We all work differently, and that’s fine. But if your study habits leave your pulling your hair out and crying over your biology textbook at 2am each Tuesday, maybe it’s time to reevaluate.
The most obvious solution, and the one that non-procrastinators are always first to give, is to do your work ahead of time. Thanks a lot! It’s more complicated than that. There are certainly different types of studiers, and I think there are different types of procrastinators too. Finding out why you put things off might help pinpoint a method that’ll get you back on track.
So… why do you procrastinate?
Because you “don’t feel like it”?
I never feel like doing work either. That’s why they call it “work.” The key, though, is to find a way to motivate yourself, and I’ve listed a few ideas below.
There’s always something you can work towards. Maybe it’s graduation, or the end of the semester. Maybe you’re working just towards the weekend (Loverboy knows that everyone is).
Pick any event to act as your stoplight. Are you hanging out with your friends at 7? Try to work until then. Or do you have a review session for an exam? Try to work most of the study guide done before you go.
Maybe it’s just a matter of finding a place that you can associate with studying. If sitting for 4 hours in the same grey chair underground with a computer screen in front of your face doesn’t sound appealing for some reason, then try switching it up. Spend an hour and a half in one library, then walk to another one (we have over 20). Or move to a café or student lounge. Wherever you go, make sure that when you get there, you know it’s time to focus.
Music and TV
I think it’s hard to do homework while listening to music or watching something, but both can be serve as excellent breaks. One night, the only way I could get through another act of Twelfth Night was by watching the movie-version of each scene after I read it. It made it take longer to finish the act, but it worked as a quick fix (especially when the alternative was getting nothing done).
You can switch off between working 30 minutes and listening to a song, or watch an episode of a show after you finish.
Or…Fake It Til You Make It
It sounds silly, but there’s some truth to the old saying. Even the most uncreative people I know (i.e., myself) have told me that they’re able to psych themselves up to work by pretending like it’s fun.
Because you have better things to do?
Of course you have better things to do than homework! We all do! We want to bake cookies with our roommates, go to our favorite RSOs, make friends with the squirrels on campus, and so much more.
But you’re here at school now. You’re here for a reason, and your education isn’t something you want to waste.
If you don’t have time to get all your reading done, think about listening to the audiobook. You can listen to them before lecture starts or even while you’re at the gym. Students at Illinois have access to tons of audiobooks through the RB Digital app, but you can also find free ones online.
Because you’re a perfectionist?
Perfectionists feel like everything they do has to be perfect. It’s easy to see how that mentality might make you disinclined to start anything. Some people say that nothing you do will ever be perfect. I don’t think that has to be true, if you change how you define the word. “Are you telling me to lower my standards?” you might ask. Well, if your standards are so high that you can never reach them, so you never try, then yes. Lower your standards.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t dream big. Dream everything! But when it comes to the day-to-day, it’s usually easier to achieve big goals when they’re broken down into concise and measurable tasks.
Develop a routine, and hold yourself to it
Routine is the main thing that keeps me from putting things off. I’ve had to get into the habit of waking up early and starting first thing in the morning, but then again, I’m sort of a morning person. You night owls out there might structure your day differently.
During the week, use the downtime in between classes to work. And try to get some stuff done before lunch on Saturday and Sunday, even if it’s just a little. It’s brutal as heck to taint your precious weekend time with school, but getting homework started early in the day will make it a whole lot easier to go back to later.
Because you’re too stressed to even think about it?
Life is stressful! You’re constantly being thrown all sort of things to duck, leap over, or whack at with a bat. Stress management is an entire conversation in itself, and you shouldn’t ignore it. In terms of stress-related procrastination, try this: if there’s something that you’re stressed about, even if it’s just sending an email, get into the habit of addressing it right away. It’s more efficient than letting it hang over you.
“Not much help now,” you say. “It’s Sunday night by this point, and I’m full-on flipping out!” Ha! I’m only laughing because I’ve been there, and will be there again soon. Find what the priority is, and do what you can. You’re only human.
Figuring out that balance between working and relaxing is something that we procrastinators need to work on. Remember, progress not perfection. We’ll all get there in the end. Just after one more episode of The Great British Bake Off…