Navigating task paralysis

Via FIU Flickr.

Kailey Krantz-Diaz | Staff Writer

In a fast-paced world where we’re getting assignment after assignment, it’s pretty hard to wait for “the perfect moment” to sit down, collect yourself and start working.

It can stress students who are already working, paying bills, and raising families who are struggling to balance these additional responsibilities alongside their student duties. Working on assignments, attending classes, club meetings, job workshops and more– there’s no shortage of work they need to achieve to succeed.

This feeling, called task paralysis, is the “inability to start a task because you’re waiting for the perfect conditions or perfect timing.” 

Ellen Hendrickson, an assistant professor at Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, attributes this paralysis as a “freeze response [that] arises when we view a task (or many tasks) in front of us as a threat.”

Students can see this massive workload as a threat for various reasons, such as “the threat of failure,…the threat of letting other [students and professors] down… [and] the threat of feeling stupid or incompetent because we don’t know where to start or how to start things.”

I’m subjected to task paralysis whenever I open my Canvas app and see my assignment to-do list.

I get intimidated by what I have to do for the day. I’d like to get as much as I can each day before the end of the week to have a break to do things I enjoy, such as drawing, watching videos, and listening to music. 

While experiencing task paralysis can be annoying and frustrating, there are ways to break out of this cycle.

These are some ways to deal with task paralysis, from recognizing these emotions of fear and frustration to giving yourself a change of scene to do your work. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with assignments, you can speak with your professor to discuss the best course of action, such as late extensions or alternative deadlines. 

What I do to deal with it is use a planner. They help organize important dates and assignments to better plan your week. They’re also affordable, often found at the Dollar Tree or Walmart.

Via Crazy Head Comics / Change Counseling

Task paralysis can result from academic burnout, where you have been constantly working on assignments to the point you’re mentally tired out and can’t focus on anything else.

In this case, take a day off from work, detach yourself from that part of your life, and focus on recreational hobbies that help you relax and unwind.

It’s also okay to take deep breaths and get breaks in between assignments. Pausing and recognizing emotions of stress is good to come to terms with it and figure out a way to move forward and succeed. 

If you find yourself paralyzed, you’re not alone. It’s possible to manage it and take care of your mental health.


The opinions presented on this page do not represent the views of the PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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