Procrastination and Student-Athletes

Nicki Moore, Ph.D.
Assistant Athletics Director for Psychological Resources
University of Oklahoma

What is procrastination?

  1. Dictionary.com says it is, “to put off till another day or time; defer; delay.”
  2. As a student-athlete, you have many responsibilities, so it may be tempting to “put off” a few things.
  3. If you find yourself avoiding or delaying doing something, you may be procrastinating, and it is probably hurting your performance.

How do you beat the habit of procrastination?

  1. As with any change that you want to make in your life, it is important to first examine “why change?” That is, for what reasons are you personally interested in changing?
  2. To facilitate this understanding, it can be helpful to make a 2 lists:
    1. Why I want to change
    2. Why I don’t really want to change

It might look something like this:  
Change I’m considering:“I want to reduce my procrastination on writing assignments.”  

Why I want to changeWhy I don’t really want to change
I could produce higher quality workI prefer to do other things
I would like to be less-stressedIt will take a lot of discipline & hard work
I’d get better grades, which helps my teamI get good enough grades
I would be more confident in my writingI like the freedom to do it however I want
With the time I’d save, I could do a lot of other things that are more funI’m kind of proud that I can procrastinate and get away with it

What do you gain by using this method?

  1. By writing down your reasons, you start to build motivation to change the unwanted behavior, or you begin to realize that you’re not committed to change after all. Either way it goes, it’s better than “riding the fence” and pretending like you want to change!
  2. Once you decide that you do, in fact, want to change a behavior, and you have a good sense of why you want to change, then it’s time to figure out what the smallest unit of change might be that you could successfully achieve.

Back to our procrastination example, let’s say that you have three different writing assignments on your plate.

  1. The smallest unit of change for that might be coming up with an action statement such as, “Today, I will write 1-3 points that I wish to make in this paper.”
  2. That’s it (assuming you have a little bit of time)!
  3. Now, if you happen to get on a roll after writing your three points, go for it, but if you don’t, simply put it away and be glad that you took some action!
  4. Before you put it away, however, it would be a good idea to decide on your next “small unit of action.”

Remember that significant behavioral change doesn’t happen overnight.

  1. Change takes time and solid, consistent repetitions.
  2. Think of it like building muscles... it takes day after day of going to the weight room, building up a little at a time. It takes eating right, getting good rest, and it takes a solid commitment to change your fitness level.
  3. Behavioral changes also take time, commitment, and consistent action.
  4. That said, there is no better time to start than today!
  5. It’s up to you to do it, but please remember that you have people in your life who can help. Don’t be afraid to call upon them for encouragement.  

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