How To Help Your Teen Overcome Procrastination

This in-depth look at teen procrastination earned Catherine of Girl Scout Troop 32973 the Girl Scout Silver Award.

This blog post was written by Catherine of Girl Scout Troop 32973 as part of her Girl Scout Silver Award project. Her Silver Award project aims to tackle procrastination which was identified as the root cause of academic related stress among students in middle school.

Does your teen put off doing their schoolwork? Do you need to remind your teen constantly about focusing on completing their schoolwork? You're not alone! A study conducted by educational company Magoosh found that 86% of high school students said they procrastinated on assignments. This blog post will give you the knowledge and tools you need to help your teen conquer procrastination. 

Understanding Why Teens Procrastinate

Procrastination isn't about laziness – it's about avoidance. There are a variety of reasons why teens procrastinate:

  • Perfectionism: The fear of not doing something perfectly can be paralyzing. Perfectionists believe that if they make a mistake, they are a failure so they avoid starting their work altogether and they don’t take on challenges in fear of not being perfect.    
  • Distractions: From social media to video games, there are numerous distractions that divert your teen’s focus away from their schoolwork. When your teen gets sidetracked, their work takes longer to complete and they don’t do their best work. 
  • Feeling Overwhelmed: When your teen has a lot of assignments to complete or when they are faced with a larger homework project, they can feel daunted by their schoolwork so they put off doing it because they don’t know where to start. When they avoid doing the schoolwork, it piles up. 

The first step to overcoming procrastination is to find out what triggers your teen’s procrastination. Click here to download a procrastination survey to help you find the causes of your teen’s procrastination. 

The High Cost of Procrastination 

Putting off school work leads to:

  • Stress and Anxiety: Rushed assignments, inadequate preparation for tests and missed deadlines result in poorer academic performance and lead to heightened levels of stress and anxiety for your teen.  
  • Low Self-Esteem: A cycle of missed deadlines and poorer grades can damage your teen's confidence.
  • Poor Sleep and Diet: Putting off homework and avoiding studying for tests leads to unhealthy habits which further impact their academic achievement. 

Strategies To Help Your Teen Overcome Procrastination

The good news is that with the right tools, your teen can conquer procrastination! Here are some practical strategies to help your teen defeat procrastination:

  • Minimize Distractions: Make a list of your teen’s favorite distractions and turn them off or remove them from their work space before starting work, or encourage your teen to study in a different space to create new routines without distractions.
  • Break Down Large Assignments Into Smaller, More Manageable Pieces: Often when your teen is overwhelmed with bigger homework assignments, they put them off because they get stuck, not knowing where to start. Breaking up a daunting task into smaller, more manageable tasks and only focusing on one step at a time can help them get unstuck. 
  • Develop a Schedule Together: Work with your teen to plan the best time of day for them to complete each task and create a daily or weekly schedule that incorporates study time, breaks, and leisure activities.
  • Prioritize Tasks: if your teen feels overwhelmed by how many tasks they have to complete, encourage them to make a list of all the tasks that need to be done and then help your teen to rank them according to which ones are most important and pressing. Once your teen has a place to start, the number of tasks won’t seem as daunting.
  • Practice Time Management Techniques: Working in focused intervals with short breaks, limits the amount of time your teen will focus on a task and taking regular breaks from effort helps them to maintain their focus better so they get more done in less time. This is called the Pomodoro Technique and it has been proven to help reduce procrastination. Experiment with different lengths of work intervals and break times to find out what works best for your teen. 
  • Celebrate the Wins: When your teen procrastinates, they have the reward system backwards. They enjoy the reward, an easy and fun activity such as playing a video game or messaging with their friends, before they complete the difficult or unpleasant schoolwork. Help your teen to flip things around by making a list of their favorite rewards and reward them each time they complete a task. Celebrating completed tasks with small rewards helps your teen to maintain motivation. 
  • Encourage Self-Compassion: Encourage your teen to focus on their qualities rather than their grades. Remind them that their self-worth isn’t determined by their achievements. Help them to find their inner coach by repeating positive mantras to themselves.  

Click here to download my Procrastination Toolbox with more practical strategies for overcoming procrastination. By working with your teen, you can find the right tools for them and, with practice, your teen can become a master of time management to reduce their anxiety and improve their academic achievements. Download a procrastination workbook with templates for the strategies given in the toolbox here

Useful Resources

You may find these books helpful: 

  1. Overcoming Procrastination for Teens: A CBT Guide for College-Bound Students by William J. Knaus, EdD
  2. The Perfectionism Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Reduce Anxiety and Get Things Done by Ann Marie Dobsz MA MFT

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