Suggestions for Teens (and Others) Who Procrastinate

Suggestions for Teens (and Others) Who Procrastinate

Education September 18, 2017 / By Joanne Foster, EdD
Suggestions for Teens (and Others) Who Procrastinate

Do you procrastinate trying to stop procrastinating? Here's help for teenage procrastinators—but adults can benefit from the five strategies, and the resources, too.

“While thinking about strategies you will want to be flexible, sensitive, creative, and sensible.”  

Want to stop procrastinating but keep putting it off? You're not alone! And, fortunately, you can adjust your way of thinking.

You can get frustrated—OR you can look at procrastination constructively by figuring out (possibly together with those whom you trust), how to address the particular situation—and your avoidance behavior. There are hundreds of procrastination-busting strategies that you can try. They vary in accordance with the underlying reason[s] for procrastinating. (Click here for a resource book for teens, and here for one for parents.)

The following five tips are geared for procrastinators who want to try and do something about their procrastination now. (I invite parents and teachers to take note, too.)

1. Figure out what motivates you. Maybe it’s challenge. Or creative expression. Or choice. Or familiar routines. Or flexibility. Or reassurance. Or fun. Or incentives. Or feelings of pride about personal progress. Or finding enjoyment in learning and accomplishments. The possibilities are endless, and they will differ from one person to the next. If something is personally relevant (that is, it connects meaningfully with your life, interests, or vision for the future), that relevance can be very motivating. Think about what motivators might work for you, and how to use them to your advantage.

2. Redefine your view of what positive outcomes look like. In "Bust Your BUTS," I offer the following suggestion: You can learn to define your own success, and the path you want to take to get there. It may be by improving on something you can already do, or by progressing a little rather than a lot. Success is not necessarily about grades. Or prizes. Or applause. Success means something different to everyone. If you’re willing to challenge your understandings of success, and you don’t focus exclusively on big accomplishments, you’ll experience more successes—and greater confidence.” (p.34)

3. Think carefully about when and why you procrastinate. There are many different reasons for procrastination—which may occur occasionally, more often, or frequently. Regardless, there are ways to prevent, eliminate or manage it. For instance, if the reason you procrastinate is because something is too easy or monotonous, you might mix in elements of creativity, surprise, competition, or intrigue. If procrastination is due to difficulties with time management, you can explore the many available resources and technological apps. If after-school nagging, or opposing viewpoints about expectations are stirring up negative emotions and power struggles, then step back or aside and strive to de-escalate the conflict. And, if evening distractions around the house are problematic, then vow to get rid of them! The important thing is to become aware of what might be having an impact on your behavior, and to be willing to take action to become more productive.

4. Cut yourself some slack. If you tend to procrastinate, and you feel overwhelmed or worried about this, try not to get too stressed. Be kind to yourself, and don’t compromise your need to do the things that matter the most to you. Life is filled with busyness, and ever-increasing demands. Often, these can be daunting. And, in the context of all of this, people often fail to recognize the importance of calming down, taking careful stock of what’s happening, and engaging in what's sometimes called “purposeful contemplation.” Reflection can fuel creativity, productivity, and self-confidence. It’s okay—indeed, it’s beneficial—to take time to relax, reflect, set a reasonable pace, and even feel bored. (Researchers Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire write about the importance of this in an article published in the "Harvard Business Review.")

5. Set attainable goals. Educator Benjamin E. Mays said, “It isn't a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for.” Goals are important because they provide an impetus for learning, and therefore help people grow in new and exciting ways. Aspiring toward a goal can be motivating, and reaching it can be very satisfying. When setting a goal, try to ensure that it’s timely, relevant, and reachable, otherwise you may be tempted to procrastinate. Be patient as you proceed, and take things one step at a time. Make adjustments along the way if need be. And, if you run into obstacles, don’t give up. Take pride in what you've achieved. Consider asking for help or sharing the load by collaborating with others. Think of overcoming procrastination as a chance to learn and improve—and resolve to persevere.

Last Words

   "With enthusiasm you can change your world."

Once you feel motivated, and have a sense of what success looks like, an awareness of when and why you procrastinate, faith in yourself, and a meaningful goal to aspire toward, you’ll be better able to move forward. You’ll be prepared to begin. Which means you’ll be less likely to procrastinate. In the whole scheme of things, it’s wise to adopt that age-old adage “ready, set, go!” That is, to develop a plan of action, tap your personal strengths, and get started doing whatever it is you have to do.


References: The first quote is from "Not Now, Maybe Later" (p.49). The final quote is from "Bust Your BUTS" (p. 32).


For more on procrastination, see Not Now Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination (2015), and Bust your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate (2017), both published by Great Potential Press. Further information can also be found in Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster (House of Anansi Press, 2014). Find out more about these books at and acquire additional resources at

See “How to Stop Procrastinating? Draw on Your Personal Strengths!” on the Roots of Action website. 

An article for parents and kids about procrastination and power struggles is featured on The New Family website. 

Beatrice Elye’s book Teen Success: Ideas to Move Your Mind! is full of helpful advice. 

If you want a light-hearted view on why kids put things off, take a couple of minutes to watch The Procrastination Movie clip on You Tube. 

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers: The Ultimate Teenage Success Guide by Sean Covey is an excellent read. 

Check out Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire (Tarcher Perigee, 2015)—an inspiring book on developing creative and productive energy.  

For additional articles on, procrastination, productivity, creativity, and more, see the column “Fostering Kids’ Success” at The Creativity Post.

comments powered by Disqus