Wasting time is inherent in every student and there are many temptations to distract them.
This is a feeling everyone is familiar with. Sitting in front of a blank computer screen longing you were elsewhere. But until you have written a certain number of words, you have to remain there … just get a coffee first. And before long that “coffee” has become a marathon and the MS Word page in front of you remains blank.
Like a disease hindering productivity – especially in exam season – procrastination can reach epidemic proportions. A study has suggested that more than 70% of students – whose willpower is often still in the development stage – are prone to procrastinating.
Research has linked procrastination to the dread of evaluation and/or failure and to the temptation to do fun things rather than tedious work. Even in a university library where a student is surrounded by friends, “quick” breaks can soon become a wasted hour. Additionally, it should not surprise anyone to learn that experts found a link between social media and procrastination.
So, it is the eve of an important test for your most difficult class. You have not yet done any textbook revision, reviewed your course notes, or given any thought to your test. Now, that gut-wrenching panic hits you. You have a great deal to get through and not much time to do it in. But do not worry. These five useful tips should help you through this last night, help you pass your crucial test, and help you develop better habits going forward.
Do not dwell on “if only’s.”
Dwelling on what might have been will not help you. You have put things off – accept that and begin your test preparations. Calm yourself and devote your energy and time to preparing.
Whether it is texting, YouTube, social media or the many other distractions of modern youth, resist. If you find the temptation too much, switch your device(s) off and leave them in a different room.
Focus first on broader topics and concepts and then move to specifics. Concentrate on relevant topics.
Get some sleep
It can be counter-productive to study late into the night. It is better to have a good sleep and to remember what you studied (and to work out logical answers) than to work late, cram a lot of stuff in, and then forget it all.
Learn your lesson
There is no worse feeling than knowing you have been here before, knowing how stressful it is, and repeating it. So promise yourself you will never procrastinate again. However, no one is perfect and everyone will occasionally continue to put assignments off. But vowing to prevent a repeat of these bad situations does make it easier to develop better overall habits and to directly tackle a problem.
Another expert offers the following tips for improved productivity:
Firstly, temptation needs to be overcome. Identify a “work” space and separate this from your “play” area.
This advice also applies to use a computer. Use apps to block Internet sites for specific time periods when you are in work or study “mode.”
Set restrictions on your work time. Persuade yourself to work solidly and uninterruptedly for half-an-hour. Surprise yourself by learning you can work hard for a short time before rewarding yourself with a rest.
If regardless of this, you still struggle to separate yourself from the Internet, most universities offer various types of support such as teams who help students develop and adhere to a study pattern that suits them.
Lastly, do not punish yourself too much! It has been shown that a little self-forgiveness can help reduce procrastination.
If it is the case you want to achieve success in your life, here are some reasons to master procrastination:
Do not give away your power – procrastination gives power to the calendar and clock.
Procrastination zaps your energy and slows you down; so do not let this happen. Unfinished things lead to a mediocre and, thus, not very rewarding life.
Procrastination prevents you getting anywhere.
Spend time planning and stick to your plan.
Define your purpose. Purpose needs to have a feeling of urgency, otherwise you stagnate while others around you move forward.
Be persistent. A lot of procrastinators have very interesting and creative ideas but they often use these in a counter-productive way. They lack persistence.
Agility is essential to succeed in the fast-paced world we live in today. Leaders are agile thinkers capable of moving quickly, taking action and grasping opportunities. It is rare for procrastinate to be agile. They are more likely to put off moments of opportunity until tomorrow.
One piece of advice offered by a Ph.D. expert on getting through college is that you should do 2 hours of study for each credit e.g. 28 hours per week for 14 credits. But other commitments can eat into this time to the point that the average day may not seem long enough. However, it is possible to make sufficient time. For example, you could reduce the time you spend watching TV, listening to music, using Facebook, and so on – so you have to choose.
The first useful action to increase productivity is to figure out how you currently use the time available to you. For a week, jot down everything you spend time doing and how much time you spend doing it. The results are likely to surprise you.
Undoubtedly, there are more restrictions on your time if you have a family to look after or work long hours. Yet, students do manage to fit these commitments alongside attending school. And, surprisingly, it is often those with the most demands on their time who do best at school and frequently in later life.
When you understand how you spend your available time, it becomes possible to schedule your work effectively. Planning is important for which you will require some sort of tool. This may be a calendar, PDA or planner, post-it notes, lists and tools like Google calendar. An effective plan means planning ahead and looking backward too. For instance, you can see when a paper is due and then search backward to find chunks of free time for working on that assignment. Set a date in your plan or calendar for completing initial drafts and another date for showing those drafts to your tutor or professor. This will help you avoid the temptation to procrastinate and it will also impress your tutor. You will require smaller amounts of time for other activities like reading. Make sure you bring any books you need to read at all times so that you can read them, for example, when you are on the train or bus to college or waiting in line somewhere. Reading time should also appear on your daily schedule.
Create a list of things you need or want “to do” each day. This will make it easier to remember everything. Spending 2 hours one day on an assignment will show you that you are ahead by that amount of time for the following day. Do this for a few days and you should start feeling proud when you see “completed” items on your list. Add reminders to your PDA or calendar or leave sticky notes where you are sure to see them. Get other people to make you keep a check on your “to do” list while you get used to this new way of working.
Do not be too hard on yourself if everything does not get done. Other things can get in the way e.g. family commitments, sickness, new work priorities, etc. An effective plan should have some flexibility. Move items forward by a day if you cannot do them. However, too much moving can indicate a problem, so if this happens, try and find the cause.
Fear is a common reason for plans getting disrupted. It may be you fear you are unable to complete a particular assignment so you delay it. In these cases, the best option is to talk about it rather than letting yourself get paralyzed. Fear of becoming unpopular can also cause people to refuse to do something that they really do not have time to do. However, in these situations, you should simply explain that you are too busy or have other things to do. Your priority should be to stick as closely as possible to your plan.
Tell someone (a friend or mentor) about your immediate goals and make this a joint venture. Tell that person you need to get a report or application completed by Friday so that you have the rest of the weekend free. Getting other people involved is a way of resisting temptations and staying focused.
Establishing priorities gets you thinking long-term e.g. your reasons for studying. Your purpose is to acquire the knowledge and skills to fulfill your long-term dreams. It is not to hang out with friends, to excel at sports, or join every college society. Your priorities should be your coursework, the part-time job that pays for your education, your wellbeing, and your close relationships. Sometimes these may change slightly but your aim should be to always keep these four priorities in sight.