7 Smart Strategies to Turn Distractions into Incentives and Get Your Revision Done

revisionYou're full of good intentions. You've created a kick-ass revision plan fully personalised to your revision needs. You've bought a new set of highlighters, 500 index cards and a pristine new pad and folder for your revision notes. You've even found some gorgeous folder dividers to divide your revision notes up into subject areas. It's all looking really promising. Until a distraction comes along.

Maybe you're sitting at your desk and you hear the theme tune to EastEnders from the TV downstairs. You really want to know what's going on and just can't resist. Half an hour off won't hurt, will it? Or, you've got your phone by your side and a really interesting conversation has just kicked off on facebook and you don't want to be left out. Or, you're just feeling a little bit too tired this evening and it can all wait for tomorrow. One evening off is hardly going to make the difference between grades.

Well, I'm sorry, but this attitude has just got to STOP! And, I'm going to tell you how you can turn all these distractions into incentives to get your revision done.

Know your goals

The first step is to know what you're aiming for. You'll have target grades that have been set by the teachers at school. That's all well and good. But, I'm thinking bigger than this.

What do you want to do with your life? What are your unique talents and gifts, the specific combination of your personality and all the things you're good at that only you have? Where do you see them leading you in this life? Others still want to make their impact by changing the world. For me, my goal was getting a place at a very specific University. I wanted to go to Cambridge.

Once you know your goals, you need to know what you need to do to get there. What grades do you need to get to be accepted at Medical School? How much money do you need to earn to achieve the lifestyle you want? How are you going to get to the position where you can change the world?

Knowing your goals will undoubtedly raise you above tonight's edition of EastEnders. Getting back to revision will seem like a small sacrifice to make for the sake of achieving your dreams.

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Keep your motivation to revise front and centre

Once you know your goals, you need to stay motivated to achieve them. Do one of the following:

  • Make an inspiration board. For going to Cambridge, I would have found loads of pictures of Cambridge University and made a collage, either on the computer or cut and stick.
  • Come up with a mantra. This is what I actually did. My mantra was ‘I will get into Cambridge'.
  • Write a journal entry where you put yourself in the shoes of your future self, doing what you want to do. Imagine how it will feel, what you'll be achieving, what you'll be giving back.

Once you've selected one of the above, keep it front and centre of your life. So, if you've made an inspiration board, stick it above your desk, in your planner or inside your folder. When your resolve starts to waver, or distractions become too tempting, look at it to remind yourself. You can do the same with your journal entry.

Similarly, when your mind starts to wander or your phone shows an alert, repeat your mantra to yourself and get back to that revision.

Need help with unlocking your life goals? Book a Get Motivated! session with me.

Turn your distractions into rewards

What are the things that you find really difficult to give up for the sake of revision? Spending time on facebook? Training with your sports team? Watching your favourite soap?

You don't have to give these up. You just have to change your mindset. If you said to yourself, “I'm going to do two hours of revision and when I've done it I'll reward myself with watching EastEnders” you would be working towards your goals and not missing out.

If you want to spend time on social media, set a timer. Say, you'll do an hour of revision then spend 10 minutes on facebook. Set a timer for those ten minutes. When they're up, get back to it.

For me, when I was taking my A-Levels years ago (way before Facebook ever existed), I loved having a cup of tea with my mum and playing the game Boggle. We were both slightly addicted to Boggle. It only lasts three minutes and it's very easy to say, “Let's just have another one,” but then it turns into another one and another one. If you love it as much as we do you can quite easily waste an hour on it. One way to get around this is to ration the number of games. Say you'll play three and then get back to work.

Make yourself accountable

Most people find it a lot harder to fail in someone else's eyes than their own. This is why the idea of accountability works. The dictionary defines ‘accountable' as ‘responsible for an action or thing, or to a person'. Ultimately, your grades are going to hold you accoutable, but on a day-to-day basis it's useful to have someone there making you stick to your goals.

So, find yourself an accountability partner. At the beginning of each day or revision session tell them what you're aiming to achieve. What subject areas are you going to revise? Are you going to do a practice question? How long are you going to work for? How are you going to reward yourself in your breaks (will it be a healthy walk to get your limbs moving or a hot chocolate and your favourite soap?)? At the end of the day or revision session, report back to them. If you haven't done what you set out to do you'll have to make excuses to another person, not yourself, and that's uncomfortable. You can also use your accountability partner to help you trouble-shoot revision problems e.g. the way you're revising isn't working, you don't understand something. Or, use them to test you on your knowledge.

Choose a revision accountability partner that you trust – a friend or a relation. Or, I can help you out.

Get your friends and family on-board with your revision

Many of your friends will be revising too. You should all be buckling down and doing the work. Your family should be championing you on as well. Get them all on board to help you achieve what you want to achieve.

With your friends, you could agree that you're not going to look at social media until a certain time of day. Maybe, the first person to post every day has a penalty or a forfeit. Use your imagination as to what that might be.

With family, explain to them what kind of environment and support you need. Explain that nagging doesn't help. Show them your revision timetable, explain how you're going to reward yourself at the end of each session. Ask them to try to leave you undisturbed in your core revision hours.

Remove distractions

One Christmas, while I was in the sixth form, Father Christmas put one of those little ball-bearing games in my stocking. You know, the sort where you have to get all the ball bearings in the holes by tipping it side to side. This game sat on my desk and when my mind wandered, I picked it up and played with it. I got very good at getting all the ball bearings in the holes very quickly. Too good. The distraction of that game was too tempting.

You need to cleanse your revision environment of distractions. That might mean leaving your phone in another room. If you've got something, like I had, that you can't resist picking up and playing with, remove it. If you can't concentrate with music on, turn it off. You get my drift.

If it's not that important, delete it

When I was studying for my GCSEs I had a bit of a wake-up call. At a revision information evening at school my headmaster said we should all be revising for 2.5 hours every day. I wasn't doing this and I couldn't possibly achieve it if I kept watching Neighbours and Home and Away every day. I decided that I was going to drop these two things from my life. They weren't that important and if I was going to achieve my goal of getting into Cambridge I was going to have to buckle down. It worked.

Revision does take up a lot of time. You need to think about the things in your life that you can let go, temporarily, so you can do your best. Maybe you keep your favourite soap as your everyday reward but you give up on your other favourite television programmes while revision and exams last. If facebook is just too tempting, delete it from your phone. You can always have it back in the summer holidays.

You need to make some honest choices about what you can get rid of from your life, even if it's only for a few weeks.

Over to you

I've given you a load of ideas here about how you can turn distractions into incentives to keep on track with your revision. Which one are you going to start using TODAY? Leave a comment below and we'll start to hold you accountable.

Did you find this information helpful? Yes! Then you'll love my ten step method to getting outstanding exam results, which has worked for me over and over again. You can learn more about my method in The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take.
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