It’s nearing the end of November and you have five assignments due, two midterms next week, a research essay sitting unfinished on your desktop, and final exams are right around the corner. Work? What work? You’re watching Netflix with a glass of wine in one hand and a bowl of ice cream in the other, blissfully pretending that school isn’t stressing you out to the max. Girl, I’ve been there. So many times have I found myself doing anything I can to avoid attending to my long list of responsibilities. Unfortunately, this tactic doesn’t work and ends up making me panicked, stressed, and inevitably rushing through things that otherwise needed more time to get done. I’m still working on it, but I’ve learned a few ways at keeping my procrastination somewhat at bay.
1) Keep your schedule visible, and make sure you actually update it
I used to be terrible at maintaining any sort of schedule, planner, or calendar. I would actually use them for about a week and then give up on the entire process altogether, leaving them pathetically blank. Finding the perfect planner that I like using, and leaving a big ol’ calendar out in the open with all of my due dates on it, has helped massively. Getting into the habit of marking things down when I find out about them means that I can’t really avoid it when it’s sitting right in front of me, guilting me into doing my work.
2) Try using organizational apps
I now have a folder on my phone solely dedicated to productivity apps. At first, they sat there with no purpose. When I actually started to use them, shockingly enough, they proved to be very helpful. Check out Procraster to find out why you’re procrastinating, Any.DO to organize your tasks, or Productive that basically gets your daily life in order. There are tons of apps out there designed for pretty much any need you can think of, so make use of them and let them guide you down a path to a more “get to it” kinda mindset.
3) Actually get some proper sleep
My sleep schedule is far from perfect, but the more tired I am, the less likely it’ll be that I’ll be useful for any task. Going to bed really late, whether it’s from going out, watching just one more episode, or lying awake stressing over all of the things you have to do, is just throwing a giant roadblock in the middle of any potential progress. You’ll inevitably wake up grumpy, drained, and unwilling to do anything except complain and wanting to nap. So do yourself a huge favour and just sleep. It’s a precious, valuable thing that you need if you want to be a semi-functional and productive student.
4) Work in a space with no distractions (stay away from studying on your bed)
It can make a ridiculously big difference in your productivity levels whether you work in the library on the seventh floor, or you’re wrapped up in your bed with Netflix and YouTube on in different tabs, and your roommate banging around in the other room. Find a spot that is completely separated from all distractions, download the works-too-well Google Chrome extension StayFocused (it locks you out of websites that you choose to block, for as long as you want), put on some white noise and avoid your bed at all costs; you’ll only want to veg out and sleep there.
5) Take short breaks when you’re working on something long and tedious
It is important to actually take breaks, especially when you’ve been working on something for a significant period of time. The longer you go without taking a break, especially when you’re pushing your way through a soul-sucking essay, the more you’ll likely it’ll be that you’ll just end up burning yourself out and wanting to quit. Make sure it’s needed (not just an excuse) and take time away from your writing and studying when you need to give your brain a short break.
6) Stop using excuses and be honest with yourself
It’s super easy to get caught up in your own excuses as to why you’re not doing what you really should be, especially in university. It’s important though to know the difference between a justifiable reason and a flimsy excuse. At the end of the day, we all know what we should be doing and getting done, so the more arguments you make in favor of going to Phil’s on a Wednesday when you have a test the next day is just going to screw with you more than anything. Plan ahead so that you can have fun and take responsibility for your less than foolproof study/sleep/life habits.
7) Be realistic
I’m still not perfect at doing this, but I’ve learned that being realistic about what I plan to do is pretty much essential to actually accomplishing anything. I’ve made to-do lists that I want to finish in two days, but should really take about a week. Taking on too much at once will just overwhelm you and probably tire you out, so it’s better to take on a reasonable amount of work to finish in an amount of time that won’t make you feel like pulling your hair out and crying into your notes.
No matter what, unless you’re some sort of magical being, you’re going to fall victim to procrastination while you’re slugging your way through life and school. If you acknowledge it every now and again, take a few preventative measures, and utilize some self-control every now and again, you just might be able to beat procrastination when you really need to.