Academic Task Avoidance: A Subtle Struggle

Mimi, a BSc. candidate, admits she has always been a pessimist. Her anxiety steadily increased when she started college. She spent last Saturday locked up in her apartment, heavily surrounded by multiple textbooks, notepads, pens, a calculator, a MacBook Pro and screamingly colorful sticky notes and flashcards. She would briefly gaze at her laptop screen, browse through a full-page rubric for clear descriptions of the various parts of a term paper she had to complete and submit before or by 11:59PM eastern time on Sunday. It wasn’t until 10:00PM on Saturday when Mimi finally took on this five-page research paper that is worth 20% of her final course grade.

Though subtle, Mimi is battling anxiety-induced procrastination. But she is not alone: the tendency of bumping against deadlines is commonplace among students, especially those at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Academic task avoidance is a relentless disease every contemporary student is struggling with. 

Most students stress out over assignments, especially essays or mathematical tasks. And, the higher the level of anxiety, the higher the level of procrastination. This is what drives students like Mimi into waiting until the last minute to tackle their school works. And while some blame the lack of self-confidence as a root cause of such nervousness, others have identified the fear of failure as a prominent recipe of procrastination among students. Statistics anxiety is another critical factor fueling deeply entrenched procrastination tendencies among students. Most students, including Mimi, are intimidated by statistics which ignites their procrastination.

It is however ironical that while no student wishes to underperform in his or her coursework, almost every student is guilty of shrugging off the thought of focusing on writing an essay or research paper ahead of deadlines. In Mimi’s case, she waited until the last minute to begin a five-page paper that required detailed analysis backed by in-text citation from at least four scholarly sources. A former course mate of mine actually completed the research aspect of her assignments, drafted her findings but dragged the final compilation process until the last minute. This, too, is a type of academic procrastination.

But here are three tips for flushing out academic anxiety:

  • Effective time management, self-discipline, as well as anxiety management are key remedies to consider:

Effective time management is especially critical to academic success considering today’s rapid technological advancement. Today’s students are swamped by myriad digital gadgets as well as software applications in which they, either consciously or unconsciously, invest a hefty portion of their time. Social media, for example, have proven to be unrelentingly contagious and effective at keeping people glue to them. It is ok to take a necessary break from such distractions or time wasters to focus on that term paper or project.

  • Never stop reminding yourself of your ultimate goal:

This is extremely important. My high school principal always said: “…. focus on your academic tasks today and have all the fun tomorrow……there’s more sleep after death.” Indeed, investing quality time into your coursework today will set you up for success tomorrow. Remember, it takes a lot of studying, late nights, missing out on fun stuff here and there to make sure that project is properly done and ready for submission on time. Setting and sticking to goals is all about sacrificing.

  • Commit to doing your academic tasks as they come in:

Line them up, such as (a) essay writing, (b) exam preparation, and (c) staying up-to-date with weekly readings, and take them on in a coordinated manner. Dividing coursework into various parts reduces procrastination.


How are you overcoming academic anxiety? We would love to hear your thoughts. Please drop a comment below….

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