How to put off procrastination
GVSU counselor offers tips
Putting off homework or other chores is a common element in many college students’ lives. Everyone
has done it, but not everyone knows how to combat the urge to procrastinate.
Mary Sharp, a counselor at the Grand Valley State University Counseling Center, defines
procrastination as a “fear-based response” that causes the “flight or fight mechanism” to kick in.
Tiredness and stress can also be reasons for procrastination, Sharp said, but the biggest reason is
fear: fear of failure, fear of not having enough time or fear of being less than perfect.
“Procrastination is avoiding something that’s unpleasant or fearful and moving toward something
that’s comforting,” she said. “We let our emotions dictate our perceptions, and often it’s flight or
Our nervous system is about 80 percent “flight or fight,” Sharp said. During that state, the brain
produces too much cortisol, which can cause people to become short-sighted and less able to
problem solve. The “bio-neural” process affects the emotions and can get in the way of productivity,
Although procrastination happens to everyone, Sharp guessed that it affects freshmen the most.
“They are coming to a strange environment, not knowing what to expect, (and) they are cognitively
challenged to make a lot of decisions,” she said. “The decision-making process can be stressful and
lead to procrastination.”
Procrastination may seem uncontrollable, but Sharp offered many tips and strategies for students to
One of the strategies for students is to create their own anti-procrastination plan. The first step is to
make a list of tasks for a project and have a reward for completing one. “It is important to familiarize
yourself with whatever it takes to get a project done, and then reward yourself,” Sharp said, adding
that it will help students “access wisdom.”
The second step is to sit down and actually do some work. The opposite of procrastination is taking
action, Sharp said emphasizing “doing one thing first” instead of trying to juggle multiple things at
The third step is to use friends as a support group to discourage procrastination, and lastly, Sharp
highlighted journal-keeping as a way to recognize negative attitudes and change them into positive
She also explained that having a week-long study plan can help combat procrastination and allow
students to start making decisions.
On day one, students should organize and outline class materials. The rest of the week should switch
between studying from the lecture and studying from the text, with day seven being a final review
session. Sharp suggested that students study for a maximum of two hours per night during the week
before a test.
Sometimes success depends on a combination of tools, skills and discipline, she said. These will help
increase the ability to perform and successfully complete an academic career.
Sharp said she hopes students will learn to “recognize their fear-based responses.” She added that
students need to remember fear is not “life or death.”
For more information on study tips, visit the Counseling Center website at www.gvsu.edu/counsel or