If you are familiar with that feeling of stress as you watch your twentieth YouTube cat video in a row, despite having planned to start revision over an hour ago then congratulations, you are a procrastinator.
But never fear! The truth is everyone struggles with the temptation to procrastinate, particularly students who have to manage their own time during busy assignment and revision periods. There is also a lot more to the act of procrastination than a lazy student thinking ‘I can’t be bothered to work’ and it is also something you can work on. Let’s go through a few ways you can minimise your procrastination tendencies to help you become more productive.
Tips for overcoming procrastination
- Minimise your stress. Feelings of stress can often trigger procrastination tendencies. Sometimes, when we feel we have more work to do than we can handle, we can’t even bear to think about it let alone start trying to get through it. If you can relate to this problem, try to focus on lowering your anxiety levels by organising your workload, taking regular breaks, looking after yourself, seeking support from friends and family, doing some mild exercise and adopting a positive outlook towards your work. If you make an active effort to reduce your stress, you will feel a lot more eager to do your work as a result.
- Don’t beat yourself up. If you’ve been procrastinating all day, it’s common to feel quite guilty, ashamed or pretty stressed out about all of the wasted hours. However, these negative feelings are very paralysing, and if you succumb to them you may find yourself trapped in a vicious cycle of negativity and procrastination. So if you’ve been procrastinating today, don’t punish yourself for it. Instead pick yourself up and do a bit of work with the time you have left and then focus on the fact tomorrow is a brand new day.
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- If you are going to procrastinate, do something productive. If you know for a fact that you’re not going to start your essay for another few hours, don’t sit on your laptop with an empty word document open whilst you check every social media website you can think of, pretending to yourself that you’ll start writing after five… ten…fifteen more minutes. Instead, do something worthwhile like housework, grocery shopping or replying to emails until you feel more in the mood to sit down and do some work.
- Enjoy the feeling of productivity. Don’t just do work because you have to. If you can manage it, do your work because you want to make the most out of your education, excel in your subjects and to simply feel productive, which is actually a lovely feeling. Some great ways to enjoy productivity are getting up early, writing a (flexible) revision timetable or by organising study sessions with your friends.
- Change your working environment. Finding out which type of environment you work best in could really help to minimise procrastination. So if you find it difficult to concentrate on work in your bedroom then try working in the kitchen, the living room, the library, a café or anywhere else that works for you. Also, if you procrastinate worse when you’re alone and unobserved then find yourself a study buddy to help motivate you and, equally, if you procrastinate the most by chatting to people then find somewhere you can remain undisturbed for a couple of hours.
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- Structure your time. If during busy exam or assignment periods you don’t make any plans apart from working constantly then you’re most likely going to get really bored and procrastinate your time away. Whereas if you plan to have the occasional coffee break or evening off you will have something to look forward to, which will help you break up your work. Also if you tend to do things like tell yourself you’re going to read an entire book in a single day then chances are you won’t. Instead, break your workload in to smaller chunks and set yourself manageable goals to prevent yourself becoming overwhelmed by your workload.
Whether you’re currently studying for your GCSEs, A-Levels or degree, hopefully these tips will be useful for you, if you’re stuck in a bit of a procrastination rut. Of course, if you’ve been struggling with procrastination consistently for a long time and it is having a damaging effect on your studies, then I encourage you to speak to someone you trust, whether that is a parent, friend, teacher or counsellor.
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Whatever you do, don’t let procrastination rule your life. With a bit of organisation and positive self-talk, you can break the cycle and get those good grades you deserve!
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How to cope with failing your exams
Exam time - how to calm down and do your best