It’s that time of the semester when university students start panicking at the thought of the deadlines that lay before them. The workload that they’ve been ignoring for the last few weeks is coming to slap them back in the face and they suddenly find themselves consuming litres of coffee and Red Bull in an attempt to get the work done. It is also, conveniently, the time of year when Netflix and Stan upload a lot of good TV shows. How do I know? I’ve been watching them! I have spent many hours with a half written assignment in my hand, watching the pilot episode of a show that I should NOT have started, thinking “What am I doing?! I don’t have the time to do this to myself?”.
Procrastination? Welcome to your tape.
We can’t allow ourselves to be demotivated and disinterested by the work in front of us. I have worked tirelessly this year to try and combat my old procrastinating ways from past years… Whilst I write this blog, procrastinating on other assignments, I hope that these tools help you more than they have helped me.
Set Realistic Goals
Don’t allow yourself to get completely overwhelmed by the tasks in front of you. Set goals that you know you can achieve either in the next hour, the next couple of days, or the next week. Don’t be unrealistic and overload your timetable, as you’ll only find yourself more overcome than before. Lists are your friends. Write ALL the lists.
Divide and Conquer
I tend to find what makes essay writing and assignments so easy to procrastinate on are the sheer size of them. If you have a 3000 word essay due by the end of the week, and have been given a list of what needs to be included in that essay, go through that list and figure out how many words each section will need to be. You’ll often find that the task at hand is not as hard as you might think. Then it becomes the simple task of finding the information necessary – and these days that can be so easy. Google Books is your new best friend! If you divide the work into smaller bits and chip away at it, you’ll soon find the work is finished before you know it.
‘Only Five Minutes’
Tell yourself that you’re only going to work on the assignment for five minutes. Ask yourself what you can achieve in that time. You’ll often find that by giving yourself such a short time to work on something, your brain doesn’t go into panic ‘you’re going to make me sit at a computer for 8 hours’ mode, and the ideas that were lacking before all of a sudden appear. It’s about fooling your brain into the work that it needs to do so that it doesn’t become overwhelmed by the task at hand. I often tell myself, “this is the last assignment and then you’re done!”. Whilst that statement may not always be true, when you’re 500 words off finishing and you find your mind starting to wander, it can really help you to climb the last bit of the hill!
Visualise the finish line.
Just think… the goal at hand will get you one step closer to finishing your degree, or achieving the next amazing thing in your career! If you can finish this task at hand, you can do anything. The impossible is quietly becoming more possible the more you work – you’ve got this! Finish the work!
I use an app called Flat Tomato to manage my time. After a certain period of work, it tells you take a five minute break. After another little while, it’ll tell you to take a longer break. Don’t forget to reward yourself in that time – have some chocolate, relax for a few seconds, go for a walk. As much as I’d love to say “watch an episode of _________”, I’m not sure that that would be completely helpful. But at the end of the day, when your brain is completely flustered and splattered, watching an episode of something is a perfect way to wind down and get your brain out of ‘work’ space.
Know Yourself and how YOU Study
If you can watch TV shows and be fine with work? Do it. You have to know how you work. For example, I’ve somehow trained myself that anytime Rupaul’s Drag Race comes on, it is time to write out my main notes from my readings. With each new episode that is released, I find my work is done. However, most of the time when shows are released, I cannot focus on my work if that show is on in the background. I am also a person that cannot listen to a song with words whilst working. My brain gets overloaded with text and I shut down and lose concentration. However, if I put on a Mahler symphony that lasts for ninety minutes, I say to myself “I am going to work until the symphony is over, and then I’m going to go for a walk”. I find I suddenly get the task done and the procrastination stops. But you need to know what triggers your ability to work and what motivates and demotivates you.
Truth is, you’re always going to find a way to procrastinate. But here is your chance to find a way to STOP it. Go do that essay or that composition that’s sitting on your desk. Put down your tablet or your phone, stop watching YouTube and go be productive. You’ll thank yourself later.
Word of Caution: Whilst some may find opera a brilliant choice of listening music, stay alert for finales such as Der Rosenkavalier and Götterdamerung. If you’re anything like me, writing assignments whilst listening to this music will result in the most dramatic pieces of work that you have ever written in your life… this may concern your lecturers.
Written by Katherine Goyder