Here are some of our top tips to help you avoid procrastinating and get motivated and focused.
- Break your study up into short periods
30-50 minutes of study followed by a 10-15 minute break. The breaks are for ‘recovery' and have to be away from your computer. Breaks help lay down neurological transfer and consolidate memory .
- Plan bigger 'guilt' free recreation breaks for each day
For example an hour for the gym, an hour and half of TV. Think about the activities you want in your breaks.
Try to start writing early in the day if you can. As a day progresses things may come up which you have to respond to-so getting something done early, if this is possible, can help.
- Identify your distractions
Emails, Facebook, computer games, cooking, endlessly surfing the web-even if this is supposed to be study related. Note them down, and be honest. Then, if needed plan time for them in your recreation breaks. Make sure you maintain a balance in your life i.e. the right balanced amount of study, recreation, sleep and extracurricular activities.
- Where and how do you study best?
At home, at Uni, in the library? With friends, by yourself, in a group? With music or noise around you or without? Really look at how you study and make the best decisions for you.
- Get help and get help early
It is absolutely OK to ask a lecturer or tutor if you are unsure about an assignment. Clarifying tasks early and getting feedback can give you an idea of whether you are on the right track and what you can do to move forward. This builds a sense of confidence about what you're doing. Don't expect a lecturer or tutor to take over and write something for you, however, you will have to have clear questions for which you know you will get clear direction.
- Work smarter not longer
Have a clear timetable which you stick to and review regularly to make sure it's working. Use even small amounts of time and try to commit to actually actively writing or completing a task in these blocks. Don't over commit though, i.e. dont' tell yourself you're writing an entire first draft in 45 minutes.
- Have a study space or study spaces
Know where you study well and set yourself up as much as possible to make your space what you want it to be and somewhere you don't mind spending time. This is obviously more difficult in a shared space- like the hub-but you can to some extent make yourself comfortable. Generally fewer distractions will work better but for some people having the sense of others working around them helps get them going.
- Think of study as having 3 'modes'
- Light study - e.g. skimming notes, highlighting texts, reviewing a reading
- Medium study - reading and noting from texts, planning out an essay structure, writing notes for a tutorial
- Full on study - writing an assignment, major exam review.
You need to look at studying in different 'modes' at different times of the day and in a way which suits you individually. So certain times of the day will be better for full on study than other times.
- Work with others
This has a range of benefits. It can give you a sense of accountability, allow you to hear others ideas on a topic, and clarify your thoughts and it can help when you're feeling stuck. To make it work, however you must be prepared and willing to put in. If you don't contribute you will find people aren't so willing to work with you a second time.
- Tackle the thoughts which go with procrastination
Thoughts such as; 'Should do this other task now instead of my study?', 'Maybe I had better revise something else, even though it isn't in my plan for today?' or 'This task is too hard, so I will give up now.'
Be aware of these thoughts, know how you talk to yourself so you can start to honestly address the issues underlying them. You may need help, you may need to clarify something or you may just be looking for an easy way to do something which is challenging; little that is presented at University is going to be easy and most task are going to require that you approach them in a variety of ways. You will need to 'argue' with yourself when thoughts of procrastination get in the way of actual progress.
- Perfectionism is a curse
Look at the implications-what does this curse impose on you? Read our section on Satisficing versus Maximising.
It can help to think about whether or not perfect is getting in the way of actually doing anything, in other words 'is perfect getting in the way of good.' We need to recognise our limitations individually and work to improve where we can, realistically. One way to look at this is that in any sporting team people tend to eventually find the position that best suits them - so for instance not everyone is suited to being a netball goal shooter or a football full back. Set realistic goals for achievement each semester and work to these.
Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi points out in his writing about 'Flow' that acquiring mastery or achieving something significant in any field takes '10 years of immersment' in a task. So to truly develop a skill you have to be prepared to practice over that length of time.