How to Deal with Procrastination in Your Studies

Someone once commented that an Association for Procrastinators should be established, and someone else responded: “Let’s do it tomorrow.” This narration is a humorous but apt one.

One of life’s greatest lessons is that life does not reward indolence or even condone it. Delay is dangerous and expensive. When students understand exactly how much of an effect their grades can have on their lives and how much procrastination, in turn, affects those grades, then they understand the danger of delay.

Procrastination is insight without discipline. It involves deferring an important task(s) and focusing usually on a less important but more enjoyable one. Procrastination is one bad habit that could appear harmless, but whose effects are very far-reaching and often irreversible. For a student, it is failing to study until the very last minute.

I have heard friends say they will start an important task by 8 o’clock and then postpone till 9 o’clock simply because it is 8:02 and they missed their window and ‘it doesn’t feel right to start at 8:02’.

Procrastination has so many negative effects, ranging from ruining a person’s sense of discipline to failure to achieve important tasks, either in time or at all. Procrastination hinders to a great extent, one’s ability to enjoy the tasks being performed as well as their positive benefits.

The sad truth though is that virtually every student procrastinates to some degree; many people indulge in that one extra hour of sleep or chat with friends, movie watching, playing of video games or surfing the net while they should be studying.

According to Margie Warrell, in her book, Stop Playing Safe, “Life rewards action. Nothing great is accomplished without it”. It goes without saying then, that procrastination is a hindrance to accomplishing the objectives of studying and what good grades can stand to secure. Like all other bad habits, procrastination can be subjected to the 21-day rule which is to the effect that anything you can successfully do for 21 days becomes a habit. Students can overcome procrastination, and there are easy steps to doing so.

1.      Plan ahead and write your plans down

Never underestimate the power of planning. Planning saves time. It makes you accountable to you. Failing to plan or set deadlines implies that you do not hold yourself accountable for your time and you have no means of actually keeping track of your time and knowing how much you spent in useful pursuits.

Be realistic in your planning. Do not plan an overly strenuous schedule like planning to read for thirty hours non-stop. The chances that this might actually work out are very slim and it may discourage you from even studying altogether.

2.      Set timelines for your plans

Tie your plans to timelines; timelines keep you on your toes. Where you do not set timelines for your plans at all, you permit yourself to postpone them indefinitely. If you do not meet your deadlines, at the very most, you will fall a little behind on them.

Therefore, for instance, instead of simply making a generic list, you should set time limits for your study plan.

So, for instance, write Monday (5pm-7pm): study Law of Contract. A procrastinator may vaguely write, ‘Study Law of Contract’ in his jotter and claim that he has made a plan. Sure, it is a plan, but it is one that is bound to fail as it is not time to a particular time.

3.     Tick off accomplishments

It is very helpful to make a habit of breaking your goals down into the smallest possible components. Set little milestones for yourself. If the chapter on Privity of Contract is 12 pages in the textbook, then allocate time to each page, say ten minutes. You can set a timer that goes off at ten minute intervals. This is a time tested and trusted tool that can help even the laziest students to deal with procrastination.

It is also good to form a habit of ticking off goals you have achieved in order to spur you on to achieve more.

4.      Keep the big picture in close view

The big picture as far as your studies go is your academic goal. Do you want to graduate with a First Class? Do you want to graduate with a Second Class Upper? Then you must understand that these do not come easily. You have to work hard to obtain such grades.

Some law courses are very voluminous and have several case law and sections of statutes that you have to commit to memory. It is best to get an early start.

To literally keep your goal in close view, you may choose to write down the grades you want to obtain in each course on a sticky note and attach it to your wall. This is motivation and could go a long way in ensuring that you study when you should.

5.      Remove distractions

Turn your distractions to rewards. You may permit yourself to surf the net for an hour as a reward for three uninterrupted hours of effective studying. The keywords in this statement are: ‘uninterrupted’ and ‘effective’. This means that you must not have indulged in your distractions while studying. Ensure that you meet the goal you set for yourself for those three hours.

If it is the first time you are studying the topic, then your goal should probably be to fully understand the topic by the time those three hours are over. If you were studying for exams, your goal in those three hours might be to have memorized all the sections relevant to the topic. After this, you may treat yourself to some net surfing time, or some sleep or video games. These treats are something to look forward to while you’re studying and should serve as some motivation.

Do not multitask while you are studying. Resist the temptation to read contract and labour law simultaneously, or study and surf the net at the same time. Some persons argue that doing this helps them concentrate, but this is quite doubtful.

6.      Have an accountability partner

Tell someone who can hold you to account about your goals. This will keep you in check. Any number of persons may be your accountability partner, ranging from your roommate to your mentor.

7.      Be self-motivated

The human mind is a very powerful tool. From your mind, you have to summon a sense of urgency and ‘fear’ that pushes you to study. You have to understand the importance of studying early. You have to be convinced that it pays to study at the right time; to study ahead, to study during weeks of lecture, to study for tests, to study hard during lecture free weeks and to study purposefully for exams. Failing this, you may never overcome procrastination.

You have to create the drive to study hard for success by yourself. In fact, this is the most important of all the steps to beating procrastination. Self-motivation stems from keeping the bigger picture in close view.

8.      Ensure that your study area is clutter-free

A good number of students cannot study where there is a clutter. As much as possible, let your study space be neatly arranged so that you are not put off and distracted from your reading. Also, choose a place to study that is conducive to your needs.


Tolulope Dada is a 400 level law student at Obafemi Awolowo University. She is passionate about Tax and Finance, and has interned with KPMG Nigeria and SIAO.

Tolulope is a member of the Debate Committee, and the Moot & Mock Committee of her Faculty. She started mooting in 2016 and has represented her university, Nigeria and Africa in a number of competitions.

The height of her mooting career came in 2016 when she and her team won the Africa round of the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot and went on to become runners up of the world finals in Guadalajara, Mexico, presided over by judges of the International Court of Justice. 

Other competitions she has participated in include Dele Adesina Moot and Mock Competition, 2016 and 2017; Professor I.O. Agbede National Moot and Mock Competition, 2016; Price Media Moot, 2017 and the International Humanitarian Law Moot, 2017.

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