Procrastination encompasses virtually any activity you could be doing instead of studying. It can be thought of as a very long-winded form of interruption. It can waste hours of time and can lead to a lot of stress. Here are some common examples:
Doing tasks or errands that you convince yourself need doing right now Procrastination has long been a struggle of mine. It was particularly bad during my first two years of university. I kept delaying work until I could no longer afford to do so, even though I knew that I should have been studying. I found all sorts of idiotic excuses not to study, like rearranging the apps on my phone, filling in forms, or reading trashy articles on the internet. A total waste of time.
Does this sound like you? Why would we do this to ourselves?
We are emotional creatures. Feelings motivate us, not logic. It's simply part of our human nature to delay unappealing tasks, even when we know it's wrong. Just like me, the vast majority of students are fully aware of when they are procrastinating. Yet we still do it. You can't beat procrastination with logic. You need a different strategy.
The first step is to remove yourself from the possibilities for procrastination. Physically restrict yourself from temptation. This is why your working environment is so important.
Get rid of phones, games consoles, irrelevant websites, books, tablets, toys, and any other objects or activities which might distract you. Install internet blockers on your digital devices, especially if you need to use them for studying.
The next step is tough. Even with your toys out of the way, you might still feel the urge to procrastinate. In fact, you almost certainly will.
How do you handle this urge?
Surprisingly few students have a clear reason for their exam preparation. They simply do it because that's what they were told they should do. Without a clear reason, you miss out on one of the strongest forces against procrastination: an emotional attachment to your goal.
Remember: emotions will prevent procrastination far better than logic. You need to know exactly what your goal is and make sure you know exactly why you want to achieve exam success.
Procrastination is so deadly because it will never satisfy your urge. Nothing is as enjoyable when you know that you should be working instead. There will always be underlying feelings of guilt, and this stops you from having fun. This is bad because you then start to associate these negative feelings with your work. That makes you want to avoid it even more.
Just like with pressure and stress, you can't beat procrastination if you think of your work as an enemy. Set aside plenty of time in your plan to have fun.
Exam preparation is about balance, not sacrifice. If you feel like your work is stopping you from doing the things that truly make you happy, you will grow to resent it. If you work efficiently, you will have enough time to both work and play.
Ideally, you will focus for a few hours to get your work done and spend the rest of your day doing what you want. This maximises the time you spend in the Zone and minimises the total amount of time you need to spend working. However, many students find it difficult to achieve this straight away. If you're in this position, it's better to start with a compromise.
If you're struggling with procrastination, try splitting your work into micro-tasks. These should last around 20-30 minutes. You can get yourself to do anything if you only have to do it for a short period of time. At the end of each micro-task, you can have a break and procrastinate for 5-10 minutes. As you become better at doing this, you should gradually extend the size of your micro-tasks. By making each task longer, you will spend more time in the Zone and less time being distracted.