I’ll be honest, I often end up experiencing self-induced anxiety when doing assignments because of a worrying habit I have. I procrastinate too much. Ugh.
I know I’m not the only one that has this problem. In fact, it’s so common, it’s referred to as “Academic Procrastination”. The irony of the name!
Academic Procrastination is defined, by Senecal, Koestner and Vallerand, as: “the voluntary postponing of the academic tasks within the desired time and “Schraw, Wadkins, and Olafson defines it as the intentional delay of the academic tasks that must be done on time like examinations and researches” (Al-mehsin and AL-Rbabaah, 2015).
Sounds like something you do?
Well, one thing I know for sure is this, either you are an academic procrastinator, or you know someone who is.
I did a personal experiment for a project this week and let me tell you, it worked! I got so much more done than I could’ve imagined and I produced quality work in less time *happy dance*.
Read: 7 effective study techniques
So, I’m going to share it with you. I promise, it’s practical and all you need is a clock with a timer and a free app.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to banish your academic procrastination demon with this practical ritual.
First of all, you can use your mobile phone’s clock, and switch to “timer”. If you choose to use another kind of timer, perhaps a stop clock, you can. I use my cell phone, because I always have it close.
Now, if you’re like me, you can get distracted by anything connected to WiFi. So, the second thing you would need is my new favourite app. It’s called Freedom.
Quick synopsis about this app: The Freedom app can be downloaded to ALL devices – Mac, Windows, iOS and Android – and it block all distracting websites and apps. You can block websites, mobile and desktop apps, and even the entire internet. Blocklists can be customised.
During a Freedom session, even if you receive a notification, you will not be able to access the app or website until the session has ended; on all of the devices you’ve downloaded it to. It’s completely free. It. Is. A. Life. Saver! Trust me.
Now here’s how to use these two powerful tools to your advantage.
Set your timer
One hour to 45 minutes is good enough. Productivity times vary per individual. But I find that for assignments and projects, this time-frame is sufficient to complete good work, or set a good foundation for a draft; at least. If you can do longer, or can only manage a shorter time (like 30 minutes), you can do that also. BUT, you have to be realistic about the amount of work you want and need to get done.
Set small wins, and time them too
Delayed gratification, if you may. But, controlled and structured gratification. Between your timed work sessions, time your reward sessions. I call them win-sessions. I started with 20 minutes because I set aside a full day to work on an assignment. It’s unreasonable to think that you won’t have other things to do, even if you’ve cleared your schedule. If you have a shorter time to work with, however, I recommend 10 minutes in-between sessions.
Activate the Freedom app
I activated my Freedom (pun intended, again) for the same amount of time as my work sessions; for obvious reasons. Honestly, I am always tempted to check my phone to get rid of those red dots (notifications), but Freedom gives me that good ol’ “get outta here!” that I need. I laughed the first few times it happened. I even called the app “rude”. We officially have a love-hate relationship. Ha!
Set different activities to do during your win-sessions.
Let me tell you how I did this. For the first three times I set my 20-minute wins, I checked my social media (10 minutes, because I scroll), WhatsApp, call log and emails (altogether 5 minutes). It was enough time for me to do enough of what I wanted in each time-frame. I also drank a glass of water and did some small exercise activity like squats, walked or did stretches – this was, surprisingly, the MOST effective part of the win-session.
My wins were SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely). Sometimes I switched out one or two of those smaller wins with something else. Just to get away from monotony. I grabbed a bite to eat, watched a short comedy video on YouTube, or started another assignment. Once, I even took a power nap (which I’ve mastered). You can set your wins, however you wish.
Read: How to get the perfect thesis research topic in one hour or less
It is also important to note that, as you get closer to your deadline, you should shorten your win-sessions. I ended up reducing mine to 10 minutes before my last hour of work.
Set the time, activate the app, maximise those win-sessions!
WORD OF CAUTION
Whenever your timer is up, STOP! If you have to finish a sentence, fine. But STOP! The goal is to trigger a sense of urgency that tricks your brain into thinking you’re running out of time and need to get as much done as possible. It’s like you’re closing in on that real deadline.
Final Thoughts: I encourage you to try this. If you truly struggle with academic procrastination, you know it’s not healthy. You really don’t need that level of anxiety in your life; school has enough challenges. Try this method. You will be satisfied with the results. I guarantee this.
Feel free to share this blog with someone who needs it 😉
Full disclosure, if you use the Freedom app and upgrade, I will receive a small commission.