It’s that time of year again – students around the world are stressed out about final projects and fast approaching exams. As a student, I can relate to the struggle. When it comes to studying I’ve tried many tactics including procrastination, avoidance, and crying out of absolute despair, but I’ve found that approaching any situation head on with a plan works much better.
A study was conducted on why we procrastinate and how it affects our physical and mental health. It tracked the academic performance, stress levels, and general health in college students who procrastinate. At the beginning of the semester, the students who were procrastinating showed lower stress levels, most likely because they were pursuing personal interests instead of dealing with their responsibilities. However, it appeared that the tasks the students put off caught up to them: research concluded that by the end of the semester, the procrastinators earned lower grades and had higher stress levels and stress-related illnesses. Ultimately, the procrastinators performed worse and ended up suffering physically and mentally.
So if you’re having a tough time getting started on a project or task, which is usually the hardest part, these 5 tips will help you out. They’re tried and tested by yours truly. They help me stay focused and actually get work done, so I thought I'd share them with you.
1. Find the small goals in the big picture
It’s great to fill your calendar with due dates, but if you don’t have a plan leading up to them you’re more likely to leave your work until the last minute. Keep the final due date in your calendar, but set smaller deadlines with reminders leading up to it.
Holding yourself accountable throughout the process will ensure that you get your work done and keep you from getting overwhelmed. Meeting those minor goals will also boost your confidence.
2. Surround yourself with hard workers
The people we are closest to have a major influence on us. Working with people who have similar goals to our own can be extremely motivating. If you’re studying with a group, try working with people who hold you accountable, and avoid the ones who try to distract you.
There’s a time for hard work and there’s a time for funny cat videos, but the two don't mix well.
3. Know when to take a break
Our brains can’t focus on a task for a long period of time, especially with the amount of distractions we’re surrounded with. Our capacity to engage in work usually maxes out around the 50-minute mark. When you feel yourself start to drift off, take 15 minutes to step away from what you’re doing.
Get up and get moving, make a snack, or get some fresh air. All three of these activities will help you get past that slump.
4. Lose the distractions
We know how easy it is to get distracted by social media, especially when it's so easily accessible. It's proven that focusing on one task at a time leads to getting work done more efficiently. It will take you a lot longer to get through that page in your textbook if you're checking your phone every time a notification pops up.
If you're having a hard time resisting the urge to check your phone Flipd makes it easy for you to lose the distractions so you can actually retain the information you’re trying to learn.
5. Stop thinking about it
Ernest Hemingway, one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, had tons of tips on how to stay motivated and produce great work. He said his most valuable piece of advice was to quit working when you’re at your best, and stop thinking about it altogether.
“Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.”
The brain is the most complex organ in our body, but you need to give it the opportunity to work its wonders. By stepping away and doing something pleasurable or relaxing, you’re giving your brain the time to process the information on a deeper level.
Procrastination doesn’t pay off: if you don’t give yourself any time to step away from your work, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to see things from a different point of view. Working under rushed circumstances doesn’t allow us the time to properly learn new things or put out our best ideas. Go ahead and add all these tips to your study habits, or try out just one. I hope they help.
We students have to stick together, right?