7 characteristics of procrastination (and how to fight them)

Procrastination: is it just a bad habit, like biting your nails or smacking your gum? Or is it a bigger deal than that?

We think it’s a bigger deal. We’d lump it into one of the top 3 or 4 problems that hinder student success. It’s so important to us that we have included a significant training on avoiding procrastination in our study skills courses.

Procrastination hurts students more than they think it does.

Along those lines, we want to give you 3 negative effects of procrastination. Be afraid – be very afraid.

Procrastination results in worse grades and more stress

In a number of studies on procrastination over the last 20 years, it’s become apparent that procrastination is harmful. It’s not just a bad habit. It hurts your grades. It hurts your emotional state. It’s just bad. Eric Jaffe from Observer summarizes the findings like this:

Procrastinators earned lower grades than other students and reported higher cumulative amounts of stress and illness. True procrastinators didn’t just finish their work later — the quality of it suffered, as did their own well-being.

We’re about better grades and less stress. Thus, we want you to kill procrastination.

Procrastination makes your memory work harder

Your memory works best when you give it time to decompress. We’ve talked about this as the “distributed practice effect.” Basically, it means that you need breaks for your mind to memorize things to it’s greatest ability.

Procrastination works against your memory. It waits and groups things together. If you procrastinate, just be ready to work harder to memorize information than you would have by just starting a bit earlier.

Procrastination actually takes more time

One of the biggest lies of procrastination is that you’re saving time. You’re not. You’re using more of it.

When you procrastinate, you remove some natural brain functions from the process. Things like the distributed practice effect that we mentioned or your brain’s consolidation of information when you sleep don’t get to work for you.

In fact, you’ll often end up doing what psychologists call “over-learning.” It’s when you spend time learning material that you will just forget. It feels like drilling facts into your head because you have to know them for a test. We call it “cramming” sometimes. And it will all be gone next week.

Avoid procrastination and you’ll avoid most of the over-learning.

So how are you going to stop procrastinating and get past these negative effects? Share with others in the comments below.