Procrastination plagues even the best of us at one point or another, but for students taking summer school courses, the desire to leave important things until tomorrow can be overwhelming. To keep you on track, OVS is here with some tips to help you focus as you work through your courses this summer.
First things first, don’t confuse procrastination with laziness – they’re not the same thing, no matter what your mom says! Procrastination is an active process – you’re choosing to do something else instead of the task that you know you really should be doing. Laziness, on the other hand, is an unwillingness to act at all. Unfortunately, the negative effects of the two are the same: giving into procrastination too often can lead to reduced productivity, which in turn causes feelings of guilt and regret when we miss out on achieving our goals.
To avoid this negative cycle, it’s important to understand why you procrastinate. For students, it typically comes down to one of two main reasons: either you don’t know how to start a task or you just don’t want to do it. Sound about right? Well chin up, because we’ve got solutions for either case.
If you find yourself procrastinating because you feel overwhelmed and you’re not sure what to do first, build that confusion into the task itself. Make “figure out the steps” the first step: you may be surprised by how much you actually do know once you acknowledge that it’s totally normal to feel like you know nothing. And don’t be afraid to reach out: some people need to talk it through with a friend or peer to overcome that initial roadblock.
Even more likely in the glorious summer season is the second group of procrastinators: the ones who just can’t drum up the motivation to get going because there are 10,000 things they’d rather be doing. Is there really a solution to this problem? Not exactly, but perhaps there is a way to be successful anyways. Simply expect it! It’s summer, so it makes sense if your work ethic lacks a little; instead of beating yourself up when you inevitably put things off, plan for your procrastination! Start your assignments earlier and give yourself more time to complete the task. If you factor in wasted time, is it really even wasted time?
Now that you have a clear idea of what kind of procrastinator you really are, here are some general tips to help keep you on the path to success!
Use a planner to track all your tasks
Even if you aren’t the pen and paper type, or you don’t see the point in writing stuff down when it’s already listed on the syllabus that’s somewhere in the bottom of your bag: do it anyways! Writing everything out by hand will give you a realistic idea of how many assignments and tests you are going to have going on and when. This way, you’ll be able to schedule your time and prioritize your tasks better.
Start your assignments ahead of time
Before you laugh, I just said start them, not finish them! Trust me, even the most dedicated procrastinator can take these first few baby steps. The start of any assignment is simple: open a Word document, title it, spend a few minutes jotting down your initial ideas on the topic, as well as any notes your teacher might have given you, then save the doc in the appropriate class folder. The beauty of this baby step is that it only requires a few minutes and it will help eliminate the mental-block of starting from scratch. After all, ideas flow most freely in the hours after you first encounter an assignment, and they slow to a virtual halt weeks later when the deadline is all you can see. Sketching out your rough ideas for an assignment will also help you mentally evaluate how much time and effort you’re going to have to put in to complete it in earnest.
Write yourself a new to-do list each morning
Decide what tasks you’re going to work on at the beginning of each day. Be specific and reasonable in your goals. Writing “FINAL ESSAY!!!” in size 20 font at the top of your list is, in fact, not helpful. Instead, try to break down larger tasks into achievable chunks. Perhaps today’s goal could be to finish researching the information you’re going to include in your essay and to begin sketching out a rough outline. Tomorrow, you might want to tackle the introduction and begin to flesh out your supporting arguments, and so on until you can successfully cross the task off your to-do list altogether.
Use rainy days to get ahead
The hardest part about taking classes in the summer is the draw of the great outdoors; so, when the outdoors doesn’t look so great, make sure to double down and get ahead so you can reward yourself with a day off when the sun does come out!
Keep track of how much work you’re actually getting done each day
Consider using a time-tracking app, like Toggl, to keep track of what you’re actually accomplishing each day (or, if you’re old-fashioned like me, dedicate a page in your work journal to daily task-tracking). This way, you’ll be able to evaluate whether or not you need to make changes and see when you deserve a productivity reward.
Find a study buddy & study outside
Summertime is social time, so it makes perfect sense that being forced to study alone in your room every day would make you hate summer school. Instead, find yourself a study buddy, or even just a friend who likes to read for fun, and head to the local café or park to get some studying in. Plus, you’ll also have someone to bounce ideas off of! Most importantly, a study buddy holds you accountable, and in this case, peer pressure can actually be a good thing! If you don’t have anyone to be checking up on you, try using an online tool like Procraster to help you self-monitor.
It’s easy to get burnt out, particularly in the dog days of summer. Be sure to give yourself a mental break. Taking an hour or two to let your brain restart will help you stay focused when you do get back to studying.
Save the best for last (or do the worst first)
Leave the tasks you’re looking forward to (or at minimum, don’t mind doing) until the end. That way, desirable tasks become a motivating reward and you get the less desirable tasks out of the way and off your mind that much sooner.
Nowadays, it seems like we are eternally distracted by our devices. So, it stands to reason that when we want to be distracted (as when working on a less-than-exciting task), distraction will find us easily. To avoid the pull of your devices, turn off push notifications, put your ringer on silent and keep your web browser closed or use a social media site-blocker. Reverse these changes only once you’ve accomplished a predetermined number of tasks.
And finally, always remind yourself WHY you are doing this
Keeping your goal in mind encourages you to stay dedicated until the end.