Events, Student Life

The Ultimate Guide to Avoiding 2 am Essay Writing, aka Some Practical Ideas on How to Finally Stop Procrastinating

We’ve all experienced it before – that moment when you’re sitting at your computer, anxiously typing, while trying to avoid looking at the clock as it grimly counts down the last few hours until your assignment is due. It’s doubtful that this is anyone’s idea of a really good time, but procrastination can land us in the world of 2 am essay writing and frantic caffeine consumption more often than we would like.


Photo Credit: Procrastination Meter; CC Image courtesy of Emile Ogez on Flickr.

Of course, most of us don’t plan to still be writing an assignment this close to the deadline, but sometimes it can feel as though life just gets in the way. This is especially true when “life” equates with family responsibilities. Although not all students are parents, I think almost all of us can relate to family responsibilities in some capacity or another, whether it’s your little sister relying on you for help with her homework, or your mom wanting to talk with you on the phone every night after you’ve moved away from home for the first time.

The Family Care Office recently ran a workshop on procrastination to help students with family responsibilities of all kinds understand better why they procrastinate and how they can start to adopt more constructive habits. This workshop was facilitated by Nick Sager from U of T’s Academic Success Centre, and was the first in the Life Management Series of workshops, run by the Family Care Office to help students with family responsibilities achieve better balance in their lives. Some of the important takeaways from this session included the idea that often we procrastinate because we’re afraid of producing work that doesn’t live up to the standards we’ve set for ourselves (perfectionism) or because we underestimate the amount of time it will take us to accomplish a task.

We also had a chance to think about the common idea that we procrastinate because we “work best under pressure”, and came to a unanimous agreement that even though the stress and anxiety of a looming deadline might serve as a motivator to get the job done, often the finished product doesn’t reflect our fullest potential – and so by procrastinating, we really end up selling ourselves short in a big way.

In terms of ways to combat procrastination and how to avoid those early morning last-minute essay sessions, some ideas that came to light included the notion of setting a fake early deadline for yourself (and having some form of external reinforcement of this date – such as a meeting with U of T’s Writing Centre), or creating a detailed schedule that takes into account time for all that “life” stuff – as well as just time for you to relax and recharge.

So whether you’re a mature student returning to school as the parent of three kids, a first-year undergraduate struggling to keep up with coursework and family members living in another city, or anywhere in between, procrastination is a problem that you can find strategies to deal with – stop by the Family Care Office for more tips and advice, or visit the Academic Success Centre website and explore the resources they have available online.