“I have not yet begun to procrastinate.”
If you’re like most students, studying for an exam is one of the most dreaded, painstaking tasks you could ever be faced with. So, naturally, procrastination is rampant. Here are five things students say to procrastinate, how they rationalize their excuse, what they really mean, and what to do about it.
1. “I’ll start tomorrow.”
Rationalization: “It’s Monday, I have plenty of time to study and the exam isn’t until Thursday…”Advertising
What it actually means: We think that we’ll somehow have more motivation to study later, and naturally want to avoid difficult mental tasks, so we trick ourselves into thinking we know more than we really do, and tell ourselves that we can be prepared for an exam in a lot less time than is really necessary.
What you can do: Start now, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. This will get you over the initial hump, and will quickly provide a more realistic view of how much time it will actually take to prepare. Then, map out the rest of the information that will be covered on the exam, and make a more honest assessment on what time you need to block off for studying.
2. “I don’t have everything I need to get started yet. “
Rationalization: “I’ll wait until I get the study guide or go to the review for the exam.”
What it actually means: We’re overwhelmed by the task at hand and somehow think that our professor giving us an outline, reviewing topics in class, or some other brilliant resource will drop into our laps and make everything easier to understand.Advertising
What you can do: Start with what you have, and add new resources as they come along. This will allow you to get a head start on studying, but will also help you identify gaps in your understanding that you need to figure out later. This also means you can actually take advantage of asking the professor or TA questions during review sessions, rather than mindlessly following along and copying down notes.
3. “I just need to get organized. Then I’ll start studying.”
Rationalization: “I have to do laundry and fold it and neaten my desk anyway, and then once that’s done, I’ll study tomorrow.”
What it actually means: Studying is an extremely energy-intensive mental task, so we like to fill our time with anything else we can convince ourselves is relatively productive instead. We also mistakenly think that if our space is clean, we’ll magically have clarity and motivation, which will help make studying easier.
What you can do: Try changing locations. The urge to get organized is completely understandable, but sometimes there just isn’t time. Go to the library or a common area where you won’t have the urge to tidy up. This may also help to eliminate additional distractions like talking to your roommates or making yourself a midnight snack.Advertising
4. “If I start studying tomorrow morning I’ll be more refreshed and ready to go.”
Rationalization: “I should probably just relax and watch TV and let my brain regroup after a long day of classes.”
What it actually means: You don’t have the energy to get organized and delve into complex topics. You’ve lost the willpower to continue doing difficult tasks and so you make yourself believe you’ll definitely feel better in the morning and can give yourself a pass now.
What you can do: Rather than going to veg in front of the TV, get out and move for a bit. It’s more likely you’ll feel refreshed after an hour of exercise than an hour of television. Then give yourself a time limit and study or get organized for the next day’s plan of attack. You’ll feel better for being active and you’ll feel better having at least gotten a start.
5. “It’s okay, if I bomb this exam, it probably won’t affect my grade too much.”
Rationalization: “If I get an A on everything else, I’ll be totally fine.”Advertising
What it actually means: You don’t believe in or trust in the knowledge you have, so you create an excuse for yourself to lessen the blow. You already know your grade won’t be great so why try to make sense of what you don’t understand.
What you can do: We all know this is a slippery slope. Relying on a perfect score on all the remaining exams and projects is unrealistic for the best of students. So, take the time to brainstorm everything you know about a specific topic on the exam. Don’t look at the book or at your notes, just go from memory. You’ll be surprised at the amount of information you actually have retained, and it will help give you the little boost of confidence you need to start filling in the gaps.
Featured photo credit: Students via blogs.independent.co.uk
Last Updated on July 13, 2020
How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day
Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.
1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind
The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.
Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.
For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.
The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.
2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos
Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.
As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.
Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.
3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law
Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))
This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.
We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.
Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.
When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.
Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.
4. Use the Power of Your Calendar
Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.
For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.
Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.
5. Make Decisions
For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.
If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.
If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.
Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)
I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.
This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:
The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.
6. Take Some Form of Action
Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.
The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.
It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.
Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.
The Bottom Line
Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.
When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.
More Tips for Reducing Work Stress
- How to Eliminate Work Stress When You’re Stressed to the Max
- Want to Feel More Energized Throughout the Day? Start With This
- 8 Important Things to Remember When You Are Feeling Overwhelmed
Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com