Here at TutorDoctor WNY, we talk a lot about procrastination, probably because that is the academic challenge that I have struggled with the most. I’ve tried all kinds of advice to get over my procrastination, but nothing has worked. The reason it hasn’t worked can best be summed up by the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The point is, my procrastination ain’t really broke. I’ve never been punished for procrastination in a meaningful way. That project I started the night before it was due? I got an A on it. The test I spent twenty-minutes before class cramming for? A-.
Well, when I say I haven’t been punished, I mean in the sense that my grades have never visibly suffered from my procrastination, and I’ve never had a professor or a teacher seriously confront me about my tendency to push deadlines to the extreme. All the suffering of procrastination has been internalized as anxiety and nausea and academic paralysis.
Talking about procrastination often becomes a case of which came first, the chicken or the egg. I’ve read a lot of interesting articles and blog entries discussing how procrastination is the result of fear and anxiety. This could very well be true. After all, just because I don’t feel fear or anxiety when first given a project doesn’t mean that it isn’t there, waiting to manifest later. I’ve always attributed this later emergence to the fact that I’m concerned I won’t make a deadline.
Of course, if I’d missed a few important deadlines, maybe I would have defeated my procrastination a long time ago. Maybe I would have realized that the Nike slogan of “Just Do It” was applicable to more than sportswear. Beating procrastination only gets harder the older you get, because it becomes ingrained as a habit. This is the way I’ve always done my work–pushing it to the last possible second.
There are lots of ways to help your child become less prone to procrastination. Tutoring can be a great way to get kids on track with work. Tutoring sets up a routine for getting work done, and tutors can also monitor progress on long-term projects to make sure they are completed in a timely manner. A lot of the problem with procrastination is an inability to just sit down and get to work, and having another person there ready to help get the work done is a great motivator.
For older students, staying after school to get extra help from teachers can also be a good motivator. Even if your child isn’t struggling in a subject area, having time set aside to be in a classroom setting surrounded by other people getting work done can be helpful. If your school doesn’t offer after school help, encourage your child to start a study group with friends at the local library or at someone’s house. Being surrounded by productivity can be contagious, after all.
Modeling good behavior yourself is also an important part of parenting. Talk to your child about procrastination, but also show him or her that you don’t procrastinate, or that you’re working to overcome it. Set up a day where you pay all your bills once a week. Have a calendar displayed prominently in your house that has important dates and deadlines written on it. Set up a place where your child can put permission slips and other things that need to be signed so you can take care of those things they night they’re brought home rather than waiting until the morning of the trip.