Coaching Helps Students Address Procrastination

As the semester moves toward final exams, more and more students begin to feel the pain of procrastination. However, few know what to do about it. Many label themselves as "lazy" or "chronic procrastinators" and, in doing so, limit their ability to imagine operating differently and take action. 


Researchers such as Dr. Tim Pychyl at Carleton University have noted that procrastination is most accurately viewed as an emotion regulation issue rather than a time management problem. As detailed in this New York Times article entitled "Why You Procrastinate," procrastination is an attempt to minimize discomfort and negative feelings. Because of our "present bias" -- a tendency to prioritize short-term needs over the possibility of future needs -- we are often more inclined to do what feels good in the present, rather than take care of challenging tasks that can satisfy the needs of our future selves. 


Coaches meeting with overwhelmed students at this point in time have an opportunity to help students shift their perceptions of procrastination, and of themselves, inspiring hope of change and inviting action. Consider these questions, inspired by the advice of the experts in the article:

  • What could be a better reward, right now, than the temporary relief that comes from avoidance?

  • How can you forgive yourself for procrastinating up until this point? 

  • What one "next action" toward your goal can you take during our session? By the end of the day?

  • What positive outcome can you envision when you complete this task?

  • When have you procrastinated before and pushed through it? What did you do, and how did it turn out?


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