desk in your bedroom, or any suitable location that allows you to focus on your work. Turn off notifications on your phone or consider using apps that temporarily block certain websites or apps to limit distractions such as Forest.

Establishing a routine and sticking to it can also help minimise distractions, choose a time when you are going to be at your most focused. When you have a consistent study schedule, your mind becomes accustomed to focusing during those dedicated study times. Your timetables will be different to your housemates, make sure that your focused study times don’t coincide with your housemate’s downtimes. The call to join them can be too much to take for the easily distracted.

Find a study environment that works for you.

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to their study environment. Some people thrive in complete silence, while others prefer background noise or studying with friends. I actually work best with the TV on in the background, you may like to have music on. Experiment with different environments and find what works best for you.

If you prefer silence, consider studying in a quiet library or a private study room. On the other hand, if you find background noise helpful, try studying in a coffee shop or using ambient noise apps that simulate various environments.

Some students find it beneficial to study with friends or join study groups. Collaborative studying can help you stay motivated, clarify difficult concepts, and share resources and study materials. Just make sure to choose a group who are highly motivated and find a balance between socialising and staying focused on your work.


How to not procrastinate - motivational post it notes

Stay motivated by rewarding yourself.

Let’s be honest, learning how to not procrastinate is difficult, and it’s easy to convince yourself that you will do something tomorrow. The key to overcoming procrastination and achieving success is finding ways to stay motivated. Simple right? Our blog How to Stay Motivated with Coursework and Studying provides a deeper dive on this topic.

One key tactic to maintaining motivation is to celebrate each milestone that you achieve and reward yourself. It could be as simple as treating yourself to a snack, watching a new episode of your favourite TV show, or spending time with friends. Boosted by the feeling of a job well done, these rewards can provide that endorphin kick I mentioned earlier. This positive reinforcement will help you swap the feeling of guilt with a sense of satisfaction, putting you into a good mood and helping to maintain your motivation. You’ll start a different kind of cycle, one that swaps meaningless instant gratification with meaningful rewards.

If you can, surround yourself with a supportive and motivating network. Share your goals and progress with friends, family, or peers who can offer encouragement and hold you accountable.

Learning how to not procrastinate during your university years requires discipline, self-awareness, and effective time management skills. By recognising the importance of planning, breaking tasks into smaller chunks, eliminating distractions, and utilizing productivity techniques, you can develop a proactive approach to your studies.

If you made it this far, you’re clearly ready to banish those time-wasting habits and get to work, I’m proud of you. Remember, you’ve got this!