When it comes to studying, we can all be full of the best intentions but still find ourselves getting easily distracted. If you set aside a three hour slot for studying, you may find you spend about half that time doing other things and letting your attention wander. It can be hard to stay focussed if you're doing something you don't find incredibly exciting, but it's important to make sure you're making the best of your time, and doing the best work possible.
If you're constantly procrastinating when you study, chances are your revision won't be very focussed or as detailed as it could be. It may even be something you're not really aware of doing, but may wonder how your studying sessions are flying by, when you have very little to show for the time you've spent.
We take a look at some of the best ways to try and combat procrastination when you're studying, to make sure you get the most from your time and revise effectively.
Split it Up
If you're writing a study plan, you may put aside a chunk of time to study a certain subject or to do something like write an essay. When it comes time to actually work, seeing it written like this can be quite overwhelming. If you don't write the whole essay in that one session, you may feel like you've failed, even if it wasn't likely to be possible in the time you've set aside.
If you go into a session thinking there's no way you'll manage what you've set out for yourself, you might not feel as bad about sneaking some time on social media, or some other distraction technique. One great way to combat this is to break your studying down into smaller chunks.
If you have an essay to write, you can split that into lots of more manageable tasks such as writing your essay plan, researching texts to use, reading through class notes to get main points, and even each section of your essay can be a separate tasks. So while you might not be able to write the whole essay in your first session, if you manage to write the plan and start organising your class notes you'll feel like you've made real progress towards your goal.
This approach is really good for two reasons. The first is if you feel your attention wandering from your current task, why not swap to another task you have listed instead of looking at Facebook? There's nothing wrong with getting a bit bored with doing the same thing for ages, so give yourself the ability to mix things up and it should be easier to keep on track. The second reason is it's very satisfying to tick something off your to-do list when you've completed it. It may take weeks for you to be able to tick that essay off your list, but with this approach you should be able to tick one or two smaller tasks off every time you stud, which can let you see that you really are making progress!
If you've booked a huge chunk of your day for studying, you probably plan on sitting yourself down and studying right through until your time runs out. Some people can work quite well with this intense approach, but if you know you're quite prone to procrastinating, then it's a good idea to plan in some breaks, as studying for hours at a time probably isn't realistic. If you mark them down on your study plan for the day you won't feel guilty about taking them, as they are all accounted for, and you can still see exactly how much time you should be spending studying.
You may want to work 45 minutes of every hour, and then give yourself the last 15 minutes to do whatever you want. A technique like this is quite good because it can make you very focussed for those 45 minutes, or however big a chunk of time you decide works for you. If you know you have that little bit of 'me time' at the end, it should make you less tempted to do things like check your phone for texts or check your email, as you know you've set aside the time to do this later. Taking a little bit of time off also lets your brain recharge, so you can go into your next studying session feeling a bit more refreshed.
Think About Your Environment
You may not realise how much of an effect where you study has on how much you concentrate, but it can really be the case sometimes. It can be tempting to stud in your house or bedroom all the time, but is that really the best place? Think about how productive you are when you study at home compared to how much you get done when you study in somewhere like the library.
You may prefer the comfort of your own home as it means you can do things like listen to music to help you study, or eat at your desk, which you may not be able to do in other situations. However, locations like the library may force you to be more focussed because it is a quiet environment, likely full of other students quietly studying too. Seeing this may encourage you to really get your head down and get on with your work. Also if you make the effort to travel somewhere else to study, you may really want to use your time as effectively as possible to make sure the travel time was worth the effort.
It may be a good idea to try and mix up your study sessions, and try out different locations to see which ones work best for you. It will be different for everyone, but finding your perfect studying location may be the key to keeping you focussed.
Don't Feel Guilty
While trying to stay productive during your study time is very important, sometimes distractions can still creep in. The important thing is not to let it overwhelm you. If you get an hour into a study session and realise you've spent about half the time just browsing the internet, it can be easy to just see the whole study session as wasted and give up for the day. The guilt of not getting everything you wanted to get done can set in, and it can ruin your mood for the rest of the study session. However, if you'd just stopped then and moved on to doing some work, you probably would have still got a lot done, and the day would have been productive.
If you catch yourself getting distracted, don't just throw in the towel. Now would be a great time to take a break and come back to the work refreshed. Do something to psychically get you away from your work, such as taking a short walk or going to get a drink and come back with a fresh attitude. Yes you may have not used the first part of your time as well as you wanted to, but feeling guilty about it and sulking will just make sure you're not productive for the rest of the day either.
Much like a planned break, taking a little time away and coming back with a clear mind should help you dive back into your work with a clear mind. When you look back on the study session, don't think about the time you didn't use well, focus on all the work you did get done. If you feel empowered after one study session, you're more likely to go into the next one focussed and ready to get lots of work done.
The truth is that studying is hard work, and sometimes our brains need a rest so it doesn't become too overwhelming. Embrace taking breaks and having chunks of really focussed time, instead of trying to spend an entire day cramming. It's important to recognise when your focus is shifting, so you can learn how to work around it, instead of just giving up and losing a lot of time which could be spent productively.
The next few times you sit down to study, try different things and think about what works best for you, then you should be able to find the perfect combination to make sure you procrastinate as little as possible in future.