Procrastination spares no one — especially not college students. The most studious of people can find themselves a victim, and waiting until the last minute to tackle your essays and projects is a dangerous game.
While you may sometimes find a looming deadline gives you the adrenaline rush needed to finish your assignments in the nick of time, you also lose control over your performance and your motivation to work. This means you won’t be able to summon that same commitment to your studies until you find yourself in a tight situation again.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to regain control over your perspective on studying. Here are 17 tips you can use to kick the procrastination habit in college!
Practice Positive Procrastination
Using positive procrastination, your to-do list should be structured in a way that the most daunting tasks sit at the very top. The more doable tasks that you actually want to focus on at the moment are the ones at the bottom of the list.
Using positive procrastination, your list could look like this:
- Submit thesis draft for approval
- Study for trigonometry final
- Finish literature review
- Schedule meeting with calculus groupmates
It’s a little like faking it until you make it — you build up the fortitude to work on your more pressing tasks by starting with the small ones. If you still don’t have the motivation to finish your work at the end, then at least you’ve been productive!
Get a Website Blocker
It’s just too easy to lose track of the time you spend on TikTok — but luckily there’s a Chrome extension to help you with that! Website blockers are a type of online study tool that prevent you from visiting social media networking sites or other pages that distract you on the internet.
StayFocusd is a highly recommended browser extension that allows you to plot out the amount of time you can spend browsing your favorite websites at your leisure. Once your time is up, the sites that you have blocked will become inaccessible for the day.
Need even more motivation? Forest challenges you to focus on your work with digital trees. Your tree grows only if you finish a time-bound study session. But if you choose to cancel your session your tree will die and become permanently reflected on your “tree farm.”
Hop on Discord With Your Classmates
Discord isn’t just for streamers and gamers anymore! This instant messaging platform has plenty of servers that you can set up to help you and your classmates create a conducive online study group. Here, everybody can conduct online discussions, share interesting resources, and hold each other accountable for submitting assignments.
Discord also has plenty of productivity bots that anybody with little to no IT experience can set up in their servers, as well as massive established studying groups full of students (like you) who are dedicated to studying better!
Use the Kanban Method for Checklists
The Kanban Method is a way of organizing your tasks using physical or digital boards so that you can see the status of everything you need to do in one place. The simplest way to adopt the method is to create three columns: To-do, In Progress, and Completed. Each task gets its own sticky note or digital card (using a free app like Trello) and is moved through each column accordingly.
One exciting aspect of the Kanban Method is the sense of accomplishment you get when you can finally move an item from one column to another, knowing that you are one step closer to the finish line. If you’ve struggled with motivation, then this might be the organization method that can help!
Time Yourself With the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique pushes you to work in short, 25-minute bursts, followed by an optional 5-minute break. Using this method teaches you how to make the most out of each “block” of time, so you dawdle less and learn how to immerse yourself in work.
There are plenty of productivity and study apps that implement this time management technique, so take your time going through each one to find out the app that suits you best!
Get a Head-Start on Tough Tasks With the 10-Minute Rule
Do you struggle with finding the motivation to just start a task? The 10-minute rule is an active decision to try working on your assignments or school paper for just 10 minutes. When time is up, you may just find that you’ve got the motivation to continue!
It’s a sneaky way to prepare your brain for a certain task because chances are, you’re already enjoying the feeling of working after the tenth minute. If you are still struggling, you can try again later — at least you’ve managed to make some headway.
Gamify Your Studies
Treat your studies like it’s one big video game adventure and gamify each task! Implementing elements of video games in your assignments and projects can train your brain to start looking at your work in a different light.
There are plenty of apps that can help you get started. Habitica is a free habit and productivity app where you play as an adventurer and gain experience through completing your to-dos. Another study app option is Study Bunny, where you care for a pet bunny by logging your study hours.
Use Music to Get Out of a Rut
Do you have a song that always gets you in the groove, regardless of what you’re feeling at the moment? Try using that song to hype yourself up for a quick study session! A little off-key singing and dancing can be a great way to shake off your lethargy and motivate you to learn.
You definitely won’t run out of choices in this category — you can go for traditional choices such as classical music, or go modern with a playlist of pop hits. You can even try video game soundtracks — people swear by their ability to help them focus!
Address the Elephant in the Room
It’s impossible to avoid it — sometimes there are big or difficult tasks that we don’t enjoy doing at all. It could be preparing for your final exams, which is always a stressful experience, or finding the sources to support your paper, which is boring.
