Procrastinators Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from chronic procrastination.

College student in dire need of help

Hello all, I'm new to this forum but I've been a procrastinator as long as I can remember.
I'm a freshman in college and aspire to one day become a surgeon. Unfortunately, I leave everything for the last minute. Today I needed to turn in a very complex paper for a philosophy class that I thought that I would be able to do the night before...I failed. I've actually just finished e-mailing my professro as to why I'm staying home and missing his class. "I need more time to finish the paper. I thought that I could do it last night but I was mistaken. Attached is what I have written so far"-that's what I wrote to him (in a nutshell).
I'm so easily distracted. I begin watching T.V. knowing that in the back of my mind I'm procrastinating, but thinking that I'll be able to finish it in a snap.
I'm sure I'm not the only student with this problem. Does anyone have any advice?

Take advantage of school resources

Personally, I give you credit for confessing your mistaken belief to your professor.  You have stared the problem in the face and not blinked.  Now, what do you do next?

You might want to check around at school and see what resources are available to you.  Colleges and universities are filled with people who procrastinate, so someone there should be available to help.  This may mean going to the counseling center or psych services, but the methods you can learn there will help you in more than just schoolwork.

Neil Fiore, who wrote The Now Habit, was a psychologist on staff at a university, which gave him a lot of exposure to procrastination.  In his book, he tells stories of graduate students who procrastinated for years on their theses and dissertations.  You are not alone.

For first steps, I'll suggest these two things: 

  1. Work on removing distractions -- if this means spending time in the library so there is no TV nearby, then that's what you do in order to maintain your focus.
  2. Make a point of starting, and thinking about starting.  Even working on something for five minutes at a time adds up, and starting can build momentum that keeps you going for more than five minutes.  :)  Thinking about finishing can put a lot of extra pressure on you.

If you want to learn more about ways to unlearn your procrastination habits, I suggest The Now Habit or The Procrastinator's Handbook by Rita Emmett as good places to start.  You might also be interested in some time management books like Time Management from the Inside Out (Julie Morgenstern) or Do It Tomorrow (Mark Forster).

You do not have to give up the things you enjoy in order to become productive -- Fiore suggests that you make firm commitments to "play" before you figure out when you want to start work.

You have found yourself in a painful and embarrassing situation brought on by your procrastination.  Now you must start on changing your habits.  Start small, but start -- and keep starting until you really are getting work done.

-- flexiblefine