If you can read through this text, you can also get started on your subject. Give it a try!
Are you one of those who puts off reading and writing? Are you one of those who got stressed out last semester because you had so much to catch up on as the exams drew closer? Are you one of those who chooses to procrastinate instead of cracking on with new assignments and new books?
You know that putting things off will come back to bite you, but you do it anyway. It’s irrational, basically. If this sounds like you, you’re probably very good at procrastination. You are not alone.
Procrastination often kicks in when you have long deadlines and are free to decide how to use your time.
I’d like to provide some advice based on this research.
When you put off a task, you are probably running away from an uncomfortable situation. Learning a new subject can be tough, and many people worry that they will not be able to complete the assignment. Maybe you are running from the feeling of inadequacy that comes when you encounter something difficult? Maybe you do not really believe strongly enough that you will be able to understand the subject, assignment or chapter you are going to read?
So putting things off will be comfortable in the short term, but very stressful in the long term. Remember that your negative thoughts about yourself do not reflect your abilities. Get started and trust in yourself. And accept that subjects can be tough, but don’t run away. Don’t throw away the opportunity for mastery.
My advice is to expand your “reading room tolerance”. Get used to the silence you face when you sit down to work, and persevere with it. Accept that subjects can be tough and that you are studying to learn. Anxiety will come, but it doesn’t mean that you are actually going to fail.
Get started! Getting started gives you a good feeling of achievement. Getting started will also most likely reduce your worries. Let me quote Mark Twain: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started”. Assignments actually seem more extensive and difficult before you get started than when you’re working on them. The longer you procrastinate, the harder it is to get started again. You’ll be surprised. The assignment is probably easier than you thought before you got started.
It is also easier to stay motivated throughout the semester when you start early.
When you procrastinate, you’re performing an impulsive act. Get to know yourself and become aware of your impulsivity. Impulsivity is basically a good trait, but may not be the trait you need while studying. Instead, bring your “slow qualities” like patience and perseverance to the fore. Maybe you need to learn to tame your impulsivity a bit?
We are all equipped with the same characteristics. Some can be strengthened and some can be tamed, depending on the situation we are in.
When you are constantly doing other things instead of what you are supposed to do, you just need a little control: This can be learned!
Make a good plan for the day: Where should I sit? What should I read? How long should I read?
Most important: make a realistic plan! A little more Twain: “The secret of getting started is breaking your complex tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one”.
It is better to have short-term plans rather than unrealistic and complex long-term plans. Unrealistic plans just stress you out and stress drains you of energy.
Get an overview of books and articles, use a calendar and set yourself deadlines.
Have intermediate goals!
Boring, but a good idea. Keep off SoMe during your work sessions. SoMe is full of temptations and when you put these temptations aside you don’t have to use your concentration and energy to resist them. Instead, give yourself a reward like using your phone or something else during breaks. Plan for short reading sessions.
If you find this difficult, try the “Nothing method”: Force yourself to sit and work for 20 minutes. Everything else is “forbidden” during these short study sessions.
Vary your learning methods. Some people like to switch seats. Some write minutes, some talk to themselves out loud. Pretend that you are being interviewed on the topic you are studying, and record it on your phone. Draw and create models that reflect what you have read. Use colours and create templates for the different chapters. The brain remembers models and outlines best.
The brain needs movement! A lot of research shows that physical activity has a good effect on the academic brain. Take short, quick walks while memorising facts. Talk to yourself about the subject while you are out and about. Record it on your phone. Take a walk right before the lecture and take a short walk after the lecture and between study sessions.
Water! The brain needs water and you will think better.
Putting things off leads to the accumulation of tasks, and the accumulation of tasks leads to stress. Putting yourself in a stressful situation can also lead to more critical and negative self-perception. Stress can cause you to end up in a negative circle.
Do things that give you good vibes. Reward yourself a lot along the way. Accept that subjects can be difficult, but be careful who you compare yourself to. I have met many students who compare themselves to the professor or the best in the class. If you do this, you are being unfair on yourself. Focus only on your own learning curve.
Enjoy the good feeling of being in control of your time. Studying is probably the only period in your life where you have this freedom, so don’t let this freedom become your enemy!
I wish you good luck!
In the conversation therapy service we are particularly concerned about procrastination and we know that even the world champion in procrastination can break free of this pattern.