Learning development interventions
for student procrastination
Procrastination is an issue which affects all students at some time. For a few it can become a major problem with serious
consequences for retention, achievement and mental health.
Kim Shahabudin (University of Reading)
[email protected]
Causes of procrastination include:
•A lack of confidence about study practices, e.g. how to write an academic essay
•Overwhelm caused by failing to plan (effectively, or at all) for simultaneous deadlines
•Poor concentration due to unsuitable study conditions or times
•Inability to prioritise, often because of failure to identify and evaluate goals
•Persistent procrastination may be associated with perfectionism and low self-esteem
What do students say? Some quotes from our case studies:
“I set aside a whole day to work on my dissertation, but by evening I’d written five sentences.”
“I’ve got so much to do, every time I try to think about where to start, I get upset and can’t do it.”
“My tutor says I should just get on with it like everyone else – I hate myself for not being able to.”
“I’m just staring and staring at the page and nothing’s going in – what’s wrong with me?”
“I know how to plan my time and what to do - I just can’t make myself do it”
Interventions that have proved effective in professional practice:
•Avoid rigid work schedules and timetables which can lead to failure and further loss of self-esteem
•Break work down into achievable tasks; rewards can be useful, but finishing work is often a reward in itself
•Build confidence by clearly explaining expectations, study practices, etc.
•Work on barriers to study e.g. develop sound foundations on which to build subject knowledge
•Provide strategies for prioritising e.g. identify and evaluate goals, ask what will happen if you don’t do this?
•Help student to identify best times and places for study: include breaks to avoid study fatigue
•Changing study modes frequently (reading/writing/talking/thinking) can promote alertness
•Encourage realistic expectations for deadlines and (especially) scope of work
•Try alternative writing genres (e.g. blogs) to overcome perfectionist concerns about committing
Full report in Research section in the Time
Management learning area on the LearnHigher
website at