Online learning imparts a flexibility that traditional face-to-face learning does not. For some, this flexibility might result in procrastination.

According to Carleton professor and member of the Procrastination Research Group, Tim Pychyl, our ability to stop procrastinating is an emotion regulation issue. If you procrastinate, you might still get a good grade, but you might also open yourself up to a wide range of negative health outcomes.

Pychyl recommends using these five tips to get back on track:

1. Remove distractions

Time management skills and self-control alone are not sufficient to address procrastination. It’s important to minimize distractions by finding a quiet study space and avoid using your phone or accessing social media.

2. Think about your next action

Motivation follows action. At some point you are probably not going to feel like doing a task you need to do. But it’s important to recognize that you can still complete a small, concrete action toward your goal, without ignoring your emotions. It can be a small action, like clicking on cuLearn to see what is assigned. But make it concrete. Once you have carried out that action, think about the next concrete step, and so on.

3. Use tools to help

Calculating a big math problem is easier to do on paper than exclusively in your head. This is called extended cognition – we extend our ability to think by using tools. To cut procrastination, we need extended will. Try setting up a home study space or enlisting a friend to encourage you and keep you accountable.

4. Imagine your future self with empathy

Pychyl’s research has revealed that in the fight between present self and future self, present self usually wins. Try to imagine yourself in the future, whether at the end of the week or the end of the term, and develop empathy for that person.

5. Forgive yourself

Procrastination is about emotion regulation. Research shows that people who forgave themselves were less likely to procrastinate in the future. It’s human nature to make mistakes, but we have to be willing to forgive ourselves and move forward.

In summary, a good motivator to stop procrastinating is to recognize the consequence of our inaction. If you are having difficulty starting a project and want to procrastinate, consider the possible ramifications, then implement Pychyl’s five suggested tips to get started.