3rd Quarter blues: beware procrastination payback time

Third quarter is break-down time

It just is. Lost in the middle of a long year, things get tough.  You just got through midterms and the end of the 2nd quarter, you had a nice winter break, then, bam! School is back, and hard.

In Q3 teachers are off their game, too. They’re either panicked for having gotten off track from their pacing and lesson plans, overwhelmed from grading and making new plans, or distressed that students aren’t where they should be. Worse, administrators are having their own panic and are throwing meetings and putting  more demands on teachers, worsening the load for everyone.

Students can feel it in the classroom. Especially those students who didn’t do so well in the first term.

Research shows: procrastinators slide through the fall and stress the spring

When I was teaching high school, I noticed that grades tended to drop this time of year. It made sense, because what I was expecting from students now was built upon the work of the first semester, and students who had not followed were completely lost, and that made it all the more difficult for them to keep up with new material, much less catch up on the old.

With teachers cramming things in, students who have fallen behind in the first semester will now have to pay for their past procrastination. Sadly, many won’t figure it out until the 4th quarter, or worse, and only when panic takes over.

Turns out that research confirms it. Dr. Timothy A. Pychyl of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University tells me that a study by Tice & Baumeister reveals that student procrastinators feel less stress than other students during the Fall term, then suffer far more stress in the Spring (see links below). Makes sense: they put off work during the first term, which kept them loose and free and with plenty of spare time to do what they want. Come February, it’s procrastinator payback time.

How I fought back

In order to defend against the Third Quarter grades drop, I started what became the A+ Club by “inviting” low-performing students to see me after school (academic detention). All they had to do was to tell me what was due that day and what was due tomorrow. It was magical! Suddenly, the kids were more aware and doing their work and on time.

Their grades improved so significantly that the Q3 averages for the entire Sophomore class went up based upon those Fs and Ds becoming Cs, Bs, and As in my one class. Their better workflow for me also helped them in their other classes, as they were more confident and now understood that they can do their work.

It was magical, and that simple process of articulation and awareness led directly to our A+ Club student support service.

Now, we are dedicating ourselves to helping kids act on their articulation and awareness — and applying their long term goals to immediate workflow. We aim to defeat procrastination!

Avoiding Procrastinator Payback, aka “Bad Debt”

Whether or not you had a good first semester, the Third Quarter is crucial to keeping or getting your school year straight. The more aware you are of your procrastination habits the better able you will become in order to overcome them.

When we put things off, we’re assuming that our “Future-self” can handle it, only later. Guess what Future-self will have to say about it: yep, it’s either OMG, or pass it along to Future-future-self.

It’s like a credit card that’s used up, or a check written with no funds in the bank. Putting it off tomorrow means having to pay more later.

While the assignment may seem too daunting, too big, or even just too boring or useless, the least you can do is to start on it. Ask yourself how you will feel tomorrow if you just start it today. You know the answer, although you still may not feel like it.

Sure, you’re stressed, sure, you’ve got better things to do. But just start a little bit, and tomorrow will be thankful to today. And maybe, just maybe, once you start you’ll find it’s not so bad, after all.

Let’s get Q3 going right!

– Michael


Giving in to Feel Good: Why Self-regulation Fails
Focusing on regulating mood can lead to self-control failure in other areas.


In fact, earlier research conducted by Tice & Baumeister across two academic terms demonstrated that procrastination caught up to students in the second term. Whereas in the first term, the non-procrastinators were more stressed, by second term the costs of procrastination became obvious for the procrastinators in terms of course performance, stress and illness.

Finishing High School and “Senioritis” (Academic Letdown)
Slacking off senior year for social fun can be expected, and also prove costly

– Michael