How to stop procrastinating and study
Check your phone. Have a biscuit. Oh, and a cup of tea. Watch Netflix (whilst checking your phone). Cuddle your dog. Snap a picture of him for Snapchat. Have another biscuit. Listen to some music (whilst checking your phone). Make another cup of tea….
Does that sound like your procrastination routine?
Like many students, if you've got the procrastination habit you'll be wondering how on earth to get rid of it. In this post I'll be showing you exactly how to stop procrastinating and study.
First I'll show you how to identify the real reasons that you're procrastinating.
Then, I'll show you how to stop procrastinating once and for all.
Procrastination is a choice
First, you have to understand something very simple. Procrastination is a choice. You are a free-willed human being who has the ability, in any given moment, to choose how you're spending your time. If you're choosing to procrastinate rather than to study you need to recognise that choice and take responsibility for it.Procrastination is a choice. Recognise that choice and take responsibility for it. Click To Tweet
Whenever you find yourself procrastinating check yourself and ask yourself whether, in that moment, you really want to be exercising your choice to procrastinate, or whether you'd prefer to be spending your time doing something more productive.
Understood? Good. Let's move on.
The Real Reasons You're Procrastinating
Before you can stop procrastinating and study you need to understand the root causes of your procrastination. Here are some of the real reasons why you might be putting off your studies and displacing them with elaborate procrastination tactics.
- You're not motivated.
- You're tired.
- You find studying boring.
- You aren't sure how to do the task that you've been set.
- The task you've got to do is so big that it's impossible to know where to start.
- You don't feel clever enough to do it.
- You're worried that you'll do it wrong so it feels better in a strange way not to try.
- You're secretly, deep down, scared of success and how it may change your life.
- There are too many distractions in your environment.
- You don't understand how the task you've got to do will help move you closer to your goal.
I could go on, but you get the idea. At the root cause of all procrastination is basically some kind of insecurity, uncertainty or excuse. If you can recognise what's causing you to procrastinate you can start tackling the problem head-on.
How to stop procrastinating once and for all
Every time you catch yourself procrastinating ask yourself, ‘Why am I procrastinating?' When you come up with a reason seek a solution to the problem. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
I'm procrastinating because I don't have any motivation
A lack of motivation is often behind procrastination. Last week I wrote in depth about how to get yourself motivated to study. However, I feel that too many students use a lack of motivation as an excuse. Sometimes you've just got to get on and do something, whether you're bouncing off the walls with enthusiasm or not.
I'm procrastinating because I'm tired
We all get tired. You've just got to decide whether you're tired enough to excuse yourself from your studies, or whether you've got it in you to just push on through. Maybe you need to choose an easier task today rather than something difficult, or perhaps your time would actually be better spent taking a nap. It's up to you to decide. However, if you want to keep working towards your goal, your vision or your ‘great big why' then you need to stop frittering your time away on procrastination tactics and choose either to: 1) get back to your studies or 2) do something restorative and restful so that you're in a fit state to study later.
I'm procrastinating because my studies are boring
If you're finding your studies boring you're either revising in the wrong way or you're studying the wrong subjects.
There's not much you can do about having chosen the wrong subjects, and if you've got a curious enough mind you can find something to be interested in about anything. (I always say that only boring people get bored).Only boring people get bored. Click To Tweet
If you're looking for different ways to revise that are more engaging and interesting for you download a free chapter of my book, The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take. This free chapter will take you through an exercise where you identify the ways that you most like to learn. Many students have found this to be a revelation.
You're procrastinating because you don't know how to do a task, or the task is too big
This is a really common one. It comes up with extended projects, like the EPQ, and coursework.
The thing you need to do is break the task down into smaller sections. Start with the things you do know how to do. With the things you're less certain about, brainstorm ideas about how you might go about them. If you're really stuck, ask for help, but in the meantime keep yourself busy with the things you can do.
You're procrastinating because you don't feel clever enough
Maybe your family has been telling you for years that you're not as clever as your big sister. You've convinced yourself of this fact because you've been told, or at least given that impression, so often. Now you don't think you're up to the task in hand. Basically, your confidence has been shot to pieces and you can't pull it together again.
There's a whole chapter on this in my book, The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take. But, here I'm just going to encourage you to prove yourself, and everyone else, wrong.
You're procrastinating because you'll think you'll do it wrong
This is something I see all the time. People being scared to try in case you get it wrong.
If this is you, you need a major injection of growth mindset. What's that I hear you ask? Well, you can find out more here, but again, my book goes into loads of detail about how to cultivate a growth mindset in yourself. In essence, you have to embrace mistakes because they're part of the learning process. As Richard Branson said,
You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over.
It's totally unrealistic to expect your first attempt at anything to be perfect. Instead, try to have fun getting better.It's unrealistic to expect your first attempt at anything to be perfect. Instead, try to have fun getting better. Click To Tweet
You're procrastinating because you're scared of success
Oh, this is a big one. Are you sabotaging your own success because you don't want life to change? Maybe you don't want the pressure that might come with success?
Have a good think about what scares you about success. Write all the reasons down. Now screw that piece of paper up and throw it away and get on with the work.
You're procrastinating because you're distracted
Notifications on your phone. The house phone ringing. Your mum coming in from work. The dog barking because he wants to go for a walk. Arranging your collection of Muji pens for the 144th time this year. All those things are distractions. What you need to do is either eliminate those distractions (e.g. turn the notifications off on your phone) or turn the distractions into incentives.
You're procrastinating because you don't believe this task will help you
Sometimes you'll be set homework tasks that you think are pointless. Very occasionally, it has been known, for teachers to set pointless homework tasks because they're expected to by their school's senior management. However, in 95% of cases work has been set because it will benefit you in the long-term.
I'd encourage you to be open-minded in this situation and challenge yourself to see what you can learn when you go into something with a positive attitude. Just have a go.
If you've read this with interest and thought about putting some of my suggestions into place, but then you got a snap from your friend or you got sucked into another episode of your favourite drama, then you're not alone. What you need is a complete system for getting your studies in order. You can get that complete system in my book, The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take. It goes through everything from motivation to mindset, time management to revision techniques and is your secret weapon in the battle to get better grades.
When you pre-order by 13th February 2017 you will also get two free downloadable academic year planners and a weekly planner – because planning is another fundamental weapon in the war against procrastination.
Over to you
In the comments I'd love to hear:
- The root cause of most of your procrastination
- How you're going to stop procrastinating and study from now onwards.