How to Handle Procrastination when Studying
The really happy people are those who have broken the chains of procrastination, those who find satisfaction in doing the job at hand.
They’re full of eagerness, zest, productivity. You can be, too.
Norman Vincent Peale
Texting and driving, pink and red, procrastination and studying. These pairs have one thing in common; they don’t good mix!
Everybody procrastinates – it’s necessary to have spare time, there are tons of studies that conclude that humans need leisure moments to stay healthy. But humans also need to sleep and to eat, that doesn’t mean that is OK spend the entire day sleeping instead of going to work.
With that said, avoiding procrastination isn’t about studying until your eyes fall out, avoiding procrastination is about planning and prioritizing. Don’t trick yourself, procrastination is not to “have a little break”, it is to postpone your duties and stop being productive when you should be.
Most people consider studying tedious and that there’re lots of better things to do. So, these people put off this boring thing for something more fun, like checking their phone or go out for the night. In high school this habit is a problem, but when you get to college, where the demands are greater, it becomes a greater obstacle and a major problem. The need for discipline grows with you. It’s disappointing to get bad grades, but to fail because you didn’t study is just frustrating.
Procrastination gives you the false idea that the work is going to get done by itself, or that a solution is going to come out of nowhere. This clearly isn’t going to happen – it’s an excuse you’ve made out for yourself. Studying won’t get done if you don’t do it.
When you let yourself get carried away by the procrastination monster you’ll end-up doing everything at the last minute. This is inefficient and counterproductive. For example; if you study for a test the night before you’ll be exhausted the day after, above all because physiologically the night is the worst time for your brain. Besides, one night isn’t enough to study much, so you won’t really get much done.
So it’s best if you fight the monster of procrastination and develop a good system that can give you a balance between fun and duties. Luckily there are punctual tips and strategies that will help you win this battle.
First, identify identify why you are procrastinating. The academic study titled The nature of procrastination explains that there are 4 “pillars of procrastination”, where the need to put things off begins. Identifying your obstacles, you can understand how to overcome them more effectively.
Personality: This is the toughest one. It’s core in the level of impulsivity of the individual, which defines a large part of our character and personality. To control or modify your personality is not healthy, but you can know yourself and understand your boundaries. Learning your boundaries allows you tp create an environment where your personality won’t get out of hand. The most efficient solution if you like to sleep too much is to work in an environment with good illumination, music and coffee. This way you can control your natural inclinations without compromising your own personality.
Goal failure: This pillar is all about self-confidence. Deep down you believe your abilities are not enough to successfully complete the task. People who are insecure tend to procrastinate more, because they believe they won’t be able to perform well on their tests, no matter how much they’ve studied. Shake off that insecurity, you shouldn’t doubt of yourself if you haven’t even tried. It’s a normal thing to have insecurities, but don’t let them take over!
Low task value: It is human nature to evaluate a task according to the pleasure it will give us. This is why boring tasks, such as studying, are automatically associated with a dislike. So, we avoid that task in any way we can, because we already know that we won’t enjoy it. If this is the source of your procrastination habits it is recommended to associate the “unlike task” to a more likeable activity. If you don’t like to read then look for a video tutorial that explains the lesson you’re studying. If you get bored writing essays then write about something that you love. Balance your dislike by adding something you like. Use your creativity to make it more attractive.
Expectations: If you expect that the task will be easy then you’ll postpone it because you believe that you can do it really fast. If you think it’s difficult, then you’ll never get the energy to get started. What is happening here is you are creating expectations that aren’t realistic and giving yourself a distorted image of your work. This creates a downward spiral, and the best thing to do is to stop it right away; don’t create expectations before you even started. Take an overall look at your assignment and then decide if it’s going to be easy or hard. But don’t use this to postpone your work – use it to plan your time.
By recognizing the pillar that moves you to procrastinate you can build strategies to control it. Here are some practical tips that you can use to change your study sessions and make the best out of your time.
This is a great way to start your new habits. Planning your time is the best technique to be ready in advance, because nothing will be improvised. One of the biggest problems of procrastination is that you do everything at the last minute. If an unforeseen event arises, like you feeling sick the day before the test, you can’t control the situation, because there is no other choice. But if have been studying well in advance, then it won’t be a catastrophe.
To start planning you must first define your priorities according to:
If you have a test this week and another the next week, start studying for this week’s test. If you have two projects to deliver next week you should start working on the more difficult or longest one. That’s how you establish a priorities schedule.
With your priorities straight, you can start organizing your time according to each task. Weekly schedules are best. Include your daily study hours, free time and class time. Make notes of future tasks and assignments and allocate specific hours. This creates a sense of “pre-commitment” that will motivate you to do the job on time.
Keep your schedule in sight as much as possible, so you don’t forget anything and feel the responsibility to accomplish every task.
How to make a study plan & schedule
Established completion times should be part of your schedule. The most important aspect of deadlines is that the goals be realistic. This means you must decide how long it will take and set up milestones. Setup realistic short-term goals and long term goals.
Every goal should have these characteristics:
- not ambiguous
- quantifiable so it doesn’t extend infinitely
- achievable for you in your current circumstances
- realistic and adjusted to your limitations
- time-bounded, so you feel the responsibility to accomplish it within a specific time.
If you get frustrated quickly, divide large tasks in smaller goals that can be accomplished faster. This way every smaller goal you complete motivates you to keep going. This is a great technique that also makes you keep your studies in a progressive order.
