Procrastination: The Good, the Bad, and the RealityJuly 11, 2017
Building Good Habits for a Successful Second SemesterJanuary 11, 2018
When we work with students to break procrastination habits, our ultimate goal is to help them become independent learners. Teaching them about the “why” of their behaviors; discovering which tools, techniques, and strategies are the best fit for them; and reflecting on the ups and downs along the way lead to improved self-awareness, self-regulation, deeper learning, and desired outcomes. Keep reading to learn about strategies you can put to use right now!
Prepare for the Possibility of Procrastination
- Have your child name their biggest distraction triggers ahead of time. It can help to write them out and keep the list visible. Common distractions include a more pleasant activity, smells and sounds, and, of course, the Internet.
- Have your child reflect on the last few times they procrastinated. What caused them to procrastinate? Was it different for each instance of procrastination or was there a consistent pattern?
- Use the information you gathered to plan ahead. For example, if your child procrastinated because they got distracted by their phone, can they plan ahead to keep their phone in another room while doing homework?
- Encourage your child to come to you if they feel the urge to procrastinate. If they can reach out for help before they start procrastinating, you can help them stop procrastination before it starts!
Develop Strong Habits Before Procrastination Starts
- Encourage use of a planner – either paper or electronic. Planners are not just for writing down homework; they can be powerful tools for mapping out work time and breaking up bigger or long-term assignments!
- Check out your child’s work space – is it functional? Is it distraction free? Removing distractions is a never-ending job, but a critical one to help kids develop good study habits.
- Check up on your child’s sleep habits. Most research indicates as kids reach their teens, they sleep far less than they need to. Recall that it takes more mental energy to attempt tasks we don’t want to do; if kids are getting enough quality sleep, they will have more mental energy with which to counteract procrastination.
- Reflect on accomplishments. Help your child by taking time to reflect on specific accomplishments from the previous day or week to evoke positive feelings about their ability to get work done. This type of reflection will also help them transfer effective strategies to future tasks.
Reflect on Why It’s Happening and Pay Attention to Your Response
- Dig into the potential causes of procrastination by using open-ended questions. For example, “What do you think will be the hardest thing about studying for your math test?” or “What’s the first thing you’re going to do to get started on your English paper?”
- Consider your own expectations and habits. We all want our kids to succeed and do well! But focusing solely on the outcome (whether it be getting into a great college or doing well on a math quiz) rather than helping students navigate the path to get there taps into those feelings we mentioned earlier. Instead, highlight the things your child can control such as their effort, their study strategy, or their organization. This empowers kids and develops self-regulation.
- Become aware of labels. “Lazy” and “unmotivated” are judgments that children will internalize and use as an excuse not to push themselves. Take care not to label, even when the situation becomes frustrating!
Activate Strategies to Counteract Procrastination
- Do something now! Have your child do one active thing that is a step toward the task. We love Mel Robbins’ 5 second rule for this: Have your child do one thing within 5 seconds of thinking about it. For example: your child announces, “I have a history quiz tomorrow!” while she is completing her math project. Instead of delaying the history quiz preparation altogether or jumping into it immediately by setting aside the math project, have her break for a few seconds to schedule the history quiz study time for that night in her planner. The theory here is that the longer we wait to act on a single thought, the higher the chance we will never act on it at all. This technique emphasizes the strong effect even a small action toward that goal can have.
- If your child seems overwhelmed, help them set manageable goals and small timeframes to reach those goals. Many people swear by the Pomodoro technique which involves twenty-five minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break. Find the time that works best for your child too!
- Encourage your child to eat the frog! Here’s the idea: if I told you that you had to eat a frog by midnight, when would you do it? Right away? Or at 11:59 PM? If you put off eating that frog all day, you’ll spend your entire day thinking about eating that slimy, yucky frog. It’s the same way with procrastination. If you procrastinate doing something, you waste valuable time thinking and worrying about the thing until you get it done. So encourage your child to do the hardest, scariest, and most intimidating thing first. Once that thing is done, they’ll get some great momentum going and everything else will seem easy by comparison.
- Help your child avoid distractions. There are also a lot of cool apps out there that can help curb distractions. Also, sometimes, you can indulge the distraction briefly to get rid of it. For example if your phone keeps ringing, switch off the ringer, or answer the call to tell the caller that you’ll get back to them later. Just do what needs to happen and then get right back to work.
Need some extra support? We’d love to help out! Contact us to start the conversation.