Do any of these sound familiar…
You feel like you have too many options, too many things to do and you’re not following through on any of them?
People around you seem to accomplish awesome grades without ever being stressed or overwhelmed, while you’re struggling to hand in homework on the day it is due?
You’re pulling all-nighters before exams, sacrificing your sleep and your health to achieve a decent grade, even though you could have aced the test with a week’s worth of preparation?
You open your internet browser to look up extra information on a topic you are studying, and only minutes later you’re on Facebook, Instagram or your E-Mail account?
If so, you’re probably struggling with procrastination.
Procrastination is a trait that was designed to protect us from stress or potentially dangerous actions. But nowadays, with fewer evolutionary threats and an already busy lifestyle, this can be a daunting problem. People want to exercise more, eat more healthily, be more commited to work, spend more time with their family, while only 8% of the people achieve their New Year’s Resolutions. Translated to school, 9 in 10 students will put off revision and homework to the last possible moment.
Fortunately I have these simple tips to help you follow through on your education:
- Quit the excuses
- Make starting easy
- Go public
Quit the excuses
It’s easy to use time as an excuse. How many times have your friends (or even you!) said something like…
- I’m sorry. I don’t have time right know.
- I’m to busy right know, but I’ll start when…
- I’ll try to make it next time.
We all have the same amount of time. Students, parents, children; everyone has 24 hours each day. It’s just a matter of what you make of them. More than often “no time” is a convenient excuse for not doing something you feel you should do.
Admit it when you don’t care
Out of all the things you want to do, how many are you really starting on?
If you’ve been putting off an activity for months (while you’ve been doing others), it probably isn’t important to you. Acknowledge this and move on. Be honest about your priorities and let go of the “should do’s”, even if that means spending less time on studying.
Make starting easy
Build a routine by making tiny steps forward
If you’re exhausted after a long day of classes and all you wanna do is slump down onto the couch to watch your favourite tv-show, are you going to sit down at your desk and open your school books? Probably not. But if you’ve been working on assignments every afternoon for the past two weeks, you are considerably more likely to do the same today. That is the power of habits.
How do you build your routine?
Commit to a mini-goal for two weeks. This should be as simple as reading a paragraph from your textbook each day or testing yourself on 20 flashcards. Do this for two weeks, and only then consider expanding.
Always do this at the same time of the day, so you don’t feel guilty for not doing it in the morning or after lunch (or whenever). NOTE: Guilt is not a productive emotion, as it only lasts so long. Once you get started, you no longer feel guilty, so guilt stops motivating you. You stop working until the guilt sets in. This is a vicious cycle.
2. Habit-stacking: Connect your new activities to already existing habits
You can tie your studying habit to something you do each day. For example: After I finish breakfast, I will read a chapter from my biology book. (It helps to have your biology book near the breakfast table so you’ve already started before your avoidance behaviour can kick in.
Set up a system like this and you’re on the path to success.
It’s all too easy to “quickly check your e-mail” or “look up that word you don’t understand”, and realise later that you have not accomplished anything. With the Internet being a major distraction (among others), I recommend that you turn off all electronic equipment (mobiles, tablets, laptops, computers) before a studying session and postpone their usage until you’ve worked for a certain period of time. In other words, procrastinate on your internet usage.
E-mail your work to your friends or practise a presentation over Skype a week before it is due. You can exchange ideas, give feedback and most importantly you make sure that both of you are keeping up.
Use this script today to ask someone to become your study-buddy:
I’m struggling to hand in my class work on time. I start writing essays the night before they are due, but I’d like to change that, so I have more time to review and proofread.
I think it would help me if you could keep me accountable and in return I would check on you. We could e-mail large assignments a week in advance, and send each other reminders to stay on track.
Please let me know if you’re interested, so we can see about the details.
Try one of the tips this week [or two, if you are up for a challenge] and let me know how it goes in the comments.