When you’re not in the mood to study, doing LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE becomes far more appealing. Whether that’s watching another episode of a show on Netflix, making a snack, even doing the laundry or tidying up your room, these tasks all of a sudden seem much more urgent.
But exams, weekly readings and assignment deadlines exist and you can’t ignore them forever. So below we share our top tips to avoid procrastination and build up the motivation to study.
- Go for a walk
While it seems counterintuitive to leave all your study behind and go outside for a walk, it is actually a super effective way to help kickstart you into study mode.
Going for a walk helps to wake up your brain as exercise produces endorphins, which are chemicals that improve your mood and boost motivation. It also moves more oxygen to your brain, helping to get rid of any feelings of fatigue.
Walking also creates momentum, so by the time you return to your desk to study you will feel as if you have already accomplished something. Once you get moving on a productive track it’s much easier to stay in motion.
- Commit to a single task
Once you sit down at your desk to begin working, first write out all the tasks on a to-do list, then commit to just working on one of these tasks. If you commit to doing more than one task, all you are doing is setting yourself up to be distracted.
By writing a to-do list, you are getting all the tasks that are floating around in your head out and down onto a physical piece of paper (or onto an app in your phone) where you won’t forget them. This helps to clear your mind to allow you to focus on the single task at hand. Prioritise small, concrete goals over large, vague goals. For example, “Write paragraph summary of enlightenment thought” is far more actionable than “learn about enlightenment”.
- Clear your workspace
It is hard to focus when your workspace isn’t clean so get rid of anything that doesn’t relate to the work you’re doing. That means throw away any rubbish, put away any distracting books or materials and close any internet tabs or apps that have nothing to do with your study. If your self-control is non-existent, download a focus app on your phone or computer that will stop you from being able to access distracting apps and websites.
- Start small
Getting started is the hardest part of study, but usually once you get going, you will get on a roll. So just get started, even if your productivity is only in small bursts. If you’re staring at a blank page for an assignment, just start writing; it may not actually have anything to do with the topic but it will help you get into a writing flow. If perfectionism paralysis has you stuck on how to move forward, remember that ‘done is better than perfect’. If you are completing a weekly reading, get out your book and start reading in five minute bursts. As you gain momentum and focus you will find yourself able to complete more.
- Don’t be hard on yourself!
One of the reasons procrastination is so debilitating is because of the way it plays with our emotions. Ruminating on all the time you spent not studying is only going to leave you feeling guilty and deflated, which is the opposite of motivated. To break this cycle of negativity, it’s important not to be harsh on yourself or blame yourself for procrastinating. Instead, acknowledge the difficulty you’re facing, that you’re only human and that procrastination happens from time to time. Once you’re able to recognise the habit it becomes easier to get yourself back on track.
- Use the Pomodoro Technique
If all else fails, try this time management technique invented by Francesco Cirillo in Italy in the late 1980s that uses a timer to break work down into intervals separated by short breaks.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes, and work on just one task during that time.
- Stop working when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
- If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short five minute break.
- Repeat steps 1-3 until you have completed four “pomodoros”.
- After four “pomodoros”, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes, reset your checkmark count to zero and then go back to step 1.
This technique helps to eliminate resistance as working for 25 minutes is manageable and will help improve your attention span and focus.