As our lives fill with professional and personal tasks, chores and other time-consuming activities, we begin to stress and wonder how we’ll possibly manage to get it all done. While you’ve fine-tuned your own tricks to help juggle these responsibilities, your students are now facing the challenge of establishing time-management techniques on their own for the very first time.

Unfortunately, no matter how much time students are given to complete a project and how much you remind them, every semester you will find some of your students procrastinate. College students may procrastinate on everything from daily reading assignments, to research papers, to filling out employment and scholarship applications. This may be due to the new-found freedom they’ve discovered at college, because they have not yet experienced the consequences of these actions, or a myriad of other reasons.

As educators, it is our responsibility to not only teach but also to motivate and encourage students to get the most out of their college experience. To achieve this, we can supply students with the skills and tricks they need to plan ahead and prioritize their schedules.

In their book, How to Study in College, Eleventh Edition, Walter Pauk and Ross J.Q. Owens give examples of ways for students to avoid procrastination. We’ve summarized several below that you can share with your students:

  • Make your plans public record. Writing plans down or discussing them with a friend make you more accountable and likely to follow through.
  • Step back and check your progress. Keep your overall progress in mind throughout the process to avoid letting small details distract you from the big picture.
  • Use the five-minute plan. When given an important assignment, resolve to work on it, right away, for just five minutes. When the time is up, decide if you want to keep going. Usually you will. The five-minute plan makes the daunting task of taking the first step more low-risk and easier to tackle.
  • Let your momentum work for you. When you’ve successfully completed a task, let your momentum carry right over to another activity. Your added energy will help you get started.
  • Use a timer instead of a watch. Constantly checking the clock is a distraction in itself. When keeping to a schedule, try using a timer instead. This also works if you want to schedule a five minute break every so often during a big project.
  • Be specific. Instead of organizing your tasks by vague concepts, break each individual step out, such as choosing your topic or typing up the bibliography. This will make your goals more concrete and achievable.
  • Verbalize your excuses. Plea bargaining with yourself about your responsibilities often proves very successful, but try sharing your excuses aloud with a friend or advisor and you’ll often find that your reasoning isn’t quite so practical.
  • Visualize success or completion. When you visualize yourself achieving success, you chart a course in your mind’s eye, giving you a tangible plan and the incentive to keep going.

In addition to these tips, Pauk and Owens recommend simply avoiding time-crunch related stress by waking up a little earlier, allowing plenty of travel time, and having reference materials with you between classes so you never feel as though you’ve any wasted time. (70-73)

Much of the time-management battle is mental, but fortunately students have technology on their side for staying organized and avoiding procrastination. Our friends at the CengageBrainiac blog recommend some mobile apps for students to use to keep track of tasks in their post, “College midterm exams: Time management tips for college students”:

  • Evernote for note-taking
  • Quickoffice Pro HD to create and edit Microsoft® Office files and share them
  • Dropbox for cloud storage and sharing
  • Wunderlist for scheduling and tracking your tasks
  • Questia Online Library for researching on the go

Reference: Pauk, Walter and Ross J.Q. Owens. 2013. How to Study in College, 11th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.


What are some of your tricks for avoiding procrastination and time-crunch related stress? Let us know in the comments below.