Stumbling Block #7
Problem: The procrastinator waits till the last minute to write her paper.
Solution: Break up assignments over time and provide accountability for your student.
The Pressure of Procrastination
If it weren’t for the last minute, I wouldn’t get anything done. ~Author Unknown
When we feel overwhelmed, we tend to put off distasteful tasks—or those that seem big and scary—such as cleaning the garage or preparing for a big party. Claiming we work best under pressure, we shop, bake, clean, and decorate in a last-minute frenzy. As time rushes forward and the deadline looms, we sweep piles of laundry and schoolwork into drawers and closets, abandon the balloons and streamers, and purchase a hastily chosen gift card because we never got around to buying a present.
“Procrastinators generally don’t do well under pressure,” says Joseph Ferrari, associate professor of psychology at Chicago’s DePaul University. The idea that time pressure improves performance is a myth. In truth, procrastination can result in:
- Health and sleep problems.
- Anxiety and panic as tasks pile up.
- Poor performance and inefficiency.
As William James aptly put it, “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.”
Five Steps Toward Overcoming Procrastination
The best way to get something done is to begin. ~Author Unknown
Putting off a writing assignment till the last minute can lead to a rushed and sloppy paper hastily written just before it’s due. It may also leave your child feeling too pressured or anxious to do a good job. As with the lazy student, the procrastinator needs a strategy. Try these suggestions to help your child make wiser use of her time.
1. Work on adopting a “do it first” attitude.
Tackling unpleasant or disagreeable tasks earlier in the day—when your student is fresh and alert—often means greater progress in shorter time.
2. Establish a deadline for the writing project.
When you don’t give a cut-off date, you imply that your child can put the task off indefinitely. Set a date and stick to it.
3. Divide the assignment into smaller chunks.
While a deadline is important, it doesn’t ensure that your student will pace herself. So in addition to assigning a distant due date for the whole composition or report, give more frequent due dates for parts of the project. For a short composition, assign brainstorming, rough draft, self-editing, second draft, parent editing, and a final draft. For a report or term paper, you’ll also want to see topic ideas, note cards, outlines, etc.
The writing process, by its very nature, is a series of steps. However, the procrastinator is prone to completely skip steps (or else cram several steps into one last-ditch writing session). Assignments spread over several days or weeks—with mini due dates scheduled along the way—help train her to spread out her work and not save it all till the last minute. A schedule or plan that outlines each step makes the best defense against procrastination.
4. Don’t neglect to follow up.
Your student needs to allow drafts to rest between writing sessions. But since she tends to wait till the last minute, she typically leaves no time for revising or refining. Make sure that you hold her accountable along the way with checklists and deadlines, and check her work regularly to keep her on task.
As the parent and teacher, you’re responsible to ensure that your child is doing the work and sticking to her deadlines. We homeschoolers can get lax about this. If you say “I’ll check over your work later,” but fail to do so, you continue to perpetuate the problem of procrastination. By not checking up on your student or asking to see her assignments, you unfortunately model the very behavior you seek to correct.
5. Set up task-appropriate rewards.
Come up with ways to reward your student’s steps of progress. Completing her brainstorming on time or writing her rough draft may earn her some computer or TV time. Finishing a task ahead of the due date could merit even more time to spend with her friends, read for pleasure, or work on her hobbies.
Do you ever feel like YOU are your child’s main stumbling block? If so, you won’t want to miss next week’s article, which addresses parental criticism. Check it out and soak up the encouragement!
Share a comment: Does your child procrastinate? What is one new thing you can do toward changing his or her behavior?
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2009 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
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WriteShop provides schedules and checklists that give direction to a procrastinator. Parent supervision is also a key element of the program. Train your little ones early using WriteShop Primary. For older students, choosing WriteShop I and II will help you equip and inspire successful writers!