Student suffering from procrastination seeks help


Q. I am a college student who has spent years procrastinating. I made it through high school with few problems, but now I’m having a really hard time in college. I barely got through this semester. What can I do?

A. In an article from the “Wall Street Journal,” Joseph Ferrari, a psychology professor at DePaul University in Chicago, estimates that up to 70 percent of college students procrastinate. Furthermore, in a study of over 22,000 young people, he found that procrastinators have lower salaries and a higher rate of unemployment after college. Since you recognize that procrastination is presenting a problem for your future, it’s time to do something about it.

Maggie Warrell, writing for “Forbes Magazine,” theorizes that at the core of procrastination is fear. She concludes that some people perceive that they could be inadequate and not up to the assigned task. Other possible motives for procrastination include anxiety, lack of motivation, perfectionism and poor decision-making.

Procrastinators are often hopeful that someday their situation will improve, and they will discover the assignments they missed were somehow unimportant. This rarely, if ever, happens. Some procrastinators even brag about working better under pressure, completing assignments at the last minute or submitting substandard work.

The Forbes website offers several strategies to help those who are caught in the web of procrastination.

• Write down the goal and give yourself a deadline to begin. If you have difficulty, set a timer and work for 5 to 10 minutes. Getting started is often the most difficult part.

• Be accountable to someone else. Have a time when you check in with a friend, teacher or mentor.

• Face the truth. Write down what your life will be like a year from now and 10 years from now if you do not stop procrastinating.

If these techniques do not help, I suggest you purchase, “The Procrastination Workbook,” by William Knaus, Ed.D. It is important that you resolve this problem before you go further in your education.

Q. I’m an 18-year-old college student with a 2-year-old daughter. As a low-income single mother, I can’t provide the things that wealthier kids have. How can I be a good mother when I can only afford the necessities?

A. “Things” are not that important; however, having a secure bond with your child is extremely important. Most adults do not remember the gifts they were given as a child, but they remember special times with a parent.

One of the most important gifts a parent can give their children is to talk to them. Children develop vocabulary by listening to their parents. Your daughter may not understand the words, but talking accelerates acquiring language skills and bonding between mother and child.

You can also encourage your daughter by taking her to museums, reading to her and being certain she is in a good daycare center. If your mother or a friend is caring for her, ask them to talk to her and actively play with her during the day.

Additionally, be aware of your attitude. When you return home from school, be certain that you greet her enthusiastically. Even if you are tired or annoyed, do not let her see it. If you are dating, be certain that your partner treats her with respect and not as an obstacle to your relationship. Never argue with her father or anyone in front of her.

Perhaps the most important skill you can teach a child is the ability to self-regulate. If she can control her emotions, you are more likely to have a successful and well-rounded child regardless of your income level. Once again, I recommend the book, “How Children Succeed,” by Paul Tough. It should be required reading for every parent.

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Nancy Ryburn holds a doctorate degree in psychology from Yeshiva University in New York City. She currently teaches psychology at Southeast Arkansas College. If you have questions, e-mail them to nancyryburn@gmail.com. They will not be answered personally, but could appear in a future column. There will be no identifying information and all e-mails remain confidential.