You know what you have to do, but something is holding you back from doing it. You check your IM’s, grab a snack, and take a few minutes to play with the dog. Before you know it, an hour or two has passed and you have yet to make a dent in the three chapters you have to study for tomorrow’s test, or the project due day after next.
When it comes to school work, everyone struggles with procrastination at one time or another – even though most everyone is aware of why they shouldn’t let it get the best of them. Putting things off until the very last minute causes stress (which could’ve been avoided), and compromises the quality of your work (not to mention your grades).
Even so, the urge to procrastinate can be downright irresistible. Maybe you don’t like the class or the teacher. Maybe what you’re supposed to be doing is tedious or too difficult. Maybe you just don’t see the point of the task, or what you get out of it.
But giving in to that urge will only make you feel worse in the long run. Even though you tell yourself you’ll feel better or work better after you grab that snack or reply to that chat, you know that you won’t. You’ll regret the loss of time that you could’ve spent on more important things.
To get yourself out of the rut and back on track, here are a few things you could try:
- Turn off the TV, music player, mobile phone, and the internet (or at least the IM’s).
- Make your study area a pet-free zone.
- Put your drinks or snacks within reach.
- Ignore that still, small voice telling you to eat first, play first, or take a nap first.
- Think of the goals you’re trying to achieve—a higher test score, higher report card marks, the university you’re trying to get into. Write these down and put them where you can see them.
- Think of what will happen if you’re not able to finish what you have to do on time – you’ll flunk the class, you won’t be ready for the recital, or you’ll have to spend extra hours during a holiday to catch up.
- Share your goals with your parents—maybe they can reward you for every goal you are able to reach. A higher test score might mean ice cream or being able to stay up an hour later at night.
- Share your goals with your friends—they can encourage you to finish your tasks on time (and it’ll be embarrassing for you to have to face them if you weren’t able to finish).
- Break up big assignments into smaller, more manageable chunks. If you have to write a five-page paper by next week, for example, try finishing one page a day.
- Make time for downtime! But make sure that when time is up, you stick to your studying schedule.
- Pat yourself on the back for tasks you’ve completed or goals you’ve achieved—even little ones. Take a quick break, or have a cookie or a cold drink.
- Figure out which tasks you usually tend to “save for later”, and ask yourself why you put them off. If you think they’re too hard or you don’t understand how to do something, ask for help.
- Figure out which tasks you like least, the hardest things you have to do, or what will take the most time, and get those over with first.
- Keep your studying area organized.
- When making a to-do list, prioritize the tasks according to what’s due first, and put a timeframe or a deadline for each task. Instead of “finish history homework”, try putting “finish history homework by 10:30”.
It’s true there are legitimate reasons for putting things off, sometimes. The trick is to stop and ask yourself whether something really can’t wait, or whether you’re just looking for ways to not do your homework. Once you’ve identified what the most important thing of the moment is, then that’s what you should be doing.