Does the sentence “you won’t be able to finish this assignment the night before” make you laugh hysterically? Do you stress about stress before there’s even any stress to stress about? Is this a memeological representation of your entire academic career?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you my friend, are what fancy people call – a procrastinator. The extremely reputable site Urban Dictionary, defines procrastination as “avoiding doing something for as long as possible, sometimes not doing it at all”, while Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary calls it “to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done.”
Personally, I procrastinate EVERYTHING. From getting dressed in the morning to completing the conclusion of an Ancient History essay. I even procrastinated while writing this blog post about overcoming procrastination!!
However you define it, procrastination is a huge problem for many students and can severely affect academic achievement; therefore, overcoming this significant issue is extremely important. So hold on to that germ-covered handle in front of you because here are six steps to avoid the Procrastination Station, get things done and kick ass this year!
Step 1: Identify and find solutions for your problem
Be honest with yourself and understand why you procrastinate. In my opinion, the average student will encounter 4 different causes of procrastination:
Lack of understanding
- Use your teachers, ask questions after class, send them draft emails of assignments; they get paid to help you!!
- Search up videos on YouTube, there’s bound to be resources available.
- Google various HSC forums and see what ex-HSC students have utilised to help them.
- Art of Smart provides awesome free resources for every. single. subject.
- Take a breath, walk away from the task and do something that relaxes you for a while.
- Break up the task into different sections. For example, if you have to write a Modern History essay, break up the essay into different paragraphs and assign each paragraph to a different day.
Having perfectionistic tendencies:
Being a perfectionist involves setting yourself extremely high standards. For perfectionists, anything less than perfect is terrible. The best way to overcome this issue is to just sit down and get it done. For instance, if you have an extended response question for homework, sit down, turn off spellcheck and just write. Don’t stop fix spelling or grammar mistakes – just write it out. It sounds extremely easy, but it really isn’t; however – YOU CAN DO IT.
- Work with friends (make sure they’re friends that will actually get stuff done).
- Use reward-based systems of study / bribe yourself.
- For example, if you have 1o questions you need to get done for Legal Studies homework, promise yourself that after you finish them all you will reward yourself with ice-cream and an episode of Rick and Morty.
- Make study fun! If you need to memorise formulas for Maths, turn the formula into a rap and send it to your friends. It sounds silly but it works.
The causes of my procrastination generally arise from my perfectionistic tendencies which then make me feel overwhelmed. I deal with this never-ending cycle of procrastination by breaking up the task into smaller pieces. I give my parents my phone (because scrolling through HSC memes does not equal studying) and tell them not to give it back to me until I finish a segment of the task. I do a couple of star jumps, sit down and try to ignore the mistakes I make until the task is complete.
Step 2: Make realistic immediate, short-term, long-term and future goals
Unrealistic goals can be detrimental and even make you procrastinate more because everything seems impossible. So, avoid self-sabotage and create realistic expectations for yourself.Business Studies students are probably cringing right now, but I find that using the SMART technique is pretty useful in setting realistic goals.
SMART = Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Trackable
Instead of setting “to get a good ATAR” as a goal, it’s more powerful to use the SMART technique and instead set a goal such as, “to get an ATAR of 75 and enrol in a Communications degree”.
(Immediate = between today and the next 2 weeks. Short-term = 6 months. Long-term = 12 months. Future = 5 years)
Immediate Goals – 1-2 Week goals
- Finish Legal Studies homework (p70-73)
- Finish Modern History draft essay to hand in on 27th February
Short Term Goals – 6 month goals
- Achieve average of over 90% in trial exams
- Be able to run for 30 minutes non-stop
Long Term Goals – 12 month goals
- Get Ps
- Achieve an ATAR of 90+
Future Goals – 5 year goals
- Graduate from university
- Go on a trip to Lebanon
- Attend a Frank Ocean concert
Step 3: Once you’ve got your goals set – write them down!
