While I’ve only scratched the surface of procrastination so far, in this post I want to dig deeper into human psychology to reveal why we keep saying things like I’ll do it tomorrow, but we never do.
But first, let me ask you question:
You hate studying, right?
When we hate something, we try to avoid to avoid it. Don’t we?
We anticipate anxiety, anger, frustration or guilt, and we feels much better when we ignore our negative emotions and have fun instead.
So when we avoid studying because it makes us feel bad, what should we do?
Simple. Allow studying to make us feel good.
How? By changing the way we think about studying.
You may be thinking “Why do I need to do these stupid biology problems? I’m never going to study cell division again“.
But top performers say “Well, cell division isn’t my favourite biology topic, but I guess it’s good to know stuff about my body so I can understand what a medic explains to me when I’m ill.”
A few more examples:
Pessimistic: Ugh. I hate maths. Stupid algebra!
Optimistic: I’m not too fond of math, but a great understanding will allow me to make calculations and ensure that people don’t deceive me in business. Or even so my boss can’t trick me about the pay I get.
Pessimistic: Oh my gosh. I can’t stand literary analysis.
Optimistic: Literary analysis doesn’t seem very enticing, but I’ll learn to communicate my ideas clearly and understand what others are saying.
A few tweaks in the language we use can go a long way to improving our study habits and reducing procrastination.
The Understimulated Mind
But in some cases language alone is not the solution.
Like when you’re staring at dull, boring textbook pages filled with long lists of definitions. And when you’re mechanically flipping the pages every few minutes to escape the prison that this thick volume is creating.
I’ve tried to describe the boredom and monotony surrounding reading assignments – which hopefully for you is an exaggeration – and how we subconsciously deal with this stress before we start to procrastinate: our thoughts drift away from our studies.
We crave stimulating and interactive experiences, and we favour activities like checking our e-mail over the passive task of reading.
We want to study, and our brain craves action. What can we do?
We can use active study techniques over superficial activities like listening to podcasts.
Things like solving past paper question and simulating constructive and destructive waves using a bucket of sand and water have helped me to study 50% less and perform better on tests.
So amp up the energy and visit an elderly home to study the impacts of an ageing population or analyse McDonalds advertisements to understand how they’re creating a consumer culture.
Remember, studying is not a spectator sport!
Even if you study actively with a variety of interesting activities, the world around you may have more to offer. Think of all the hypes on social media, the viral posts and motivational quotes.
We’re flooded with stimuli from Facebook, Google and Twitter, all of which seem to require immediate action (we’re wired to respond to changes in our environment).
What can we do?
Either we hang out on social media first (but beware all the sitmuli that lure you in for the rest of the day) and then rush to finish our work at 9 pm; or we work and avoid all of those seductive platforms.
You choose whichever one you prefer; I’d go for option 2 to avoid getting caught up in social media.
As a last hint you’ll be much more productive if you do these three steps right now:
Think of work you dread that is due soon.
Think positively about the assignment.
Start working on it.
Come back here and tell me how it went. I bet you’ll have something to say!