When I was a student I had a serious problem: No matter how close an exam loomed, or how soon I had to turn an essay in, I could always find something “better” to do with my time…
… And by better, I mean anything that was more enjoyable, or less difficult than the study I was supposed to be doing.
I was a chronic procrastinator, and my studies suffered because of it. The good news is that I’ve learned how to overcome procrastination, and get more out of life instead.
If procrastination is holding you back from getting the most out of your study, then keep reading:
In this article I’m going to teach you eight simple (but highly effective) strategies that will empower you to kick procrastination to the curb and maximize your study efforts.
Are you ready to become a study superhero?
1 – Prioritize Your Study to Maintain Motivation
How do you plan your study (or do you not plan it at all?)
What factors do you take into consideration when prioritizing your study?
I ask, because in my experience many students who struggle with procrastination do not prioritize their study in an efficient manner.
A common tendency is to do the easiest and least urgent study first, because this provides a very cathartic feeling – and offers the path of least resistance.
So, for example, rather than putting in the hard yards for your math final next week, you find yourself revising for a literature exam that’s not for another month (and you’re already much better at literature than you are at mathematics).
This results in a situation where you are faced with a mountainous pile of study to complete … but all of it is either very urgent or difficult. And because this leftover study seems too difficult to conquer, it becomes much easier to justify procrastinating it.
Therefore, you need to learn how to prioritize your study effectively. You need to do the most important study first. This invariably means studying for the soonest exam, the most difficult subject, or whatever could get you the biggest percentage of your course mark.
You need to leave the easy stuff until last. This is no mean feat if you’ve become accustomed to doing the easiest elements of your study first. However, it’s critical to prioritize so that you get crucial revision out of the way before your motivation to study peaks.
This approach will require some solid dedication. It’s not going to be easy to rewire your brain to study in a more effective manner. But stick at it and you will see results.
2 – Micro-Study to Get the Most Out of Your Day
Take a moment to think about all the instances in your daily routine where you aren’t doing much, but don’t have enough time to attempt anything “big”.
I’m talking about things like:
- Waiting for the bus or train
- The time you spend on public transport
- Sitting around while your dinner cooks
- The time spend on the toilet (gross, I know!)
- The period you wait between sets in the gym
All these events individually take up a relatively small amount of time in your day. But what if you start adding up these little chunks of time? For most of us, there’s easily 1-2 hours right there.
And this time is crying out to be used productively!
If you find studying difficult without procrastination, then make the use of these small periods of downtime and embark on a campaign of “micro-study”.
Start using the time you spend on the bus, or the moments spent in the bathroom, to revise and study.
I’ve found that the micro-study approach is extremely effective for learning specific facts or small concepts. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can get away with doing all your study in this disjointed manner; it won’t end well (especially when you need to study more complicated concepts).
However, some ideas for what you can micro-study include:
- Dates/names relating to specific events
- Foreign language vocabulary
- Quotes and short passages from literature
- Formulas and equations
Micro-studying is a great way to get more study out of your day, especially if you are prone to procrastination. After all, each little time slot is already made for you – and now you can benefit from what would otherwise be wasted time.
Protip – Having a smartphone makes micro-study very easy. No matter what you need to learn, there will most likely be an app or tool to help you master it.
3 – Make Study Fun & Exciting
If you often find yourself procrastinating your study, then ask yourself whether this is because you find studying really boring. I bet you’ll find yourself nodding in agreement!
Math will never be as fun as playing Xbox or going out with your friends – but there are strategies you can use to make study more enjoyable and exciting.
This is great news, because the more appealing you can make study, the more likely you are to stick at it!
Here are some strategies I’ve found to be effective:
- Transform rote-learning material into song lyrics. I had a French teacher at high school who started every class with a couple of songs he wrote to teach important grammatical concepts. Years later, I can still remember every French adjective that comes before the noun … all because of a ridiculously catchy tune he made up.
- Reward yourself for successful study. Set a time goal, such as to complete an hour’s worth of uninterrupted study tonight. If you complete that goal, then treat yourself. Whether the reward is will depend on your personal circumstances and interests. Just remember that the aim here is to condition your mind into associating productive study with a reward.
- Use study apps. As I have previously mentioned, no matter what you need to study there will probably be an app for it. Many study apps take key concepts from your topic and add a game-like element to them. This approach makes study much more enjoyable, and can actually be very addictive (in a good sense).
- Make acronyms. Another enjoyable study method is to make acronyms out of important information. Not only will this challenge your creativity – acronym building is also a great way to memorize content.
Remember that the more appealing you can make your studies, the less likely you are to put off doing them.
4 – Find a Study Method That Works for You
Most teachers and professors will tell you that there is a “wrong” and a “right” way of study. However, this one-size-fits-all approach does not take into account our inherent individuality.
Because conventional methods of study are drilled into you from a relatively young age, you might feel uneasy trying to break away and study in your own manner.
This uneasiness can lead to procrastination, as you feel torn between studying in the proscribed manner, and using the methods that appeal to you the most.
My advice is to throw caution into the wind and find a study method and routine that makes you want to put in the hard yards.
For example, the only method I used to employ for studying history was to watch documentaries, because I have a passion for the humble documentary as a communicative medium. I couldn’t get enough of study this way, and never procrastinated my history revision!
About the author: James Frankton
James Frankton blogs about time management and motivation at his site www.whyamilazy.com - take a look for more well-researched advice on beating procrastination and managing your time more effectively.