Inside the Mind of a Procrastinator, and How to get Out of it

November 23, 2020

Here are 5 tricks you can use to better manage your time. 

Compartmentalize your time

This one sounds tricky, and in practice it is, but in principle it’s quite simple.  It means when you sit down to do something, do only that.  If you’re sitting down to grind out a couple paragraphs of an essay, do only that.  Don’t check your email, Facebook, or even OWL.  Don’t jump around between different schoolwork tasks.  Finish one task to the point you set in advance and keep focused on the one thing until it’s done.  I struggled with this when I got a part-time job that allowed me to work remotely.  I’d sit down to do schoolwork, but then answer work emails, and draft files for work.  All of that is seemingly productive work but it took away from my academics and I lost productivity because I was jumping between tasks.  I found out that I could greatly increase my productivity if I allotted three hours a day to work and only work.  I wouldn’t even open my work email or write down reminders for work until my three-hour slot every evening allotted to work.  I was able to work so much more efficiently in both my job and in school.


Prioritize sleep 

The super student image involves a coffee-buzzin’, sleep-deprived, hyper-focused student.  Though many of you may find yourselves a little low on sleep at certain points throughout the year, reducing your sleep should never be the goal.  Sleep is so important, so much so that an extra hour of sleep is often more productive than an extra hour of studying.  When you’re super tired, have you ever found yourself staring out the window for extended periods of time, or reading an entire paragraph only to realize you were thinking about something entirely different?  Those are both byproducts of sleepiness, and then can be mostly avoided by getting a full 8 hours of sleep, or whatever your body needs. 

Exercise 

Exercise far exceeds caffeine in the fields of energy boosting and focus boosting powers.  It seems counter intuitive because exercise tires one out.  This is only partly true because exercise only physically tires you and only for a brief period after the exercise.  Your brain comes out of a workout sharper than when it went in and that energy and focus will be retained far longer than the boost you get from coffee.  If they sold coffee that boasted no post consumption crash, I’d buy it, but they don’t.  So exercise is the best alternative. 

Put your devices on Do Not Disturb 

Even if you make a point of not using your phone while studying, having it face-down on the table can be distracting if you hear it vibrating every time you get a notification.  If you put your phone on Do Not Disturb, and turn it face-down, you will not be able to tell when you get a notification and so your focus won’t be broken or encourage you to move towards your phone.  Now that you’ve got your phone out of the way, what are you supposed to do about your computer?  You often need your computer for school so you can’t just close it and ignore it while you study.  Computers also have a Do Not Disturb function!  Enable Do Not Disturb and you can have your computer open and the window popping up to notify you of a message, email, or any other distraction won’t bother you.  Avoiding these reminders, even if you didn’t used to open them while studying is important because that little distraction can make you far less efficient in your studies.   

Set a timer for breaks 

Many students mentally set a period during which they strive to study nonstop.  This period can be an hour, 2 hours, or 45 minutes, whatever works for you.  The problem is you’ll continuously be checking the clock to see if your period is up yet and you can relax for five or ten minutes guilt free.  A better way to go about this is setting a timer.  That way you’ll be notified when your period is up and you won’t have any reason to check the clock while studying.  Admittedly, I still feel the draw to check how much time is left on my timer.  I am currently working on opposing that draw because I know there is no need to keep updated on the time.  It just makes the period feel even longer. 

Give yourself a break 

As eluded to in the last header, breaks are very important for focus.  Very few people can stay focused for hours on end without ever giving their brain a chance to relax.  Even the MCAT, an almost 8 hour mentally grueling test accounts for breaks throughout.  Experiment with how long you can focus for and set that as your focus time, then give yourself five- or ten-minute breaks periodically throughout a long study session.  Often, a great break is to walk to a new library, go to the washroom, grab a snack, or call a friend.  It’s best you get out of your seat, stretch your legs a little and move your mind to something that preferably isn’t on a screen, because your eyes need a break too.