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How to overcome procrastination and level up your study game during this exam season

Medical research has even shown that procrastination can lead to higher levels of stress, depression, anxiety, and fatigue. Picture: Polina Zimmerman/Pexels

Medical research has even shown that procrastination can lead to higher levels of stress, depression, anxiety, and fatigue. Picture: Polina Zimmerman/Pexels

Published Oct 23, 2023

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Have you ever found yourself putting off studying or delaying those dreaded essays until the last minute? Procrastination is a sneaky little monster that loves to mess with students.

The word “procrastination” comes from the Latin ‘’procrastinare’’ and translates into the prefix pro-, 'forward', and the suffix -crastinus, meaning 'till next day'.

So, procrastination basically means putting off something until tomorrow, a tomorrow that is usually less defined as to when exactly a task will be prosecuted. And let's be honest, that tomorrow can be as vague as a unicorn sighting.

There is no doubt that every student has, at one time or another, succumbed to procrastination, that urge to put off studying and postpone writing those assignments.

Procrastination is a student’s worst enemy.

We were all students once; it’s likely that you have put off an assignment or two for a later time.

And I have come across a few people in my time who have consistently waited until the last minute to turn in their assignments or put off studying until the night before a test (myself included), all under the guise of working well under pressure.

Unfortunately, this delay comes at a cost. According to a 2015 study (Research from David Arnott and Scott Dacko of Warwick Business School), the longer business school students waited to turn in an assignment, the worse their grades were, with last-minute hand-ins costing them five percentage points, on average, or half a grade.

And it doesn't stop there. Another study found that procrastination is linked to lower grades in college. In fact, they looked at over 38,000 students and found that procrastinators tended to have lower marks.

Medical research has even shown that procrastination can lead to higher levels of stress, depression, anxiety, and fatigue. So, not only does it affect your grades, but it can also mess with your mental and physical well-being.

With exam season in full swing, it's important to know what causes procrastination and how to manage it.

Procrastinating factors:

Distractions

Distractions have been identified as one of the major causes of procrastination among students. The internet, which remains one of man’s greatest inventions, has also become one of man’s biggest distractions and often robs us of that precious study time.

Find a quiet study space and remove any distractions that might tempt you to procrastinate. Put your phone on silent, block distracting websites and create a focused environment.

Study technique

Plan out your study sessions in advance and stick to a schedule. Set aside dedicated time for studying and treat it as a non-negotiable commitment.

Fear of failure

A common reason for procrastination is fear, meaning that people procrastinate because they’re afraid of something, such as failing, criticism and perfectionism, even though knowing that doing so will likely affect them negatively.

Study technique

Instead of just waiting for something to inspire you or the perfect time to begin studying, you can try to break down your study timetable into smaller steps.

Take the first step: join a study group and talk to your teacher and classmates about your difficulties.

But beginning in time gives you the opportunity to have enough time to study and the confidence to trust in your abilities. Plus, this makes it less overwhelming and easier to get started.

Procrastinating factor:

Motivation

Lack of motivation is among the greatest causes of procrastination. At times, the reason we choose to do something else or do nothing at all instead of studying is because we lack interest in it. It is, therefore, important to revive this interest.

Study technique

It is also useful to recount those moments to overcome obstacles and challenges. Reflecting on our academic journey so far can fill us with a sense of achievement and the hunger to do more.

Give yourself small rewards after completing each study session or task. This keeps you motivated.

Other study techniques

Set specific goals instead of saying, ‘’I'll study for a few hours,’’ set specific goals like, ‘’I'll review two chapters in one hour.’’ Having clear objectives helps keep you focused and motivated.

Use the Pomodoro technique. This technique involves studying for 25 minutes, taking a short break, and then repeating the cycle. Breaking your study time into smaller intervals can increase productivity and prevent burnout.

Figure out when you are most alert and productive, and schedule your study sessions during those times. It could be early in the morning or late at night, whichever works best for you.

Most of all, practice self-care and take care of your physical and mental well-being. Get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, exercise regularly and take breaks when needed.