You really wanted that A. You were organised and set aside two hours each day for a fortnight to revise, recap and re-teach yourself some of the module or subject you felt you needed to. Great decision. You were organised, and managed your revision in small bite-sized chunks, which weren’t too strenuous, but significant enough to keep on top of it. Kudos to you young sir/madam. But wait… there’s plenty of time before the exam… I was after all very organised and planned well ahead… So one trip to the pub won’t hurt in the big scheme of things surely? Oh hang on, it’s Dave’s birthday? well he only gets one of these every year! And what’s that you say? The library shuts early tonight? Well… there’s barely any point staying for just one hour is there?
Before you know it, it’s exam day, you haven’t got past page 3 in your revision guide and you are cramming like your life depends upon it. Forget the A, you just want to pass and write it off as ANOTHER lesson to learn from.
This sound familiar? If so it might be of some comfort to you that you are not alone. In fact procrastination is probably the most common habit undertaken by undergraduates. Like most bad habits we acquire, the tendency to procrastinate develops slowly over a long period of time, with roots stemming from behaviour we learned early in our lives. Psychologists and time management experts believe that each person has his or her own individual patterns of procrastination. These different patterns arise for different reasons. One person may learn to procrastinate through fear of failure, while another procrastinates for fear of success.
Want some good news? YOU CAN OVERCOME IT. But you do need to want to.
Set Realistic Targets
It is impossible to motivate yourself when you don’t know what your end goal is. What ultimately, are you trying to accomplish? Once you have your end goal you can work backwards with seemingly small and less significant achievements, which both serve to incrementally work toward your target and feed your feel good factor in ticking off successfully – met targets. But be malleable, don’t be afraid to change and alter your plans as you go. changing your plans shows that you can be self critical, are actively involved in your study and not passively reading through notes. Chances are you will take more in the more you are analysing the content and your techniques during this process.
Use the ‘5 Minute Plan’
If you are having a difficult time motivating yourself to begin a task, give this strategy a try: figure out how much of the job you can accomplish in five minutes’ worth of work, then complete that amount of work and that work only. After the time is up, take a short break in which you do something entirely different, then plan what you will accomplish in your next five-minute session. The key is to force yourself to stop after five minutes; if you do not, the next time you try this technique you’ll know subconsciously that you intend to work longer and the job will seem no less daunting. Work only for five minutes, but make those five minutes count.
Divide and Conquer
If something seems hard, then maybe it’s not worth doing… Said no one ever! Well, many probably have, and the likelihood is that they probably failed. Break it down. make it manageable, the smaller the target the more likely you will achieve it. Writing an dissertation or research paper is difficult. breaking it down into sub-categories and researching small elements of it is less so. before you know it you will have produced a wealth of content that simply needs threading together.
Now Reward Yourself
Once you have collated this material, reward yourself. You will soon, subconsciously, associate positive reinforcement with your studies. They will seem less and less daunting each time you attack a new project. And eventually ‘attack’ them you shall. they will no longer govern your days, but you will feel in charge of them! If you feel the need to, make a contract with them. Every time you achieve a small goal, reward yourself with a pizza (healthy options are available) play on the computer, that CD you wanted, Hell… maybe the odd beer! Remember to only reward AFTER achievement, never in lieu.
Know Your Own Mind
Contrary to popular belief, you do actually know yourself better than your friends do, certainly where your own study is concerned. Being aware of your own avoidance strategies is key, you know your favourite methods of procrastination and what triggers it. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s OK to get on with some chores if your only objective was to shelve your revision. BE REALISTIC, you know if your a morning person or not, or if you only pick up a pencil after 10.00pm. Make it easy to achieve your goals.
Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Don’t rush, slow and steady wins the race.
And most of all, expect set backs. They are bad habits for a reason, you won’t counter them immediately. But if you following the correct steps and keep trying you will stand a much better chance at achieving your ‘end-goal’.