Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Monday, June 4, 2018

Procrastination Avoidance

A report is due next week, and I could do it today.  However, I think tomorrow is a better time to complete it.  The next day, I think tomorrow is a better time to complete it.  The 1L appellate brief is due, but facebook is much more fun than Lexis.  The Statute of Limitations runs next week, but I know I can draft a petition in no time.  Sound familiar?  I won’t assume any of you encounter these problems, but I am sure you talk to students about them.

Procrastination is a problem in law schools, and honestly, throughout society.  Some people always think tomorrow is a better day or justify putting something off because he/she works well under pressure.  Procrastination strategies have serious ramifications in law school, on the bar exam, and especially, the practice of law.  Any time is a great time to stop procrastinating.

Stopping procrastination is easier said than done, but I am recommending a short and great book to my students titled Solving the Procrastination Puzzle by Timothy Pychyl.  Pychyl researched procrastination, and he wrote the book to make it easy to apply in everyday life.

Pychyl addresses all the comments we hear from students and explains why people have certain procrastination feelings, why the feelings are wrong, and how to overcome putting off the task.  He discusses how most of our explanations are merely justifications for procrastination behavior.  People tend to always think tomorrow is a better day than today to complete a difficult task (affective forecasting).  Unfortunately, tomorrow is always a day away, and nothing is completed.  We never really feel like doing it tomorrow, so we continually delay. 

He also addresses the common justification of working better under stress.  Many of our students, and many attorneys unfortunately, think waiting to the last minute produces better work product.  His research indicates what we all know.  Last minute writing leads to more errors and less accuracy.  Our students could overcome the errors in undergrad by being near the top of the class.  We all know that doesn’t work in LRW or in front of judges in practice.

The good news is he provides practical actions to overcome those issues and others, including digital distractions.  Each chapter has a mantra to help get past the delay.  He does emphasize just getting started, but he moves beyond just telling readers to start.  He provides good mental models and advice to overcome procrastination.  His advice could make a huge difference for many of our students putting off briefs and outlines.  I will definitely recommend to my students.

(Steven Foster)

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