Have you ever found yourself knowing that there’s something, or even a list of things, you must do but find yourself doing something entirely different? It’s probably more enjoyable and not at all related to what you need to do!
Guess what? You’re not alone. Procrastination means putting off something you need to do. In fact, The Oxford dictionary defines procrastination as ‘the action of delaying or postponing something.’
The problem is, as Benjamin Franklin (the founding father of the United States) famously said: “You may delay, but time will not.”
In this case, we’re talking about study procrastination, which, if we are honest, most of us have tended to do on at least one occasion. As exams dates don’t wait, time is of the essence. So, if you or your child struggles with this issue, you can be assured that you’re not alone and there are ways to break this cycle!
What are they though?
Step 1 – Recognition
You’re already part of the way there by recognizing that you’re procrastinating. The next step is to take some self-reflection time, either on your own, with a parent or with a private tutor, to think about why you’re procrastinating from study or revision. People procrastinate for all sorts of reasons. These can be because of self-doubt, feeling overwhelmed and confused, feeling fear or anxiety towards study/revision or many other factors. You need to identify what exactly is causing you to procrastinate from your studies and deal with it head on. If you don’t deal with it head on, you’re at risk of ending up rushing things at the last minute under huge pressure, which will inevitably add to your stress load and likely lead to poorer academic results.
If you’re a parent with a child who tends to procrastinate, take some time in a positive environment, such as on a walk or over a yummy meal, and have a gentle talk about what the reasons behind it might be to help you better understand the root of the problem, not just the symptoms.
Step 2 – Break it Down
Firstly, don’t be hard on yourself. If procrastination is coming from a place of anxiety, then being anxious about it is only going to add to your mental load. So instead, focus on the fact that you can and will break the cycle. Self-care is really important in building up confidence and focusing on boosting your self-belief around the areas of studies, exams and revision are all vital.
There are also some really practical and easy things you can do which will help you get down to studying. Firstly, divide your tasks into smaller achievable chunks. This will remove the feeling of being overwhelmed and start to break the cycle of avoidance. You can also introduce a healthy and enjoyable rewards system, perhaps in conjunction with your parents or carers. Basically, this is where you intentionally self-reward in some way after completing a small task. Starting anything can feel overwhelming, so starting anything at all can be half the battle. Once you have started the first little chunk, reward yourself by doing something you enjoy and then go back and do the second part and so on. Taking breaks in-between is also important – ideally, get out and about or do some exercise to get the oxygen pumping and clear your mind.
Step 3 – A positive study Environment
At the risk of stating the obvious, distractions distract. So, identify what distracts you specifically and physically remove it from your working area. This may be your phone, music, your iPad, even your pet! De-clutter your working area to try to achieve a calm space in which to work.
Also, do not overlook the basics – make sure you are not hungry, thirsty or overly tired as these will be distractions in themselves.
Step 4 – Focus on the Bigger Picture
If you find yourself avoiding studying or revising, it’s good to pause and think about the big picture and why you are doing it in the first place. What is your ultimate goal? What career or future income hopes do you have? You might want to put these on a post-it note and stick them above your desk as a reminder of the bigger goal – this is why I am doing this task and it will be completely worth it in the long run! Building up motivation is vital and simply recalling why you are working towards something is a big factor in breaking the procrastination cycle.
So, to summarise – procrastination is both very common and very unhelpful. Be honest if you are doing it and tell your parent, carer, or tutor so that they can help you to strategise. Or, if you are parent, plan a time to have a positive and non-judgmental conversation about getting to the root of it so you can put in place things to help.
Create a good working space, which is free from distractions, and break your work down into smaller chunks. Reward yourself (ideally in a healthy way!) when you have completed a planned chunk of study. Also, think big – what is this leading to? If you persevere and ace your exams, you move upwards and onwards into the future you are hoping and planning for! So, time to switch the phone off, de-clutter your desk and crack onwards and upwards. One step at a time.
If you’d like to speak with a private tutor to help with this or any other academic or study-related issue, simply reach out to us today and we would be delighted to help you personally.