February 2020 -->

Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

How to Manage Procrastination and Brain Fog

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Have you logged onto social media today? It is almost impossible to avoid. News, events, and social gatherings can all be found on your social media platform. The next thing you know, you realize you have been on social media for hours. Now, what does social media have to do with brain fog and procrastination? First, allow me to provide a personal definition of  brain fog: It is a sense or a feeling as if you cannot recall any information or even produce information relevant to what you are currently doing; for example, writing a course paper. Due to the lack of recalling information or producing information towards the course paper, we find ourselves delaying the task of completing the course paper. Delaying the taskbetter known as procrastinatingmeans doing anything else but the course paper. According to The Huntington News, a student newspaper from Northwestern University, the main tool college students use in procrastination is social media. Sixty-four percent of college students polled in the study indicated that they lose their train of thought after scrolling through social media!

Icon Set, Social Media, World, Digital, Analog, Media
Image used with permission from Pixabay
Anxiety presents another layer to brain fog, which can lead to procrastination. The Social Anxiety Institute stated that anxiety increases as we place too many tasks on ourselves at once. This can lead to procrastination because of the excessive number of tasks to complete. Additionally, Dr. Harriet Learner in Psychology Today also stated that anxiety causes brain fog. Frequently we assume doing something unrelated to writing a course paper can help us towards getting the course paper completed. With that said, we might reflect on whether procrastination on social media is just adding to or maintaining our list of tasks to complete, perpetuating anxiety.

Short term anxiety can create short term brain fog, and long term, or chronic, anxiety can be a powerful force—but thankfully, not a permanent force. When it comes to writing a course paper, it is easy to think too far into the future (being afraid of a negative outcome of the course paper), and not be mindful of the moment, or utilize tools that help us to break down the task.

In my work towards my doctorate degree, I’ve gone down the social media dark hole as well as dealt with significant personal and professional challenges, sending my anxiety overboard and placing me in what feels like a huge brain fog. By working to overcome procrastination and brain fog has helped me move closer towards finishing. Below, I’ve included a few tips to help you with procrastination and brain fog:

1. Therapy: Therapy has been the most excellent tool in my academic success at Walden University. Therapy helps me talk through life’s obstacles that may place me into brain fog. As mentioned earlier, anxiety can lead to brain fog, but so can depression, grief, sadness, or trauma. Therapists work closely with their clients to help resolve these issues. Resolution can lead to success once the client is open to seeking opportunities that will help them thrive, both personally and academically. 

2. Breaks from social media: Technology like smartphones and computers allow us to be constantly "plugged in" to the news and current events. Being plugged into social media too much feeds procrastination and could lead to anxiety. One way to address this is to make social media applications less easy to access. You might consider removing these apps from your phone or using website blockers or timers to limit your access.

3. To-do list or planners: I am willing to give the office supply store my income based on planners alone. Not only do I love them, but planners and to-do lists keep me on track and organized. I use them to ensure I am not missing out on anything important, such as assignments, webinars, meetings, and coursework related tasks. Staying organized keeps me on track and helps me to avoid procrastination.

4. Meditation and Mindfulness: As a yoga instructor, I know that the purpose of meditation and mindfulness is to consider the thoughts that make us feel upset, sad, or anxious and to focus on the thoughts that make us feel empowered, happy, refreshed, energetic, and accomplished. It’s the practice of knowing and focusing on the “now” and not “back then” and “in the future.” Using meditation and mindfulness when dealing with brain fog, as the writer, helps to focus on what you are doing, in that very moment. Meditation and mindfulness help the student to focus on their ability to produce the very best course paper by encouraging focus on that exact task and nothing else. By focusing on being in that very moment of creating a paper, you can navigate out of your brain fog!

It is not necessary to do everything on this list, but I challenge you to try one you think could help you move through procrastination and brain fog. Don’t you worry, you got this! Happy writing!



Patrese Nesbitt is a writing intern at the Walden University Writing Center. She enjoys reading articles that are inspirational, in addition to doing research on how certain physical movement patterns help with mental health. As a doctoral candidate in Walden University’s Public Health Program, she is eager to find ways to intrinsically and extrinsically motivate people to live an improved and upgraded quality of life.


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