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Study Skills: Procrastination & Motivation

This guide offers learning strategies, study skills, and resources to support student academic success.

Procrastination, Motivation, and Academic Success


We have all sat down to work on an assignment or study for an assessment and found our mind wandering and ultimately losing to the temptation to do something else instead.  This is procrastination which causes anxiety, stress, and frustration. Finding the motivation to start schoolwork and remaining engaged to get the task done is a common challenge for students.  This is especially true when you are uncertain about how to get started or doubt your abilities to do a good job.  Motivation does not always come naturally, and it often requires an effort to stay engaged.  Motivation is key to academic success, as it leads to higher quality results, overall better performance, and reduces stress and anxiety. Fortunately, there are some proven tips that can help keep you motivated and fight procrastination

Learning Strategies for Time Management, Prioritization and Overcoming Procrastination

Procrastination: The Omipresent Study Derailer

We ALL procrastinate

Some of us are functional procrastinators… we manage to get our work done and don’t seem to stress about putting things off.  Many of us, however, are dysfunctional procrastinators… we are unable to get things started and done on time, and become anxious, stressed, tired, and overwhelmed.    The bottom line is we all procrastinate and have a tendency to do so in some areas (like studying) more than others.  Procrastination is a psychological issue, which can become a habit which is not always easy to break. 

Why do students procrastinate? 

Some students are a bit too relaxed about getting tasks done, and as a result postpone their responsibilities with statements such as: "What's the hurry?  I have plenty of time to get my 20-page research paper done. I'll start it next week." Others, however, are worriers and the stress they experience prevents them from focusing on their studies. Many students are concerned about failure so avoid getting started to put off their feelings of not doing well. 

What type of procrastinator are you? 

The first step to battling procrastination is to determine what type of procrastinator you are.  There are six main types of procrastinators: perfectionists, worriers, dreamers, defiers, crisis-makers and over-doers. 

The document below, developed by Indiana State University, is a great tool for identifying why you procrastinate and offers some great tips to overcome this common challenge.  

Procrastination: Tales of Mere Existence

Watch this short clip to see how ridiculous (but relatable) procrastination can be (and have a good laugh too). "Tales of Mere Existence" is an animation series which explores subjects people THINK about, but do not talk about. 

BCIT Peer Tutors Talk: Procrastination

Strategies to Beat Procrastination

Breaking the (bad) habit

What causes a student to procrastinate is dependent on the individual and can look very different from one person to the next.  Solutions to procrastination can also vary, with different strategies working for different students.   The following strategies are from BCcampus Open Publishing.

  • Take it day by day. Since procrastination is usually a habit, accept that and work on breaking it as you would any other bad habit: one day at a time. Know that every time you overcome feelings of procrastination, the habit becomes weaker—and eventually you’ll have a new habit of being able to start studying right away.
  • Schedule times for studying using a daily or weekly planner. Carry it with you and look at it often. Just being aware of the time and what you need to do today can help you get organized and stay on track.  If you keep thinking of something else you might forget to do later (making you feel like you “must” do it now), write yourself a note about it for later and get it out of your mind. 

  • Interval learning.  According to research, students can effectively read, listen, or study for about 30 mins before concentration and retention start to decrease.  Students tend to remember more when they are able to concentrate on less content. In addition, the average person will check their smartphone once every 10 to 12 minutes.   When a student is distracted they lose momentum and must expend more energy to regain focus. This can lead to unproductivity and frustration.  To maximize focus and reduce procrastination experts strongly recommend learners study in intervals of about 30 minutes.  

  • Counter a negative with a positive. If you’re procrastinating because you’re not looking forward to a certain task, try to think of the positive future results of doing the work.
  • Counter a negative with a worse negative. If thinking about the positive results of completing the task doesn’t motivate you to get started, think about what could happen if you keep procrastinating. You’ll have to study tomorrow instead of doing something fun you had planned. Or you could fail the test. Some people can jolt themselves right out of procrastination. On the other hand, fear causes procrastination in some people—so don’t dwell on the thought of failing. If you’re studying for a test, and you’re so afraid of failing it that you can’t focus on studying and you start procrastinating, try to put things in perspective. Even if it’s your most difficult class and you don’t understand everything about the topic, that doesn’t mean you’ll fail, even if you may not receive an A or a B.
  • Study with a motivated friend. Form a study group with other students who are motivated and won’t procrastinate along with you. You’ll learn good habits from them while getting the work done now.
  • Keep a study journal. At least once a day write an entry about how you have used your time and whether you succeeded with your schedule for the day. If not, identify what factors kept you from doing your work. This journal will help you see your own habits and distractions so that you can avoid things that lead to procrastination.
  • Get help. If you really can’t stay on track with your study schedule, or if you’re always putting things off until the last minute, see a BCIT Learning Strategist.  We have lots of experience with this common student problem and can help you find ways to overcome this habit.

BCIT Peer Tutors Talk: Motivation

Procrastination and Time Management Learning Resources