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Are you a perfectionist? Do you have high demands on yourself?

You are not alone. In the General Study Counselling we talk to a lot of students who experience perfectionism which complicates their studying/study life?

Some experience a lot of pressure and stress because of their high expectations. Others often experience feeling disappointed in themselves. Do you recognize any of that?

Then please keep on reading …

What is perfectionism?

Perfectionism can be a difficult tendency to have as a student. Perfectionism can make it very difficult to learn and study. It is important in the process of learning that you try on different strategies, make mistakes, and learn from it. If you do not let you yourself, make mistakes you can’t learn from them. Maybe you are hesitant to asking questions in the study group because you are nervous about being wrong?

This could be a sign of perfectionism.

Discussing the curriculum with your study group can be an important tool in learning, and if you fail to use this opportunity for learning it might disappear.

Perfectionism can also mean that it's hard to accept that it takes time to learn. Some people with perfectionism can become so focused on the result that they neglect the way to get there.

It takes time becoming proficient at studying at university and to become competent in your subject. That is why you have several years to practice at university. Becoming proficient requires hard work, and the students who are skilled have usually worked hard for it. If you are a perfectionist, you might have a hard time accepting things take time for you.

6 signs on perfectionism

Maybe you don't think of yourself as a perfectionist. Many perfectionists do not perceive themselves as perfectionists. In the General Study Counselling we often talk to students who do not think of themselves as perfectionists, but who nevertheless experience some of the negative sides to perfectionism.

Try to see if you can recognize some of these points:

  1. You make high demands on yourself, for example, getting good grades, having a lot of friends, being accomplished/ good at your student job, being a good girl -or boyfriend, being a good sibling, daughter, or son, looking good, exercising, eating healthy etc.
  2. You compare yourself to other students.
  3. You may find it difficult to get started solving tasks, because it is important to you that the task is solved perfectly on the first try.
  4. You have a hard time accepting when you make a mistake or if something is hard for you to learn.
  5. You think your less than excellent achievements are indifferent or a waste of time.
  6. You think if you do not do well, you're not good enough.

What can I do myself?

Fortunately, you can do a lot to work with your perfectionism. Remember that Rome was not built in one day.

  • Talk to others about your perfectionism. You will probably find that others know it too. When sharing your thoughts, you may experience friends or family telling you that you're good enough, even if you're not perfect.
  • Practice focusing on the benefits and learning you got out of that subject. Try to shift the focus away from recognition and grades to what you learned from the subject. It is not necessarily the subject in which you received the highest grade you learned the most from.
  • If your perfectionism is made worse by social media, take a break from it.
  • Practice spotting what you can learn from your mistakes. Try to focus on the process rather than the result. For example, you can learn a lot about yourself if you fail an exam. Maybe you learn that a subject is difficult and requires a lot of time and energy for you to learn it. Perhaps you learn that your study technique could benefit from an overhaul.

Are you bored studying?

Many students experience boredom studying. Maybe they think the syllabus is too difficult — or too easy. Maybe your situation at home takes up all your mental energy and your education feels indifferent. In other words, boredom can be a symptom that something is wrong.

Here are a few questions with accompanying ideas to search further.

  • Do you miss friends at university? Many students may have the feeling of being at university equals being lonely. We have written a bit about loneliness, where you can get ideas for finding friends at the university.
  • Are the studies too challenging for you? Perhaps you can benefit from getting yourself some new study techniquesOr maybe you are missing a good study group.
  • Is the education not challenging enough?
  • Do you need to do something about the fact that you are bored?

What is procrastination?

We meet many students here in the General Study Counselling who experience fighting procrastination.

Procrastination is caused by the way the human species is developed. It can be explained by the fact that humans are more motivated to do what clearly rewards us now than what creates a reward in the future. This is evolutionarily a very good mechanism. This is evolutionarily a very good mechanism. In this way, the people in prehistory have ensured that the basic needs were met ahead of the long-term plans. In other words, it has helped us do well as a species.

Humans often finds it is easier, nicer, and more important to just do the dishes, done laundry or gone for a walk with the dog than it is to write your exam paper.

What can you do about your procrastination?

Getting rid of your procrastination requires you to learn more about it. Why do you have this tendency and how does it control you?

Consider the following questions:

What are is my most typical procrastinations?

For example, checking SoMe, doing laundry, wiping the table, getting coffee, checking texts. The list can be long.

What are the benefits of this specific behavior?

Procrastination has some advantages for the person procrastinating and if you are going to get rid of your procrastination, you need to find out what the advantages and disadvantages are. Maybe you feel like procrastinating when the text or assignment is particularly demanding, and you feel lost or hopeless studying. If that is the case procrastinating might give you a “break” from the tedious task of studying, but since you feel you have not earned the right to a break yet, instead of taking an actual break you do the laundry. Then you do something you need to do, but you get a “break” from studying.

How does my procrastination reward me?

You may have discovered that if you do the dishes or put the laundry away as a procrastination, you do not have to do it during your spare time. Maybe you have experiences that you can better focus on reading if you reward yourself with time on Facebook.

Why should I stop procrastination?

Just as it is important to know why you're procrastinating, it's also important to know your motivation for quitting it. Try to think about what benefits it will have for you if you do not procrastinate. Perhaps there are some specific situations where procrastination is particularly troublesome. Maybe it's preventing you from achieving something you'd like to achieve.
Note your answers to the questions above, as this creates an overview. The questions can help you learning more about your motivation for changing your behavior. Read what you have written and consider the following:

Do the benefits of quitting procrastination outweigh the gains that procrastination is currently giving you?

All behavior has benefits and disadvantages. If you read above, you can learn more about benefits and disadvantages of procrastination. You need to decide for yourself if it more beneficial for you to keep procrastinating or to work on stopping this behavior.
If you know more about why you procrastinate you can try to meet your needs another way than procrastinating. If you need to talk with someone about your tendency to procrastinate, please book an appointment with the General Study Counselling.

What have you learned about yourself in describing the pros and cons of procrastination?

Perhaps you have learned that your need to do dishes is not at all about doing something practical at home, but rather is a need to move your body. Maybe you have learned that the need to check Facebook becomes much less if you take breaks.

Advice to reduce procrastination in student life

  • You may want to make a very detailed study plan. Make an overall semester outline and then a weekly schedule. In the weekly schedule, reading the syllabus or writing assignments must be divided into very specific tasks. It will ensure that you know what to start and at what time. If the task is non-specific, the tendency to skip increases. Read more about study structure and study technique.
  • Start studying on the first day of the semester. Start tasks as soon as you get them. Postponing tasks increases the tendency to procrastination.
  • Block social media or the entire internet if you use it to procrastinate.
  • Put your phone away.
  • If the urge to procrastinate pops up, write it down on a piece of paper that you have ready next to you. Then you remember it when you take time off and don't have to spend energy on it while reading.

Last Updated 07.02.2024