Why Do College Students Procrastinate? How to Stop Academic Procrastination

Academic procrastination habits can start pretty early in life.

Do you remember elementary school? Can you recall the kind of homework assignments you received as a young student?

The homework tasks were really not that complicated back then but it always seemed like there was something else you would rather do, right?

Why Do College Students Procrastinate?For some, there was an appeal to playing outside with friends and family pets. For others, television or video games sucked you in.

It was in those days that we developed this habit of procrastinating. We put off our writing assignments and reading journals for as long as possible.

We wanted that gold star but we didn’t want to do the work.

If it weren’t for our parents or guardians, we probably would have never completed any homework…

That’s okay, though. We stopped procrastinating at the end of elementary when things were starting to get more serious.

What? We didn’t stop procrastinating? Growing responsibility didn’t improve our desire to do work?

No. No, it didn’t. And the consequences became worse…

Since elementary, we’ve had plenty of time to kick the habit. So, why do college students procrastinate?


What is the Psychology behind procrastination?

History is riddled with chronic procrastinators. The concept is not new. It’s been a topic of discussion as early as 800 BCE.

There are many warnings cautioning us away from procrastination and the perils it may bring. In some religions, it’s even a sin!

So, ask yourself, “why do I procrastinate?” Why do we procrastinate even when we have nothing better to do?

Lazy College StudentLet’s take a look at some statistics really quick. According to several websites that you can search on Google, 85%-95% of college students admit to having procrastinated. In addition to that, as many as 50% are chronic procrastinators.

Those are some astounding numbers, right? Crazy. How have we, as a society, even created massive architecture or discovered technological anomalies that advanced our civilization?

You think with numbers like that we would all still be living in mud huts while putting off the hunt because we’re not that hungry and there’s enough left over for a little snack still.

Procrastination results in more than just lost time. It has physical effects on us as well. When we procrastinate, we become more stressed out, we lose self-esteem, and we can even become less healthy due to our choices.

Academically, our grades suffer. This is because we miss draft deadlines meaning that we don’t have peer input into our work. We put off homework and end up with reduced grading for late work if the work is even graded at all. We wait until the very last minute to try speed-reading books and hurriedly write our reports causing us to miss crucial information.

Despite all of the negative consequences, we still freaking do it! Why?!


There are a few reasons, actually.

1 – We like the challenge.

We put everything off until the very last minute because we get an adrenaline rush and do what seems impossible. When we complete our inefficiently created project we get a misplaced sense of pride and think we can do this with every task we come across. We feel like winners.

2 – We have a sense of rebellion.

Sense of RebellionGrowing up, you might have had a parental figure that pushed you to do things on time or ahead of schedule. It makes you feel pressured and upset. So, when we’re older and can make our own decisions we rebel against what we were forced to do and it makes us feel liberated in a sense.

3 – We lie to ourselves.

We don’t feel like doing this project right now so we put it off. We’ll be in the mood to do it tomorrow or next week. There’s always going to be a later date that we tell ourselves is going to be the day we feel inclined to work. We continue with these lies up until the deadline of our project.

4 – We distract ourselves.

When we have an obligation, we actively look for something to distract us from the responsibility. We look for something that doesn’t have us actively engaging like watching television or reading email. We can’t feel bad about procrastinating if we just ignore it, right?

5 – We fear failure.

For many of us, anxiety plays a huge part in procrastination. We don’t want to fail and we fear the social consequences of failing, so we feel like if we avoid the task, we avoid the social negativity.

Whatever the reason, we have this bad habit of procrastinating. For some of us, we want some way to break free from this burden…but how can we do that?


We want to learn how to stop procrastination!

We all know that fighting procrastination is beyond difficult. Many of us try something for a little while that might kind of work but then we fall back into the habit of putting things off.

We need something that really works for us. One solution may work for some but not others. Now, what are some tips that we can try out?

Making a Mountain Out of a MolehillA – Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.

With some projects, we tend to blow them out of proportions and freak out a little bit. Try looking at your project like a collection of small tasks. Doing these small tasks in order can help us complete the project on time or even ahead of schedule.

B – Meet YOUR OWN deadline.