Challenge the way you think about your capabilities by addressing the elephant in the room, or the biggest and most daunting task on your list, first thing in the morning. Forget coming up with a plan or “preparing” yourself beforehand — just jump right into it and figure it out as you go along! It boosts creativity and gives you the opportunity to work on more enjoyable tasks for the rest of the day.
Break Your Tasks Down to Five Minutes
If addressing the elephant in the room doesn’t work for you, try repackaging that daunting task you have on your list to smaller, more manageable tasks instead. Your 1000-word English essay that is due tomorrow can be restructured to look like this:
- Decide on a topic for the essay
- Find the sources
- Write an outline
- Introduction – 150 words
- Idea 1 – 300 words
- Idea 2 – 250 words
- Idea 3 – 200 words
- Conclusion 100 words
It’s a great way to navigate through lengthy projects, especially if you are feeling unmotivated or have a bad case of writer’s block. In addition, the mere experience of ticking off one of these tasks off the list, even if it’s a smaller task, can inspire you to go the extra mile and work even further.
Be Kind to Yourself
Contrary to popular belief, procrastination doesn’t stem from being lazy. While there are many reasons for putting off work, one major factor is your perspective towards doing that activity. This could be indicative of how you handle negative events, such as conflict and failure, in general. If you are starting to feel overwhelmed by your study load, you may also start thinking negative thoughts about yourself and your capabilities.
Make a resolution to be kinder to yourself, regardless of how much work you have to do or the quality of your output. The way you speak to yourself is important and has an impact, not just on your productivity but also on your mental wellbeing in the long run.
Sort Out Work Using Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle
Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle helps you improve time management and understand where your priorities lie by sorting all the tasks that need to be done in four squares, according to whether they are:
- urgent and important
- not urgent but important
- urgent but not important
- not urgent and not important
The Eisenhower method teaches you how to prioritize your assignments and task list so that you have a clear idea of the value and purpose of each task. From here, you can start tackling your assignments in order of importance.
Accept That You May Sometimes Make Mistakes
If you find yourself putting off work because the idea of not submitting the perfect assignment or the best paper demotivates you, you may be a perfectionist. While this may sound counterintuitive, perfectionists are vulnerable to procrastinating when they feel like they won’t be able to get the highest marks in their schoolwork. This is why it’s important to accept that mistakes do happen and to work on improving your mindset regarding failure.
Perfectionism can be a serious condition and if it interferes with your daily routine, then we strongly recommend approaching a guidance counselor or any mental health experts to help you overcome it.
For now, some methods you can take to ease your anxiety include practicing positive realistic thinking (“Making a mistake does not mean I’m stupid or a failure”) and recalling other events in the past that felt like a mistake, but you managed to eventually overcome.
Find Simple and Monotonous Tasks to Do During Breaks
Schoolwork can be exhausting because you spend so much time using your brain in different ways. Simple and monotonous tasks are a great way to unplug from all that mental activity! For example, you can try folding your clothes or washing the dishes.
These are activities that give your mind the opportunity to wander while you spend some time away from the screen. Avoiding all stimulation gives the mind some time to digest being in the moment.
Give Yourself a Reward to Look Forward to
Nothing inspires you to work than the promise of a little indulgence after! Rewards are a great way to pin down that sense of accomplishment after some intense study time or after a tough essay, regardless of whether it’s a certain snack that you’ve been craving for a while or an episode of your favorite series on Netflix.
Find Out When You Are Most Productive
We’re all wired to feel more productive at different times of the day. You can identify a time when you feel least distracted and then start constructing a schedule around this as a way to train your brain to make the most out of your peak times.
If you are taking online classes, one strong advantage is that you have more control over how you go about your day — so grab this opportunity to make your own schedule!
Try the Ivy Lee Method
The Ivy Lee Method is a way to optimize your schedule for the following day. At the end of each night, write down your six most important tasks to accomplish the next day, starting with the most important.
The method works because it reduces the amount of time you spend deciding on what to do, and pushes you to prioritize your goals. You can go to bed at ease knowing that you already have a game plan for when you wake up.
Procrastination can quickly become a habit and may even start to impact not just your studies, but the way you approach other aspects of life. These tips are a great way to reorient your perspective on work, leisure, failures, and challenges. Your desire to beat procrastination is already the first step to overcoming it!