What is procrastination? Why do people procrastinate? And if procrastination has made people suffering, what kind of strategies can be done to overcome the problem? Procrastination is the voluntary action of avoiding or postponing from doing a more urgent or prioritized task by doing an easier, more pleasant and less prioritized task instead. People tend to put off their tasks when they feel overwhelmed with distress in order to feel better or relaxed in the moment. However, this approach eventually results in more distress along with the feelings of guilt, anxiety and depression as the time goes by, causing one to feel more miserable in the end. Researchers reported that a whopping 52% of the undergraduates in their survey were categorized as procrastinators (Özer, Demir, & Ferrari, 2009). It can be observed that procrastination is a phenomenon which is widespread and pervasive among undergraduate students. Undergraduates often find themselves struggling with procrastination due to lack of self-regulation and this can be tackled by reducing the distractions caused by smartphones using modern technology and breaking down big overwhelming tasks into achievable smaller pieces.
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First and foremost, procrastination is often caused by lack of self-regulation. Undergraduates who are weak in monitoring their own behaviours tend to procrastinate more than those who have stronger self-regulation in their behaviours. In fact, researchers claimed that procrastinators tend to act on impulse, prone to distractions and lack of self-discipline (Steel, 2006). For instance, undergraduates always have strong urges to check the notifications on their smartphones just to keep themselves from “stressing out”, they may end up texting all day and accomplishing none of the tasks in the to-do list, resulting in rewriting it to become the “to-do list tomorrow”. Researchers have found that procrastinators who perceive a task as difficult and requiring effort to achieve a successful outcome are more likely to avoid or to postpone beginning a task (Denız, Traş, & Aydoğan, 2009; Ferrari, 1991; Solomon & Rothblum, 1984). In other words, undergraduates who are vulnerable to temptations always tend to put off their tasks especially when they catastrophize and thus it is said that they are weak in self-regulation.
In terms of solutions, lack of self-regulation can be prevailed by reducing the distractions caused by smartphones using modern technology. Once a person is interrupted during his work, it takes time for him to get back on track. According to a survey conducted by Poll (2016), a whopping 55% of U.S. workers spent their time on cell phones rather than being productive on their work. However, undergraduates can overcome these kinds of distractions better than employee as they do not have to use social media for work. For example, installing “Block Apps” can be useful in disabling the notifications of applications such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Wechat and Instagram which would allow people to procrastinate from their work, they can activate the blocking mode whenever they start to do their revision or assignment, while they can still receive urgent calls as blocking applications are more flexible to use than Airplane mode. This way, temptations can be reduced efficiently using modern technology and thus enable undergraduates to focus on their study or assignment. Hence, self-regulation can be achieved by blocking the distracting apps in smartphones using the technology nowadays.
Furthermore, breaking down big overwhelming tasks into achievable smaller pieces is also a way to enhance self-regulation. Pychyl (2010) stated that one can slowly gain his self-confidence by completing each small steps of a big task, which alternately minimize the possibility of putting off the tasks just to make himself feel better. In addition, breaking huge tasks into smaller pieces makes the tasks appear to be less aversive which in turns reduces the temptations of procrastination effectively. As an illustration, when there is a 90-pages-assignment in which the deadline is three months later, the workload should be divided into small pieces which is possible to be accomplished such as writing two to three pages each day. It is undoubtedly more endurable of starting with smaller steps than trying to complete a large project at the very beginning. With this in mind, undergraduates can even develop their self-efficacy by accomplishing the small tasks and thus it is less likely that they would catastrophize and postpone their tasks because the workload has been reduced strategically.
In conclusion, lack of self-regulation that leads to procrastination is one of the foremost challenges that undergraduates usually face in their academic performance nowadays. However, with the right mindset and tactics, undergraduates can overcome this problem by minimizing the interruptions caused by smartphones using technology nowadays and dividing complex tasks into manageable sections.