Try this. Bring the deadline closer. Halve the time that the deadline is set for. Make that your new deadline and make real consequences for not meeting it. You can set positive consequences such as “if I miss the deadline, I will donate $50 to this charity”. Act like you would with the actual deadline because you know you will procrastinate on the new one too.

C – Start with the hard stuff.

If you start with the hardest part of your project first, the project can only get easier and easier. Tackle the most difficult part of your assignment. Just push through it and do it. Then continue down the line with the easier tasks. You will feel better as you complete each piece.

D – Create a to-do list.

Lists are powerful things. Having a list made up makes your responsibility real. Making a list makes you 75% more likely to complete a task (I totally didn’t make up that statistic…maybe). Use lists to your advantage as often as you can. It feels really good to check off items on your list. It can really encourage positive behavior.

Remove DistractionsE – Remove distractions.

One of the biggest factors for procrastination is distractions in your local vicinity. If you are working in your room, take down posters, put away game systems, turn off the phone, and stay away from social network sites on the computer. Remove anything that can distract you from completing your project. Fewer distractions means there is less of a chance to fall off track.

F – Don’t be a perfectionist.

Trying to get everything perfect the first time through is demoralizing. Get out your first draft. It’s allowed to be sloppy and have mistakes. Getting a rough draft out improves morale because you’re pretty much halfway there. Once you get your first draft out, work on the second, improving on the first. Just keep improving on drafts until you are satisfied with the end result.

Work on these tips. This is the strategy for how to stop procrastination. Use one tip at a time and start to build a strong foundation that you can use to beat procrastination.


Still curious about procrastination?

If you’re still interested in finding out more about procrastination and how to beat it, then I recommend reading The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play. It’s a mouthful, I know but it’s a great book on the subject and it has additional strategies that I haven’t covered as well.

You can check out some reviews here on Amazon.


That’s all for today!

Do you have problems with procrastination or do you know a friend who does? Do any of the tips sound like they will help or do you have another opinion? Let me know in the comment box below!

I love reading your responses and having the opportunity to connect! So, keep those comments coming.

Thanks for reading! See you next time.

6 thoughts on “Why Do College Students Procrastinate? How to Stop Academic Procrastination

  1. TomasB - February 14, 2017

    I enjoyed reading this post because it is so relevant to so many other thing we deal with in
    our lives. All of your points are spot on and accurate, we are all guilty of putting things off for the reasons you mention, and many times we bring the bad habits of our youth into our adult lives.

    1. Nigel - February 14, 2017

      I know exactly what you mean, Tomas. We bring many bad habits into our adult years and it’s hard to shake them.

      Honestly, “beat procrastination” is always on my weekly goal list but I always put it off…

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Tomas! I really appreciate it.
      -Nigel

  2. Oren - February 14, 2017

    Hi Nigel, Procrastination sure is a challenge to overcome these days. We have so many distractions nipping at our ankles that the ability to “focus” on the task at hand becomes an Olympian feat in itself!

    I really like the straight forward simple tips you’ve listed. I shall make a point of trying them now.

    Thanks for posting this

    1. Nigel - February 15, 2017

      I totally agree with you, Oren. We have more ways to be distracted now than ever before. There are a few ways to try and regain our focus that I cover in “How to Invest in Yourself – Ways to Improve Yourself“.

      Trying to change your habits can be a difficult process but it is definitely worth it. All that matters is starting the journey and making any progress you can. Aim to always step forward and be careful of stepping back.

      Thanks for the comment, Oren, I really appreciate it!
      -Nigel

  3. Norma - February 14, 2017

    Hi Nigel,

    I am so guilty of procrastination. Distraction is my worst enemy. Even when I sit down to start what I am supposed to do, my mind wonders… I blame writer’s block for my procrastination so instead of doing some writing, I eat, I watch a movie.

    You have some helpful tips in your post which I intend to follow. It’s hard but I would try…

    1. Nigel - February 15, 2017

      Hey, Norma!

      I completely understand. Whenever I have writer’s block, I tend to wander towards other activities. It’s so easy to fall into a Netflix marathon and just lose hours of your time.

      If we can just control ourselves a little bit, we may be able to move ourselves to do something more productive such as Organizing a Home Office. That way we can always work towards improving our way of life, even when we have writer’s block.

      Thanks for reading, Norma! I’m glad you stopped by.
      -Nigel

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