Tips and Strategies
- Divide study sessions into smaller sets, with rewards for each small goal accomplished.
- Make every reward equivalent to the effort. So, for example, reading one chapter out of five doesn’t mean you can take the rest of the day off. With small goals come small rewards.
- Divide study session by time; one hour of study, fifteen minutes break.
- Break up a big project into stages, assigning each one of them a specific due date.
- Start small and build. If you can’t sit still for long periods studying, start off with a shorter session and increase the time every day.
3. Define your Study Hours
Most of us have a changing schedule that varies according to several aspects, like school or social life. But a healthy study habit demands specific hours devoted to it. This means that you should determine your daily hours to study, add it to your weekly schedule and stick with it.
The study environment is critical for the quality of the learning. Studying for a midterm in a party is not the perfect scenario. It doesn’t have to be in a library, you can choose a café or a park, depending on what works for you.
It´s important that it is a quite place were the surroundings aren’t distracting.
The brain is most fit to develop cognitive activities when the person is recently wake. Therefore, the mornings are the best time of day for studying. Night time, when it is dark is the worst time. If you haven’t enough time in the mornings then take a 20-minute nap or rest before starting. This will give a little chance to your brain to recover and do its best.
A good way to spice up your study session could be doing a race with yourself. Set limits on your study sessions and commit to them. Complete the tasks by the deadlines you have set and give rewards when you do, like little breaks or a snack. For example, commit to not leave the room until your finish a specific task, or that you won’t go out if you don’t have certain work done by certain hour.
There is a technique developed in the 80´s named Pomodoro Method:
- divide your study sessions into 25 minutes sets (called Pomodoros)
- Take 5 minutes breaks between them.
- Every 4 Pomodoros you can rest more than 5 minutes.
The important thing with this method is that you fully concentrate on the task during the 25 minutes, and ignore all distraction during the session.
In the ideal scenario during study sessions, every source of distraction is removed, and your concentration doesn’t waver. Find a study spot that is quiet – and look for solitude and tranquility. Sometimes studying in a coffee shop is good – other times it isn’t – learn to tell the difference. Keep your study space well organized with adequate space, so you’ll be comfortable while working.
Study groups, like coffee shop studying are very mixed. Being around friends is a great distraction, and the biggest temptation. It is easy to get off subject and end up closing the books to talk about something else. Study groups function well when everybody has already studied the material on their own and get together to discuss their ideas and conclusions.
Learn how to form a study group
One of the biggest distractions is technology; cell phones, computers and internet are huge distractions. Time spent on social media is fun, but unproductive time and addictive. Turn off your phone, take it to another room, close your social media tabs and focus on what you must do. Use your phone as a reward after achieving your goal, so it is a motivator and not a distraction.
5. Don’t Multitask
Sometimes multitasking appears to be the most efficient way to work, but it is counterproductive to the study flow. When your brain tries to concentrate in two different things, it gets confused and often mixes things up. So, choose one task per session, or do breaks in-between topics. This way you give your brain a chance to process the information.
6. Follow Adidas; just do it!
The hardest part is starting. Once you’ve started, you follow the flow of work and get it done. If you give yourselves a chance to think about it too much, you will find reasons to delay. Get started right away, without thinking and without hesitation. Don’t think about studying, just do it.
7. Keep it Healthy
A healthy body is a smarter body. When your brain is in optimum shape and the chemical processes of your body are in balance, then your learning process is at its best. A healthy body can concentrate, learn, studying is easier and memorization faster.
Foods with high levels of sugar pump up your entire system and throw off the balance of your body, as do salty foods. Eat lots of vegetables and proteins, and change your salty, sugary snacks for fruit. While studying drink lots of water or juice to keep your body well hydrated.
Physical exercise is key to keep your body at its best. Many studies have shown physical activities enhance cognitive performance.
Strong motivation is like a strong fuel, which can get you going through anything. External motivations have a temporary effect, it can move you towards something for a while, but it doesn’t last. The most powerful motivations are internal, the intangible ones, like achieving the goals you set up early than planned, or graduate with straight A´s. Both types of motivation, are important, each one in the right moment. The best motivation of all is seeing your progress, and achieving your goals.
9. Avoid Frustration and Don’t get Stressed
Find ways to associate your study sessions with things that you enjoy, so it doesn’t become a chore. Don’t let frustration get to you; if you are having difficulty with a something, take a break and do it later, or try another text, change the perspective. Frustration is dangerous because it leads to de-motivation, so be aware of it and find ways to deal with it.
Try to not stress over your studying schedule. Stress makes your abilities decay, unbalance your brain and make your learning process slower. Establish your priorities and follow them, without skipping or worrying about what’s to come. Concentrate in the present and look for a place that makes you feel calm and relaxed.
10. Get Help if you Need it
This is a great recommendation. Knowing when to ask for help is part of recognizing your limitations. If you got to a point where you can’t move forward by yourself, then it´s get help.
Never skip over something you don’t understand – it will come back to bite you guaranteed! Learning is cumulative, with each step build on the last, so if you don’t
Ask friends or teacher and then get back on track as quickly as possible.
The most important thing to overcome procrastination is to recognize the value of your time, and wasting time does a lot of damage. Be conscious about what you do with it, and be honest about your priorities.
Procrastination and Studying Info and References
Modified: April 20th, 2018
Published: October 19th, 2009