Let me guess: you’re reading this post to delay having to do any actual work...
Well, don’t beat yourself up too much - we’ve all been there! At least you’re doing something more useful than spending six hours watching Kitchen Nightmares highlights on YouTube (...is it just us that does that?).
But even so, procrastination is a pretty nasty habit and it deserves to be cut out. It’s pretty much everyone’s #1 worst study habit, and it’s not going to go away unless we make it go away.
So, close down that other tab - yep, that one over there that says “Customer Starts to CRY After Being Served Shambolic Burger!” - and let’s get straight to it: the four steps to breaking your procrastination habit ASAP.
1. Recognise ALL the different types of procrastination
You know how the first step to recovery is usually recognising and admitting that you have a problem?
Well that’s exactly what we need to do here.
You probably already know you procrastinate a bit: if you’re watching Netflix, eating a third breakfast, or doing Buzzfeed quizzes on what kind of toast you are (I got regular buttered toast, is that a good or a bad thing?), you probably already know you’re doing something bad.
But you may procrastinate more than you realise.
Ineffective or “feel-good” study is one majorly-sneaky way to waste time if you’re not careful. Taking notes word-for-word from the book or studying a topic you already 100% know are both forms of procrastination.
So, if you want to really cut out procrastination, you need to recognise when you’re not studying efficiently or effectively. When you study you need to make sure you’re working on topics you don’t know as well, and challenging yourself with questions you’re not already comfortable with.
2. Set tiny milestones for yourself
If your study isn’t engaging you and you can feel yourself zoning out, you need to rework your goals into more manageable, bite size pieces. Instead of saying “oh, I’ll finish this essay by tonight”, or “I’ll do this whole practice paper tonight”, break down whatever you need to get done into small, basic, more manageable steps.
I mean, sure, you might not be able to write a whole essay or finish a whole practice paper right now, but surely you could just write the topic sentence for your first body paragraph, or just do that teeny tiny first question in the exam? Of course you can! Do it, take a mini break, and then do the next little task.
Small goals are more manageable, keep you moving through your work, and build up surprisingly quickly. If you approach your work this way, you’ll avoid that feeling of dread you get about how much you have to do.
3. Change things up
If your brain refuses to work and you know you’ve been staring at the same thing for about 15 minutes, it’s probably time to switch things up.
There are three awesome ways of doing this. First, you could change the subject you’re studying. Second, you could change the type of study. Finally, you could simply change your study space.
If trig equations are making your brain hurt, then study another subject and come back to them after you’ve spent some much needed time apart (it’s actually been shown that regularly mixing up the things you study helps you retain information too).
Similarly, if you’ve been attempting to write notes for two hours, maybe it’s time to answer some practice questions instead.
Then, if you find yourself zoning out at the desk in your bedroom, try sitting at the kitchen table and see if you can reset your attention span. If not, hit up a coffee shop or the local library (that is if it hasn’t been closed down yet).
Bottom line: you should regularly change what you’re studying, how you’re studying it, and where you’re studying it. Doing a good amount of these three things should help you stay focused.
4. Hide yo' distractions
Even if you pull off those first three steps perfectly, you can still quickly get distracted: Facebook didn’t stop existing just because you went into the kitchen. Good study practice is never going to get rid of all of your distractions, so our final step is to work at hiding your distractions.
If you’re really committed to this whole A-Level thing, you could get your mum to hide your phone somewhere deep in the Saharan sand and give you nothing but a series of hieroglyphic riddles to find it again. But maybe that sounds like too much of a commitment. If so, you could just work on some smaller things.
For instance, if you have your phone on your desk while you’re working, why not set it to do not disturb and put it face down? That means you can still check it now and then, but also that every notification isn’t going to pull you out of your work. Same goes for having Facebook open in a tab. When it’s open you’re gonna hear or see any notifications, so just close it down for awhile and then go back once you’ve achieved a goal.
They’re not giant changes, but that means they’re much easier to try out and to stick with - we’re trying to be realistic here, guys!
Procrastination sucks and it’s hard to avoid, so you have to keep making an effort to cut it out. If you can cut it out, the payoff is worth it: you’ll study more effectively, more efficiently, and the process will become less painful. That obviously sounds great but we know it’s not easy, so here’s our advice: recognise ALL types of procrastination, set yourself mini goals, switch things up and push those distractions aside.
They’re all baby steps but they’re all pretty doable, so hopefully you’ll actually be able to keep them up and cash in on some super efficient, effective study!