How to stop procrastinating: whilst it helps us take the load off momentarily, and can provide a few minutes (or days) worth of entertainment, procrastination ultimately leaves us more stressed and further behind. Yet, most of us still struggle to kick the habit. So here are 5 tips to stop procrastinating…
Personally, I prefer to work on my own at a clean desk in my room, or in a study space. Some people find silence overwhelming and need to be with others in a busy library or cafe, and that’s fine too. If you don’t yet know where you work best, try out a few options and see which you prefer.
Beware: the environment you find most fun isn’t necessarily the one in which you’ll produce the best work, so be honest with yourself. Then, once you’ve found the best atmosphere, stick with it! The environment you work in affects you more than you probably realise.
That means switching off your phone! You don’t need to keep your phone on or tabs open on the computer, doing so will only lead you into temptation. If you simply can’t resist, switch off your laptop, pop your phone under your pillow and work on paper. It’s far too easy to tell yourself that you’ll only check your feed quickly, then spend the next two hours scrolling mindlessly.
In order to keep your energy levels up, you’re going to need supplies. Whilst coffee might give you an instant boost, too much will keep you running to the loo – not the most productive way to spend your study time!
So, swap the Costa for a bottle of nature’s finest: a lovely bottle of water. It’s cheaper, so your bank balance will thank you; it helps you think clearer, so your brain will thank you; and it’s much better for your skin, so your body will thank you too.
The stress of studying often leads us to neglect our bodies, making us ill, so doing your best to avoid snacking on sugary foods is important too. Sadly, when it comes to snacks, healthy ones aren’t always the most appealing. So strike a deal with yourself: for every piece of important work, or chapter of a book you’ve completed, you can have a small snack. Alternate between healthy and unhealthy, and you’ll be much more motivated knowing that you’re never more than two pieces of work away from a few chunks of chocolate.
Posters are great, and visual representation of ideas can be a fantastic way to make connections. But, if you’re spending more time picking which felt tip pens would best represent each theory than actually learning the theories, you’re not going to get anywhere. So, when you’re setting yourself revision tasks, don’t opt for the most fun task, set yourself a problem which really makes you think. Write your own questions and try to think how you’d grade the answers if you were an examiner.
We procrastinate because we are driven towards immediate gratification. The psychology of it is that whilst your pre-frontal cortex knows you’ve got to do some work, when you get bored your limbic system tells you to go after whatever feels good right now.
The best way you can beat your limbic system is to sit down and make yourself work for short periods of time (about 30-50 minutes is optimum) and within this time, set yourself specific tasks to complete, rather than just “revise X”.
Remind yourself why you need to study: pop sticky notes up reminding you that you want to succeed, and why it’s important that you work hard. You’ll feel great when you’ve got a long crossed-out list of completed tasks, and it’ll help you stay organised.
Then, when you do take a break, step away from your workspace. If you’ve been using your laptop and want to surf the web, do it on your phone, or at least in another room. Ideally though, get moving and chat to someone for 15 minutes! Dancing around the room singing at the top of your voice, playing with a younger sibling, or taking the dog for a walk will ensure you feel far more refreshed than you would sitting hunched over a computer screen for that time. Then, when you return to your desk, you’ll feel ready to get on with what you need to do.
So there it is, five top tips to help you take control of your working time, and beat the demons of procrastination from our private MyTutor tutors!