Understanding Procrastination for Students

What is procrastination?

In this blog, I describe Procrastination and how it may manifests. I share Self-Help Tips to help you overcome it.

Do you remember a time when you kept delaying doing something you needed to do? Well that is procrastination. In other words procrastination is putting off something until tomorrow and then tomorrow ……you get the gist.

Within a student’s context at university, this is what procrastination looks like:

  • Avoiding doing tasks
  • Not being able to meet deadlines (assignments, coursework, etc.)
  • Delaying dealing with any matters – finances, applying for jobs
  • Avoiding dealing with relationship issues
  • Avoiding seeing a GP or health professional about a health issue
  • Putting off things until the last minute
  • Missing deadlines
  • Spending hours on social media instead of getting important task(s) started.
  • Putting off working on assignments or coursework until the night before the deadline
  • Repeatedly delaying starting a new healthy habit for instance dieting, exercising, stopping smoking while telling yourself that you’ll start soon.
  • The exams are soon, and you keep thinking about revising but the distractions are getting in the way.

The list of what procrastination looks like is by no means exhaustive. Below is what procrastination involves in detail.  

Avoiding doing tasks

Firstly this normally happens when you try to avoid a task you must do. In To avoid tasks, we find creative ways to get around doing the tasks we must do especially when we are not excited about them. For example, this involves rescheduling the tasks to a later time. The reason this is common is that it does not feel like you are avoiding the task. Rescheduling leaves you feeling productive and responsible. You feel that you just set aside time to work on that task.

Not being able to meet deadlines

We all miss deadlines now and again. However, if you are always late with completing assignments, coursework, or tasks and have to always make excuses and requests for more time to submit your work, this is procrastination and it’s a problem. Other indicators of procrastination might be always arriving late for lectures and other appointments.

Wasting time

Another indicator of procrastination is inefficient working. This happens when you get ready and sit down intending to do the task, but you end up not achieving what you intended to do, or you end up doing very little compared to the time you spent. For example, going to the library intending to start on an assignment but you end up staring at a blank page at the allocated time. If this happens regularly it is a problem.

Not being able to start

Another indicator is always delaying starting a task. This can be due to several reasons however we often come up with several excuses for not starting a task for example “I am not in the mood” “I am waiting for inspiration” or “I am waiting for something to click, right time right condition”. To change, you have to be aware of these excuses and see them as tactics the mind uses to stop you from starting something.

Creative distractions

The mind often becomes very creative creating distractions to avoid doing especially unattractive tasks. These could range from suddenly doing house chores that were not a priority to making phone calls. Usually, after time has gone you start regretting after realizing that a chance to make progress has been lost.

Last-minute scrambling

Several delaying tactics have been employed, but now the deadline has finally arrived. With the deadline now the next day, you start to panic and even pull an all-nighter to finish the work. With very little or no sleep, this will not only disrupt your circadian rhythm but will leave you physically tired and unable to focus and concentrate. This will in turn affect your mood.

The feeling of guilt and frustration

What precedes not completing the task or doing it very late is feeling bad about yourself. If you have just about done it on time, you may start feeling that you haven’t done it properly and feel frustrated that your work doesn’t reflect your real potential. If you fail to meet the deadline, you will see yourself as a failure. Similar feelings of shame and anger may kick in and manifest in the form of destructive behaviors for example over-eating, drinking, smoking, or self-harming.

What causes procrastination?

Fear of failure

Fear of success

Lack of structure

Negative thoughts

Lack of self-confidence


Fear of intimacy

Fear of separation



Low or lack of self-confidence

Poor study skills


Fear of failure

Many students tend to associate tasks with their self-worth. If one believes that their self-worth is based on their performance, they will keep deferring the tasks. When you judge yourself as a failure, you fulfill that by not completing the task. The mind is saying if a task is not completed therefore no one will have an opinion on my abilities.

Fear of success

Success can be threatening for many reasons, for example, family & cultural pressures, too many responsibilities, difficulty to maintain it, and fear of competition because they may not win. To some the fear of being called names and negatively characterized as ‘selfish’ ‘arrogant’ because of their desire to succeed.

Low self-esteem

If one thinks they are not worth or deserving of success. This is common with people who see themselves as bad or have done bad things and therefore don’t deserve good things to happen to them. They may have feelings of guilt which make it difficult for them to complete tasks. To some, it’s fatalism (they believe everything is predetermined and can’t do anything about them, they believe they’re unlucky or will never be successful).

Fear of intimacy / Fear of separation

This affects relationships whereby love and friendships are deferred.

Those who fear intimacy will keep others at a distance. Some indicators include being uncomfortable with being close to someone, feeling panicky, drained, claustrophobic, or smothered at the thought of being intimate with someone. This leaves the other partner frustrated. The fear becomes great that they may break the relationship up preferring loneliness.

Self-Help Tips for Procrastination


You should begin by tackling the most critical or time-sensitive assignments. You’ll be more likely to be able to handle everything else after you take care of the hard stuff first.

Set Goals

It is better to have a simple, reachable goal rather than a vague, big plan. Take action and believe in yourself. Set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound)

Take breaks

This will help you recharge both mentally & physically and avoid burning out. Breaks will help you stay motivated and disciplined and get tasks done. Taking breaks relieves stress leading to better mental health.

Expect obstacles and setbacks

This may mean working differently to keep track of goals

Reward yourself along the way

Whenever a short-term goal is achieved reward yourself. This is encouraging and acknowledges the effort put in already. Avoid unhealthy rewards e.g smoking, alcohol.

Understand the emotional causes of why you procrastinate

Let your procrastination point you toward negative feelings. Explore them and DO NOT criticize yourself. This may help you come up with solutions.

Hold yourself accountable

Fulfill your obligations to yourself, self-reflect, and evaluate your work

Plan your day


Procrastination can be concerning and may have great implications for your health and future. Therefore, you should feel that it is okay to seek support should you need to. Procrastination is something you can overcome if you take it seriously and acknowledge that it is an issue. It can also be empowering to face and overcome a challenge and regarding procrastination, overcoming it is achievable if the correct actions are taken.

More Tips on Procrastination:

Click Here for more self-Help Tips on Procrastination.

Here are more resources about Procrastination

Watch a video about understanding Procrastination Here

4 thoughts on “Understanding Procrastination for Students”

  1. It’s good to have such a broad overview of procrastination as it can affect so many different areas of life. These tips to deal and overcome procrastination are also very useful. It’s to have a plan of action and start small 💛 Thank you for sharing!

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