How many times in your life have you put off an important task? You knew it had to be done, but you still avoided it until the last minute; procrastination won.
Most adults, even ones who are very capable and hardworking, have a problem with procrastination. Of course, as you probably know, your students do, as well. Why not teach them how to overcome procrastination, now?
Not only will it help them maximize their learning in their current courses, but it can help them kick this bad habit at an early age. Tackling this in the teen years is a win-win, even though it is not easy.
Reasons Students Procrastinate
According to Psychology Today, there are many different reasons people procrastinate, like the fear of not meeting perfect expectations, the fear of failure, or even to remain safe from true limits.
They state, “while the reasons for procrastination may vary, the results are often the same- a seemingly endless cycle of anxiety, avoidance, and shame. Nothing gets done, and you can't enjoy anything with that guilt hanging over your head.”
It’s a great idea to have your students reflect on why they procrastinate. This helps them get to the root of the problem.
They may feel incompetent with the subject material, or they may be upset with the teacher who assigned something. Often, there are deeper meanings behind behaviors at this age. Have a talk about the particular issue. With teens, it can even be something like wanting to avoid being teased for getting the honor roll every time or having perfect homework scores and being praised publicly by the teacher but embarrased by friends. Addressing the root of the problem can sometimes lead to a discussion about deeper priorities.
How to Help Them Stop
Fortunately, there are many different theories on ways to stop. You can’t force them to use any of these strategies in their free time, but if you educate them about procrastination and ways to help, most will likely want to use these on their own!
Show them HOW to Use a Paper Planner Effectively
Today, many students rely on their phones or other technology to keep track of homework and other assignments. This might work for some, but actually writing things down with your hand improves memory and can help students create a schedule they will actually stick to!
Teach them to avoid having a variety of reminders, apps, and tools. They just need to keep everything in one place. And it NEEDS to be a tangible paper planner.
Once you know the facts about writing by hand (and make sure you really do!), enlighten your teens. Share the research with your students so they understand the importance of pen and paper. Get the details in my previous post titled Digital Classrooms vs. Math by Hand. It goes in depth into the pros and cons associated with using technology or writing by hand in math class. The same holds true for remembering assignments and to-do lists.
“It's important to keep the focus on tech as an enhancement, and not lose the benefits of hands-on activities and paper / pencil learning.”
My friend, Kate from Kate’s Science Classroom Cafe, wrote a blog post about the importance of writing things down on paper. “The pencil to paper connection is vital in the note-taking process.” Writing down assignments is no different.
Teach Them to Break it Down and Set Small Goals
It may seem like common sense to you, but we have to remember teens have had much less time to practice managing procrastination.
Next time you assign a big project, help your students break it into small, bite-sized tasks. Then space it out until the due date, so they’re not waiting until the last minute to do everything.
It’s easier to tackle 15 minutes of work each day after basketball practice than to have to devote an entire weekend to a project after being worn out from a big game and an entire week of school.
Share the Pomodoro Technique
In her TEDx talk, Learning how to learn, Barbara Oakley, from Oakland University, talks about people’s tendency to procrastinate. (The entire talk is fascinating, but if you’re only interested in hearing about procrastination, skip ahead about 10 minutes.)
She talks about a proven method to combat procrastination, The Pomodoro Technique. It’s very simple, yet powerful, and is my personal favorite!
All you need to do is set a timer for 25 minutes. For 25 minutes, have your students work on a task like a big project or a homework assignment, with no distractions or talking, just focused intentions. When the 25 minutes is up, let them have just a few minutes of relaxed fun. You can play a review game if you’re concerned about wasting class time. (Math teachers, check these games out!) Then, go back to 25 minutes of focused work.
This works because anyone can focus for 25 minutes. When they do this over and over, they are training their brains to jump right in and focus on a task, and next, they are training their brains to relax.
The Muse shares, “The idea behind the technique is that the timer instills a sense of urgency. Rather than feeling like you have endless time in the workday to get things done and then ultimately squandering those precious work hours on distractions, you know you only have 25 minutes to make as much progress on a task as possible.”
This one is where their cute little apps can come in. Let teens set a fun timer and choose a fun reward or activity for the down-time portions.
Can you relate to this procrastination problem? What do you do to help your students overcome this habit? Please share more ideas below! It’s really helpful for other teachers who come here if you share additional thoughts in the comments. Thanks so much!
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