Hey Emma 💛 Do you have any advice for procrastination? I also have a hard time concentrating, what do you do (or think I could do) that would help with that?
Hi! I’ve had a few questions like this recently so I’m just going to answer this one and hopefully anyone who asked a similar question will see it! But on with the answer. I think there is a few different reasons why we procrastinate so I’m going to note those down and give a few tips for each. You can obviously apply any ideas that you like regardless of what section I’ve put them under!
1. You’ve got poor work/productivity habits. Generally you leave things until the last minute since you “work better under pressure”. (This is so me, omg.) You probably think you’ll do something after you’ve finished something else, and then never do. You get get distracted whenever you’re trying to study and will sit waiting to feel motivated but it never comes. For this I’d suggest:
- create a productive work environment - choose a space where you will actually work without distractions, organise your study space, have everything you need in easy reach. Surround yourself with things you find motivating such as quotes!
- write it out - write down a few manageable tasks that you need to do. Writing the actions they require will help you see what you should be doing to complete something, instead of just the overall task. One by one you’ll see yourself getting things done!
- focus on 20-30 minute periods - generally we lose focus after a while so taking regular breaks can help give you chance to relax and refocus. Apps like Forest allow you to set a timer and will give you off your phone at the same time. Obviously if you’re being productive, don’t suddenly cut that off because it is “time for a break”.
- use apps/browser extensions to cut out distractions - ones like RescueTime or StayFocusd will block you from checking certain sites.
- find an accountability partner - pick someone who you can rely on to check on your regularly and see how your tasks are coming along. You can send them your to-do list and then every few hours you can update them with your progress. You won’t want to let them down.
- use the two-minute rule - if something takes less than two minutes, do it. Don’t make an excuse, just do it. Tasks that are longer you can either delegate or defer. Here is a simple visualisation of what I mean.
- record your progress - doing a simple “don’t break the chain” in your planner is a great way to see how productive you’re being and therefore get you more motivated to keep it up!
2. You’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Everything seems to be mounting up and nothing seems doable. You don’t know where or how to start. For this I’d suggest:
- find some help - if you’re feeling like this, it is likely you need some help in some form or another. See if a family member, friend, classmate or teacher (or Google) can help or give you a starting point.
- tell yourself that getting started is the first step - you don’t need to finish a task in a matter of minutes. Start doing something small. Maybe organise what you need, highlight the important bits of your assessment, or draft an essay plan. The secret to getting ahead is getting started!
- divide and conquer - figure out what is the overall task that you need to do and split it into manageable parts. For instance with an essay the aim is to write it! Divide it into planning out what you want to write, any references you need, summarising a final draft and then writing each paragraph. By dividing bigger tasks into actionable parts you can reduce the obstacles and get through each part in a more timely manner.
- reward yourself - create a reward system to celebrate completing a selection of tasks. By rewarding your progress you’ll build an incentive to work and reinforce productivity (great for your self-discipline!).
- learn to forgive yourself - if you have an off day, that is okay! You can’t expect to see a huge change in a short amount of time. Remember to come back to it later and try again.
- don’t over schedule - if you’re feeling pressure from the amount of work and then the added pressure of trying to stick to a time limit, you’re just going to go crazy. Set yourself flexible times to get something done instead of being heavily structured. Give yourself time for a break and the ability to change tasks.
- stick with one task - it can be so tempting to multitask but try not to. Try to keep focus on the what you’re doing until it is done. If you struggle with that, you could write down anything useful that you randomly think about for another task, use a break-time to think about that other task or alternate between subjects/tasks every few hours.
3. You’re a perfectionist. You either don’t want to start something out of fear you won’t get it right or you can stuck on stuck on the small details. There is a pressure to achieve “perfection”. For this I’d suggest:
- focus on getting started, instead of finishing - it is easy to get overwhelmed thinking about what something is supposed to be like finished if you’re a perfectionist. Take things one step at a time.
- remember that your perfectionist tendencies aren’t actually improving your work or productivity but hindering you - you’re continually setting yourself unrealistic objects and (like me) probably feel let down by yourself if you don’t reach them. Be realistic and focus on getting it done!
- accept mistakes - you’ve written something wrong, don’t panic! Cross it out with a single line and move on. Things happen and you have to accept it. You can’t rip up the page every time you do something wrong, even if it is so tempting.
- put things in perspective - is what you’re beating yourself up about right now going to mean anything in a week, a month, a year? Be honest if it isn’t, is it really worth putting unnecessary pressure on yourself.
- praise yourself through the process - try not to criticise yourself but recognise your progress.
4. You’re wanting to do something else. You find whatever you’re doing boring. You want it to be over with but don’t want to get started. The ultimate catch 22, right? For this I’d suggest:
- remember that putting it off isn’t going to make it go away - if you leave it too long you’ll end up getting more stressed about it. Best to get it over with.
- plan from the get-go - once you know something is coming up (e.g. a test, an assessment, etc) make notes on it! That could be questions, annotations, potential topics, citations, etc. By making the effort to spend time reading through, you’ll save your future self some stress. Especially if it’s a topic you have forgotten. That way your notes act as a reminder so you can get started.
- set a finish time with a reward - tell yourself that if you finish something by ..am/pm and then you can do something else. Use your self-discipline to not go back on this. Set a realistic time and try to get it complete before. If you can think that you’re doing something fun once it is completed, you’ll be more motivated to get it done.
- make a structure - for note-taking, it can be overwhelming looking at a textbook and thinking what you’re going to write out. Make a note-taking layout/colour code that works for you and that subject. Mine is here - it just give me an idea of how I’d lay everything instead of going in with no action plan.
- try to make it fun - this could be using YouTube to learn or starting a study group. Use different methods for memorising information such as flashcards, mindmaps or study guides (like question/answer).
- make the effort to refocus - if you’re finding something boring and you’re unfocused, walk away for 5 minutes, get a drink and come back. If you’re really struggling, change topics for a while. Find a point where you can finish and start doing something else that is productive.
- listen to some music - generally music without lyrics are best for focusing. Spotify has a great playlist for studying called ‘focus’. However I find my regular music good for getting me a little more motivated and awake. I also like writing essays to music because I weirdly sort of type in the same rhythm. Funny study hack I’ve found that works for me haha!
I hope that is useful! I must have copied and pasted my whole answer like 5 times just incase my tab reloaded and I lost everything, luckily not! You should also check out this post for smaller motivation tips and tricks! xx