We all know the feeling of sitting down at your desk to study with such good intentions: you’re going to sit down and knock out a few hours of note-taking, essay writing and practice questions so that you feel organised for the week ahead. But then all of a sudden 2 hours go by, and you find yourself sitting on your chair, legs crossed, phone in hand deep in a Tik Tok spiral. This is super common, and you’re not the only one that is in that position. Procrastination is something that everyone does, and the next couple of years of schooling are going to force you to learn a lot about self-discipline and studying techniques that you never knew before.
Learning how to reduce procrastination and focus on the task at hand is not only a skill that’s going to help you at school, and through your ATAR years but it will also help at uni, or TAFE, or even in your future job. So you might as well take some time now to learn some techniques that you can put into practice and start mastering before it’s too late.
Tip 1: Set yourself small, achievable goals
Procrastination happens for many reasons: tiredness, or the boredom of a topic or subject you have to study, and sometimes it can kick in because the goal you’re working towards seems too big or unachievable. If that sounds a lot like you, then the best way to overcome this is to set yourself smaller, more achievable goals.
This may sound like a piece of cake, but setting small goals that are valuable is harder than it seems. So try to set small goals that will also help you progress in your studies. So for example, instead of saying to yourself ‘I am going to finish my business studies Operations notes today,’ a better goal would be ‘finish the supply chain management notes under Operations and then complete a related short answer response’.
This not only turns a big goal into 2 smaller, more achievable goals, it also allows you to feel like you’ve made real progress because not only will your notes be done, but you’ve also managed to tick off some practice questions as well. The benefit of this is that without going to that much more effort, you’ve set yourself up really nicely for your future exams too.
Tip 2: Leave your phone in another room
We have all heard it time and time again, but it actually works. Keeping your phone out of sight and specifically in another room allows your mind to forget about it. Not only are you not tempted by seeing 100 Snapchat notifications come through, but you also can’t hear the vibrations, which will not only allow you to be more focused, but it will also allow you to be more relaxed whilst you study.
Having your phone near you is a big distraction, and just makes procrastination that little bit easier. Your study time should be just that, for studying and that means that as soon as you’re on a break you can go on your phone all you want, but during that study period, try your hardest to stay disciplined. Even if you need to leave your phone with a parent or sibling to make sure you’re not tempted, then do it. It will all be worth it at the end of an hour when you’ve had a good, productive study session.
Tip 3: Give yourself rewards
Although this may sound like a tip for a 5-year-old, giving yourself a reward goes a huge way towards overcoming procrastination. The way this works is simple, all you have to do is set a goal and if you reach that goal, then you get the reward. The goal can be as simple as getting through a 40min study session without stopping for a phone/social media break. By giving yourself an incentive you have something to work towards and you know you get what you want at the end of it (besides the satisfaction of having done a good chunk of studying).
Your reward can be whatever you choose it to be, it could be an ice-cream, or that you get to watch the new episode of your favourite TV show, or that you can finally go to the gym. If it's something you really want, you’ll be more inclined to stick to it.
A fun twist on this is giving other people rewards or having them reward you. For example, if you’re studying with a friend, maybe the reward can be that you buy them lunch if they are able to study without talking. Or you could get your parents to set incentives for you, for example, you can get your mum to hide something of yours, and to only give it back when you’ve completed the set task.
Tip 4: Take breaks
Regular breaks go a huge way towards reducing the amount of time you spend procrastinating. Your brain is like any muscle in the body, that when worked too hard for too long, it gets fatigued, stops working as hard as it should and slowly starts to stop working until you take a break. Once you take a break, you give your brain a chance to rest and get ready for another lot of studying. The same goes for the rest of your body, studying is tiring, and you need to take regular breaks to make sure your back doesn’t get too sore, or your eyes don’t get too dry or your hand doesn’t cramp from writing out too many practice questions.
It’s when your brain and body starts to get tired, that it becomes super easy for your concentration to weaken and all of a sudden you’re procrastinating just by sitting there listening to the thoughts in your own head.
Everyone studies differently, but for me, that point of weakened concentration was always around the 2-hour mark. Any study I did after that 2-hour mark was useless unless I took a 30 min break in-between. Find what works for you, whether its 3 hour study periods and 40min breaks or 1-hour study blocks with 15min breaks. As long as you are taking regular breaks, you’ll find that during your study blocks you can actually concentrate more and procrastinate less.
Tip 5: Routine
This brings me nicely into my next point, which is to have a routine. Having a routine reduces the amount of free time you have to actually procrastinate. For example, if you get home from school at 4 pm, and you know your afternoon routine consists of you having a break till 4:30, then studying till 6:30, then having dinner and a shower, and studying again from 8-9 pm, there’s not really much room in there for procrastination. This is going to be especially true at busier times of the week or year when you have homework or assessments due, or exams coming up.
Tip 6: Do not disturb
I have spoken a lot about how your phone can be a huge distraction, but so can your laptop. Everyone has their messages, or Facebook on their computers too so don’t think you can get away with it by saying your phone is in another room. It’s just as important that you put your computer on do not disturb, and actually close any social media tabs you have open. This will limit the number of notifications you get on your laptop that will make it easy to fall into the procrastination trap.
In order to reduce procrastination, it’s important to find what works for you and stick to it. These tips are here as a guide to help you find ways to minimise the number of distractions you surround yourself with, and to suggest ways to help you stay focused when you are in study mode. If you think of any other creative ways, be sure to implement them as soon as you can so you can start making the most of your time now. Happy studying kids!