Strategies to Combat Procrastination While Taking Courses Online

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Online courses can be a handy way to earn college credit, but they require a great deal of self-discipline and motivation if you want to be successful. Today you'll learn some strategies that can help you combat procrastination while taking courses online.

The Problem with Procrastination

It's probably safe to say that we've all procrastinated at some point in our lives. When it comes to smaller, less important tasks, such as doing the dishes, procrastination might not affect the outcome that much. However, with bigger, more important responsibilities, such as online courses, procrastination can be detrimental to the outcome. In fact, an article published by Psychology Today notes that procrastination in online learning can lead to poorer academic performance and lower engagement levels.

If you're worried that procrastination might be a problem for you while taking online courses, you'll be happy to know there are some simple things that you can do to help.

Ways to Fight Procrastination

#1: Develop a Plan

The first strategy for combating procrastination focuses on developing a plan as soon as you start your online classes, if not before. When you receive your syllabus and course materials for each class, look them over, and decide how much time you'll need to devote to your classes each week (your professors may provide you with recommendations). From there, look at your typical daily schedule and decide where this time will fit in. Maybe it's after your kids go to bed each night, or perhaps it's on your day off from work.

You should also make a daily planner part of your overall plan; this can be used to keep track of assignments and important due dates. Also, having a separate folder for each class can help you stay organized and keep related materials in one place. By developing an organized study plan early on, versus just 'going with the flow,' you'll be more likely to stick to the plan and get your work done in a timely manner.


#2: Break Larger Tasks into Smaller Chunks

Let's be honest: procrastination is often the result of feeling overwhelmed with a task that seems large and complicated. Sometimes we're afraid to start a task because we think it's impossible to complete. Instead of looking at your assignments or projects as huge, complicated tasks, try breaking them down into small, manageable chunks.

For example, maybe you have a 10-page research paper due in your English class in two weeks. Instead of thinking that you'll never be able to get the paper done in two weeks, break it down into little steps that can be tackled individually. These steps could be:

1) Gathering research and information

2) Creating an outline

3) Writing pages 1-5

4) Writing pages 6-10

5) Proofreading

6) Revising

7) Writing final draft

8) Submitting the paper

By breaking larger tasks down, you'll get a sense of accomplishment after completing each step, which may result in you being less apt to put things off.

#3: Find a Study Buddy

Another way to help you cut down on procrastination is to find yourself a study buddy. Although you don't typically come face to face with the people in your online class, you'll probably be able to reach out to your peers via online discussion boards. Ask if anyone in your area would be willing to meet up once a week to study, go over class materials, work on projects, etc. Maybe you can even challenge each other to complete assignments by a certain date and time. This approach can encourage accountability and spur you on to get your assignments done by the deadlines that you and your study buddy establish.


#4: Be Aware of Distractions

We all have those distractions that take our attention away from what we should really be doing. Whether it's kids, the television, housework, your phone, stress, or a combination of things, it's a pretty safe bet that there is something holding you back from getting things done on schedule. If this happens to be your online coursework, you're probably going to see your grades and performance start to suffer.

To combat procrastination, you should make it a point to identify the things in your life that cause you to put things off before you start your classes. This way, you may be able to prevent these distractions from becoming a problem. For example, if you know that you can't stay off of social media when your phone is nearby, keep it far away while you are completing your classwork.

#5: Give Yourself Rewards

Another way to combat procrastination in your online courses is to reward yourself when you get something done on time. If you really love a certain ice cream parlor, go there only when you accomplish something for your classes. Or, if you really like to shop at a specific store, take a trip there only after you turn in an important project on or before the due date. By offering yourself rewards, you may be much more likely to take the initiative to stay on task in your classes.


End Thoughts

Even though these strategies can help you combat procrastination while taking online courses, only you have the power to be successful. If you promise yourself that you'll always try your best and get your work done on time, try very hard to keep this promise to yourself. You'll be so happy you did!

By Erin Riskey
February 2017
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