Leaving everything for the last minute
“Why do I wait to study until there is no reasonable time left to learn and pass the exams? Why am I leaving it all until the last minute? ” Many students ask these questions. They live in frustration because they can’t control their time. Time is getting out of hand and they do not move forward, they do not even begin to do what they need to do. This phenomenon is called academic procrastination: a big problem for many students. It affects the majority of higher education students in the West (you can take a look at this study to learn more about its impact).
Procrastination: a personal drama
I just want to highlight the seriousness of the problem. Not only because it affects millions of young people, who will later become adults with similar problems, but because many of them really feel bad about their situation and would like to overcome it. Just type “procrastination” on Twitter to see the comments about it. There are resigned laments, sad, heart-breaking confessions at times. There are also a lot of jokes about it, but with an undertone of bitterness.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that a country like Canada spends a week highlighting this problem and offering support in higher education to encourage a change of mentality: campaigns through different networks, workshops promoted in universities, involved professors … How good it would be to approach it as a personal and collective problem! Why not also do it here, in our country?
There are several things that can be done to reduce procrastination from within the educational setting. From the outset, helping students become aware of the importance of the problem. And as a new and technological app, at Task & Time, we have done our bit by creating a tool to personally help each student: STUDEAM, the virtual agenda that automatically plans the way we study (later we will tell how). Between both extremes we are going to make some proposals.
The school that badly educates in time management
It is usually a mistake to leave for later what can be done today. It is a mistake to rush through life because you do not manage your time well. Procrastination is a corrosive practice and teachers should not mask or excuse it. Although culturally settled, schools can do a lot to reduce it.
Schools should not free up all of students’ time for studying exams at the last minute, neither should they make sure that exams don’t fall on the same dates. The wrong message is sent to the students: “since we already know that they will only study in the hours prior to the exams, we do not ask them for other added tasks and there will be no exams on the same dates. Let’s see if they get better grades that way ”. In this way, procrastination is not corrected.
The school must prevent procrastination
My understanding is that schools must educate not only in content but also in work methods. These are soft skills that include self-regulation and proper time management. The lack of self-regulation is very important in delaying the completion of tasks. Can’t the school contribute to the necessary self-regulation?
- If the school – the professors and teachers – take seriously the importance of each thing being done on time and demand it of their students, they will certainly be helping them.
- If the school rewards delivering well-done assignments early, it will foster a different work culture.
- The school can detect procrastinators in time and create study groups or have good students accompany those who struggle.
An assessable daily plan against procrastination
If you tell a student that from such time to such time he or she will be working on a certain task, it will be easier to reduce procrastination. It will be easier to keep track and leave less room for unfortunate decisions due to insecurity, dislike, or perfectionism. Those of us who have accompanied students who had a hard time getting to work know how important it is to smooth the work session with a specific plan for each task.
However, this monitoring is very personalized and not every school will have the capacity to implement it. Rather, the parents, a private teacher, an education expert or a personal mentor will do it. To lighten this task, we created STUDEAM, our app that plans study tasks and homework automatically. Although its planning purpose is general, it will be especially helpful to procrastinators.
Personal support is key to improve
However, the procrastinator has a great challenge. No app can by itself modify complex behaviours such as procrastination: there are particular emotional and motivational issues behind each procrastinator. But Studeam can be a valuable tool in this process.
If there is a counselor, he or she can supervise the student by watching their daily progress. Short-term goals can get the student going. If the task is clear at all times, and the student knows what to do in every moment, there is nothing to leave for later. And the counselor knows what to check at the end of the day. These clues are useful as an aid to those who are serious about overcoming their procrastination or helping others to stop procrastinating.
I hope these proposals will help reduce procrastination while in school and using technology. It is no longer about students learning to work, but about reducing a personal drama that affects too many students. In other posts we will try to address how our culture of connectivity and fun exacerbates this evil.
Luis Javier Álvarez Garrido
He has been teacher and tutor in High Schools
CEO of Task & Time