Procrastination is a problem that I and almost everyone else has struggled with. When I was at university, I’d often wait until the last couple of days before an assignment was due before even starting, and even when I was studying I’d be easily distracted and inefficient.
So how do we study more effectively? As I’m not the most authoritative voice on this subject, I turned to others, and put out the following query:
How do you overcome procrastination and force yourself to study when you have to? Looking to hear unconventional or interesting methods people have. Personal stories welcome.
I got some great responses to that, and have included the best ones below. If you have an issue putting your head down and putting work in, I strongly recommend having a read through these responses! It’s likely that at least one will resonate with you, and quite possibly have a real impact on your efficiency. Also, if you have any tip(s) that aren’t written about below, you can also submit your own study tip here.
Our top 3 tips for students to be productive and avoid procrastination are what we call our CHECK-PLAN-DO method.
CHECK: Check in on what you need to do today while you get ready to face the day. Write down everything that needs to be completed, from whatever platform(s) your teachers may be using, whether with a pen or paper or in the notes app on your phone.
PLAN: Plan out the completion of each task, the plan for each action; when will you draft an essay? When will you submit it? etc. For work in progress, update the plan for completion if/as needed; for example, if you are doing a research project, you would first deconstruct the project guidelines before settling on a topic and then only after that would you begin your research and so on. Identify specific milestones to complete at specific times, and add them into the calendar on your phone.
DO: Do the work. Have to finish an assignment for tomorrow? Do it. Have a task due in two days but planned for completion today? Do it. Use a timer if you need extra help staying focused, set it and work until it goes off. Reward yourself with a little(!) break and then back to business until the work you need to have done today is completed. After which, you have the rest of the day to do what you like!
--Aisling O'Donoghue, Komo Consulting
2. Good habits
Procrastination is the enemy of success (or not getting good grades).
The way to fix this overtime is creating good habits.
The day is won the night before, thus creating the habit of scheduling your day the night before sets you up to win that next day.
According to the University of London, it takes 66 days to break and form a new habit, so this might be unbearable in the beginning, but the unbearable, will become uncomfortable and then it becomes unstoppable once you get past the 66 days (this is from The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod).
When scheduling your next day and study time, don't over pack your schedule. Do only what's essential and reward yourself each day you complete your tasks.
Again, after 66-days, this will become a habit and one that will get you extremely far in life.
When working with High School teens, they've share this feels uncomfortable in the beginning but does become a habit that makes life and school, much easier.
--Mike Kawula, Help A Teen
As a part of the class of 2020, I'm no stranger to procrastination.
Being a growing teenager who has a lot on her plate, school, family, friends, and work, it's hard to sit down and focus on school and study, especially if it's something I dread (mostly math).
It really feels like activities and chores scream for my attention. That can make it easy to put off papers, tests, and vital course work, which has led me to not do my best and turn in work past a deadline.
The biggest tip I have for overcoming procrastination and forcing myself to study is a bit different. I drink water! Dehydration has actually been one of the main causes of my lack of motivation, energy, and desire to complete my tasks.
When I drink water, my mind feels clearer, sharper, and more focused. It allows me to be more efficient in my tasks, and specifically when I'm writing essays or solving math problems, it makes me a lot quicker, so then I can give myself a break afterwards.
Another thing that gives me a boost and encourages me to not procrastinate is get my body moving a bit. Some light stretching, a little walk, or going outside can help you recharge and refresh, but not slack off, and then you can get right to work.
It's a work in progress, and I still procrastinate sometimes, but far less because my body feels better and less irritable.
--Elisha Fernandez, WhollyART
The key to avoiding procrastination is structure. Without regimented study time, students will waste time in countless ways. During school closures, many teachers are simply assigning reading and homework without any video conferencing support, which puts the onus on the student to create a schedule for their learning.
It’s critical that parents sit down with their children and hammer out a daily schedule that even includes activities like getting dressed (yes, they should dress up for school, even at home) and eating breakfast.
It would also be helpful for parents to help their child carve out a workspace at home, where they know they should sit down and study, whether that’s at the kitchen table or in the living room. What’s important is creating consistency. Children can even rotate spaces with each subject to add some variety.