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Suggestions for Teens (and Others) Who Procrastinate

Do you procrastinate trying to stop procrastinating? Here’s help for teenage procrastinators—but adults can benefit from the five strategies, and the resources, too.

“While thinking about strategies you will want to be flexible, sensitive, creative, and sensible.”

Want to stop procrastinating but keep putting it off? You’re not alone! And, fortunately, you can adjust your way of thinking.

You can get frustrated—OR you can look at procrastination constructively by figuring out (possibly together with those whom you trust), how to address the particular situation—and your avoidance behavior. There are hundreds of procrastination-busting strategies that you can try. They vary in accordance with the underlying reason[s] for procrastinating. (Click here for a resource book for teens, and here for one for parents.)

The following five tips are geared for procrastinators who want to try and do something about their procrastination now. (I invite parents and teachers to take note, too.)

1. Figure out what motivates you.

Maybe it’s challenge. Or creative expression. Or choice. Or familiar routines. Or flexibility. Or reassurance. Or fun. Or incentives. Or feelings of pride about personal progress. Or finding enjoyment in learning and accomplishments. The possibilities are endless, and they will differ from one person to the next. If something is personally relevant (that is, it connects meaningfully with your life, interests, or vision for the future), that relevance can be very motivating. Think about what motivators might work for you, and how to use them to your advantage.

2. Redefine your view of what positive outcomes look like.

In “Bust Your BUTS,” I offer the following suggestion: You can learn to define your own success, and the path you want to take to get there. It may be by improving on something you can already do, or by progressing a little rather than a lot. Success is not necessarily about grades. Or prizes. Or applause. Success means something different to everyone. If you’re willing to challenge your understandings of success, and you don’t focus exclusively on big accomplishments, you’ll experience more successes—and greater confidence.” (p.34)

3. Think carefully about when and why you procrastinate.

There are many different reasons for procrastination—which may occur occasionally, more often, or frequently. Regardless, there are ways to prevent, eliminate or manage it. For instance, if the reason you procrastinate is because something is too easy or monotonous, you might mix in elements of creativity, surprise, competition, or intrigue. If procrastination is due to difficulties with time management, you can explore the many available resources and technological apps. If after-school nagging, or opposing viewpoints about expectations are stirring up negative emotions and power struggles, then step back or aside and strive to de-escalate the conflict. And, if evening distractions around the house are problematic, then vow to get rid of them!

The important thing is …

Dr. Joanne Foster

Dr. Joanne Foster, an acclaimed author and educator, has dedicated over 35 years to gifted education and child development. With expertise in psychology and special education, her work empowers parents and educators, fostering creativity and high-level learning in children and teens.

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