“People with written goals are 50% more likely to achieve than people without goals”
Different things work for everyone but the options are endless; You could type them up in Notes on your phone, write them on Post-It Notes and stick them on your wall, draw pictures of you smashing your goals or even make a mood board – a collage of different pictures and texts – download heaps of images of your different goals (travelling, graduating, studying at uni) and turn them into a collage with inspirational quotes. I’ve personally got my goals typed up on sticky notes on my laptop desktop and have also got them on sticky notes on the wall where I study. When it’s 1:30 am and you’re falling asleep in your chair, hating your life and surrounded by piles of crap you have to do – looking up and glancing at your goals can give you that extra push to get it done.
Step 4: Commit to Your Goals
According to goalband.co.uk, 92% of New Years resolutions fail by January 15th. This is why it is so important to not only create realistic goals, but to also – COMMIT. It’s all well and good to set some goals that look awesome on paper and make you feel good every time you look at them, but arguably the toughest part is committing to these goals and prioritising them over other aspects of your life.
So how does one commit?
As I mentioned before, I’m pretty boring and just give my phone/laptop/tub of ice cream to my parents and tell them that under no circumstances can they give the item back unless I have achieved one of my tasks/goals. Commitment can also be achieved through focusing on what’s important to you and holding yourself accountable
For example. if you are aiming to get 70% on your next Maths exam, tell a friend what you’re hoping to achieve. You’re more likely to try harder to make sure that you achieve those goals if you have shared your ambitions with someone!
It’s extremely important that you have a social life throughout the HSC, but there are going to be times where you will have to choose between going to Mike’s party or staying home to finish your Maths revision to help you achieve that goal of 70%. Make sure that the decisions you make throughout the HSC align with your long-term and future goals.
Step 5: Establish a reward-based learning system.
According to Dr. Pychyl, an expert in Psychology, the essence of procrastination is “we’re giving in to feeling good”. He says, “Procrastination is ‘I know I should be doing it, I want to, it gets under my skin [when I don’t]’”. Procrastination is weird and is difficult to explain to non-procrastinators. In short, putting important things off makes us feel bad, but putting important things off by binge-watching on Netflix makes us feel good.
Many of us have felt the cocktail of emotions that arise when we procrastinate – that mixture of self-loathing, rage, laziness and anxiety. If procrastination is this avoidance of important tasks in order to feel good, then what if we made those important tasks feel good? Obviously, it’s going to be a bit of a struggle getting excited about the intertextual connections between Shakespeare and Al Pacino, but establishing a reward-based system of study can really help in the battle against Procrastination.
Dr Stefano Palminteri, who conducted the study on reward-based learning systems states that, “Unlike adults, adolescents are not so good at learning to modify their choices to avoid punishment. This suggests that incentive systems based on reward rather than punishment may be more effective for this age group.” Therefore, it may be more useful for you to say “If I get this done, I’m going to watch that episode of House”, instead of saying “If I don’t get this done, I’m not going to watch any tv shows for a week”. I feel like we sometimes forget that we are still basically children and we deserve a reward sometimes. After you smash out that boring ass paragraph about Wilfred Owen – treat yo’self!
Step 6: Just Do It!
Often the hardest part of studying/getting stuff done is sitting down and getting stuck into whatever it is you’ve been putting off for 2 weeks. I personally use this awesome app on my laptop called Be Focused, it utilises the Pomodoro Technique – the technique breaks down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes of work with 5 minutes of break. When I just need to hurry up and do a task I set the timer, put my head down and just do it.
Remember, if it was easy, everybody would do it! I hope that these tips help you to avoid the Procrastination Station in the future and instead, get on the Success Express (I should probably stop with this train metaphor). Believe in yourself, you got this.
Keep your nose down and your tail up; but make sure to smell the roses.
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Daide Chaker is a sleep-deprived student at Wyndham College who is aiming to make it through the HSC with her mind, body and soul still intact. Daide is a chronic procrastinator, Frank Ocean aficionado and Pringles connoisseur. She is an expert in the art of binge-watching and is also an avid reader.