Tips from Tutors for Overcoming Procrastination (At the Last Minute)

Have a paper to write and no time to write it? Here's what to do if you've procrastinated yourself into a bind with your paper writing.

1. Don't panic. That only makes things worse.

2. Make a plan. Look at what you have to do and how much time you have to do it in. Make a list and order the list so that it works for you. Be as realistic as possible about the tasks and the time you have to do them in.

3. For each paper you have to write, do the following:

  • Go back to the assignment sheet before you do anything else. Make sure you know what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to do it.
  • If possible, break down each paper into a set of tasks, and do these one at a time (brainstorm for a topic, draft a thesis, gather ideas, research, make an outline, etc.)
  • If you don’t have enough time to break the project down, do something. Anything. You don’t have to start at the beginning. Just write down all your ideas. You can put them in order once they actually exist.
  • Create an outline. If you have yet to write down your ideas, put them in outline form first. It helps you get started and it also helps you organize your thoughts, all while creating a template for your paper. If you have already done some writing or even created a draft of the paper, make a quick reverse outline to help you see what you have and what you still need (see The OWL at Purdue for help with reverse outlining).

4. Build in rewards. As you progress, give yourself a small reward for each mini-accomplishment. Small treats reinforce your efforts and provide recognizable milestones along the path to completion. For example: if you’re in the library, treat yourself to a Starbucks; if you’re at home, send some texts or tweets about what you’ve been doing. You can also plan to treat yourself (when you’ve finished and you’ve got time) by streaming a movie or spending some time checking in with online friends.

5. Remember, you don’t have to write a perfect paper, you just have to write a paper. Turning something in is better than turning nothing in. A “C” or even a “D” is better than a “0.”

Everyone procrastinates. It’s human. You can learn to control it, though. Look for the Writing Center’s Tips for avoiding procrastination early next semester. And meanwhile, good luck! And have a wonderful break!

“Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.” –Mason Cooley