Motivation & Procrastination


Motivation and attitude are often the keys to academic success in college. The most powerful factors in motivation are your thoughts about yourself and the ways in which those thoughts can help you to get what you want. In turn, these factors will help you to be more successful in your efforts. It is helpful to learn to recognize your thoughts as positive or negative, however just recognizing this distinction isn’t enough. You must learn to get rid of negative thoughts that damper your motivation; instead, develop positive thoughts. What you are saying to yourself and what you believe about yourself shows in your actions.

Motivation can be broadly categorized into two types:

1. Intrinsic Motivation:

This comes from within. It’s when you engage in an activity because you find it interesting, enjoyable, or satisfying. For example, studying a subject you are passionate about.

2. Extrinsic Motivation:

This is driven by external rewards or pressures. It’s when you perform an activity to achieve a specific outcome, such as good grades, praise, or a scholarship.

Both types of motivation are important, and understanding how they influence you can help you harness them effectively.

Questions/Issues for you to think about:

  • Are you clear about your goals?
  • Are you successful in both
  • Are you successful in both setting and achieving your goals?
  • Do you believe you can be a successful student?
  • Do your beliefs about yourself and college help you succeed, or do you have self-sabotaging beliefs?
  • Do you think high achievement is more a matter of luck than effort?
  • Do you think your academic abilities are something you were just born with or do you think there are things you can do to help yourself earn better grades?

It is important to re-discover your purpose of being in college and continuing to dream about your plans. This intentional reflection can lend to your ability to…

  • Design a life you are proud of and sustainable routines
  • Deliver a “product” you feel proud of - whether it is a mindset or grades or a passion you are proud of
  • Not settle! Continue to lean into failure, feel proud of your progress, and reflect on your purpose when you’re feeling less driven


Procrastination is a common challenge for college students. It can hinder your academic performance and increase stress. Procrastination often stems from fear of failure, perfectionism, or simply being overwhelmed by the task at hand. Not sure which type of procrastinator you are? Try taking this quiz. Discovering Your Procrastination Style

Here are some tips and techniques that can help you manage your time and tasks more effectively:

  1. Know (and accept) how you tend to process assignments—if you need extra time to read, plan, outline research, or check your work, be sure to build that into your schedule as much as you are able to do so.

  2. Tap into your thoughts-- Are you operating from fear around this task? Are you bored by this task? Overcoming Procrastination - Guidelines for Thinking

  3. Time Blocking: Allocate specific time slots for different tasks throughout your day. This helps in structuring your schedule. Try to overestimate the time it would take you to do a task. Visit the time management page for more tips!

  4. Task Lists: Break down your tasks into smaller, manageable steps. Use checklists to track your progress.

  5. Learn from past mistakes—if cramming for an exam or pulling an all-nighter was not successful once, it is not likely to be successful every time you face a tough assignment. Similarly, professors can actually tell when you put effort into an assignment and when you seem to have done it in a rush without much thought or consideration.

  6. Know when and how to ask for and seek support-- some people tend to procrastinate when they know a task will be particularly challenging. Finding someone who can make things easier to understand may remove some of the frustration and allow you to complete your task earlier. We also encourage someone to keep you accountable when a task is looming over you.

  7. Eliminate Distractions: Identify and remove sources of distraction, such as social media or noisy environments. Think about your most productive days and try to recreate the environment. Were you at a bustling spot like Rice Coffeehouse? Or were you in a quiet spot like the upper levels of the library?

Reflection Take a moment to reflect on your procrastination habits: 

  • What tasks do you tend to procrastinate on the most?

  • What are the common distractions that lead you to procrastinate?

  • How do you feel when you procrastinate versus when you complete tasks on time?

Write down your thoughts and consider sharing them with a friend or mentor for additional insights.


Let's create a simple action plan to tackle one task you've been procrastinating on:

Step 1: Identify the Task
Write down a specific task you've been putting off.

Step 2: Break It Down
Divide the task into smaller, manageable steps. This makes the task less daunting and easier to start.

Step 3: Set a Timeline
Allocate time for each step. Use the Pomodoro Technique or Time Blocking to schedule your tasks.

Step 4: Take Action
Start with the first step. Focus on completing it without worrying about the entire task. We encourage completing a first draft. Challenge any perfectionism and give yourself permission for the draft to not be perfect.


Task: Write a 4 page research paper.


  1. Research the topic and gather sources (2 hours).

  2. Create an outline (1 hour).

  3. Write the introduction (30 minutes).

  4. Write the main body (3 hours).

  5. Write the conclusion (30 minutes).

  6. Edit and proofread (1 hour).

By breaking down the task and setting a timeline, you can reduce the overwhelming feeling that often leads to procrastination. Remember, the key to overcoming procrastination is to start small and stay consistent.