All of us will find ourselves procrastinating at some point, it’s totally normal. But for some of us the run up to exams can leave us so distracted we just can’t think straight and procrastination seems to be the only option.
“The knowledge of impending exams stresses me out a lot but this somehow makes me procrastinate even more” says TSR member laurenkl. AnotherAbi procrastinates for two reasons: "I'm scared of failing and I'm thinking it’s too late to make a difference". Sound familiar?
A* procrastinators read on, here are 10 simple steps that will help you to achieve your U grade in procrastination.
What is procrastination?
First up, you’re not being lazy. You have good intentions, you’ve made a study plan, and you know what your objectives are for your study session. Then this happens...
Sound familiar? Before you know it you’ve lost 30 minutes trying to unravel all these options that might or might not improve your study session and make you more productive. Cue: a tidal wave of negative thoughts:
So if you’re not being lazy, what is going on? Well try to think of procrastination as a personal fear of action which is generated through fear of failure. Although at that point in time the rational part of you has a plan and is committed to that plan, there is an irrational part of you that shouts louder and tempts you with a million reasons why you can’t do it.
This means that to send procrastination off packing you will need to change the way you think and the way you set your study goals.
Be your own coach
1. Start talking to yourself positively
First up listen to the negative way you are talking to yourself. Telling yourself continually that you "won’t achieve your goals" or "there just isn't any point making the effort" will only wear you down. The chances are that if a friend spoke to you in this way you would have ditched them a long time ago – now it’s time to start coaching yourself, replacing the negative chatter with positive talk. This will help you because it will limit negative thinking which will help you to continue to focus on your goals.
2. Learn from your procrastinating ways
Learn from your mistakes and note down the times that you tend to procrastinate. Do you see a pattern? The chances are, you are an A* procrastinator when you have to study for a subject which makes you feel anxious. But when it's your favourite subject time just seems to fly by. By understanding what makes you procrastinate you will identify the causes and find solutions. So next time it happens you won’t feel inadequate or useless because you’ll know yourself better and will have a strategy in place to deal with it.
3. Free yourself from perfectionism
This hinders productivity. A lot of the time we question whether this is actually the “right time” to do something because it doesn't feel like the right time or because you want it to be “perfect now” and right now you feel like you won’t create something that is “spot on” so "what is the point"? Once you get into this habit, procrastination becomes easy to slip into. “I blame my need for my revision periods to go perfectly the way I want them to i.e. starting early in the morning, feeling fresh and just finishing one topic after the other, which never happens out so it gets frustrating” says TheStoryTeller. Stop fantasising about the “perfect time” and dreaming of amazing results. Instead try breaking down what you want to achieve in to smaller chunks, make it clear in your mind what you need to do to feel like you have accomplished something, and give yourself a time-frame.
4. Start listening to your body
Remember you can’t be on it all of the time, sometimes you just won’t be able to focus. “I procrastinate when I've done enough for the day and need a break from studies” says Mary562. Listen to your body, if you’ve worked hard and your brain feels overloaded, you’re not procrastinating or being lazy, your body is telling you to get rest.
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Change the way you think about learning
5. Fall back in love with your subject
Remember why you chose it and why you like learning it and use this to help you focus. Make “becoming an expert in your subjects” a personal study goal and leave the grade predictions in the classroom. Each time you come across a study obstacle, re-frame it in your mind as a study challenge which through achieving it will take you one step towards your personal goal of becoming an expert in your subject.
6. Change the goal of each study session
If the goal of your study or revision session is always “to work towards achieving my A grade” you’re going to have a tricky time of it. That’s a huge goal and not manageable. Is it measurable? How will you know that the work you've completed in the session will help you get the grade? The answer is you can’t, which is probably why you’re procrastinating every time you try to study. Take the time to break down your A grade goal into smaller goals which span weeks, or even days depending on how much you feel you need to do.
7. Give yourself a confidence injection
Always list out what you want to achieve in your study session. List tasks with a timescale which you are confident you will complete and make sure you tick them off as your work through them. This will help you to restore confidence in your abilities to focus on your revision and get it done without all the pressure.
Get on top of your time keeping
8. Be time savvy
Get back to basics and review your time management. Your focus and work will improve because you’re not busy stressing that you’re running out of time. Review what subjects or tasks take up the most or least of your time and make sure you allocate
time accordingly. Getting better at time-keeping now will also undoubtedly help you come exams when you'll be answering questions under timed conditions.
9. Try a different strategy for your "weaker" subjects
For the subject areas where you feel weaker allocate more time to them. But rather than devoting a large chunk of time, break down the task into smaller tasks with time frames. The moment you allocate too little time and sense that you’re never going to get through all of your work in a study session the negative talk and self-sabotage will begin, procrastination temptation will begin to loom.
By breaking down big chunks of study it will feel less overwhelming, you’ll feel less pressure and this process will prepare you mentally in advance because you’ve already recognised that you’re not going to find this work as easy as some of your other subjects. That will automatically keep the lid on the negative self-talk. Keep ticking of these tasks and take a moment to recognise that you’re getting through it all. Positive self-talk like “I’m feeling really proud of myself for working though that” can really help you to keep up the study momentum.
10. Start treating yourself
Remember that A* procrastinators try to motivate themselves by focusing on negative outcomes that will happen if they don't do something. Instead motivate yourself with positive outcomes and plan these little treats in at the same time you schedule your revision or general study time. By doing this you'll stay in a positive mindset for your study session and enjoy your treat all the more. You can then return to your study feeling refreshed and ready to work.
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Which of these tips do you find most helpful? Do you have something that works for you, that isn't mentioned here?