Procrastination is the arch enemy of productivity; somehow, most people have a tendency to fail to work efficiently and effectively until the very last minute. If this sounds like you, don’t be embarrassed! Some amount of procrastination is somewhat inevitable, simply because of the way that we irrationally evaluate the pros and cons of doing something now versus doing something later.
In fact, behavioural economic theory tell us that we have ‘present bias’ in decision making – that is, we value payoffs in the present (like putting off your English essay to play Call of Duty instead!) more than the future (doing your work first, and relaxing later) simply because of inherent human psychological bias.
Not to worry though! Our psychology is a double-edged sword; though we tend to procrastinate, we can also manipulate certain aspects of our environment in order to make study more appealing, and limit our tendency to give in to procrastination.
Often, the number one underlying reason behind procrastination is distraction. To become a more effective studier, you need to start by creating a study environment that stops your mind from wandering. These are our top tips for doing so:
1. Designate a dedicated space for studying.
This can be your room, your local or school library, or another place in your house, but the key point is to create an area where when you sit down, you associate it with studying. Having consistency in the physical space you do your work helps you find the same mentally productive state each time you get to work.
2. Keep technology away when you’re not specifically using it for the tasks you’re trying to complete.
It’s all too tempting to jump on Snapchat or Instagram on your phone or desktop every so often, but these ‘breaks’ add up in terms of the time you have available, and more importantly, they break your concentration. It’s impossible to become absorbed in tasks with notifications continually disturbing you, so unless you are making notes on your computer, remove these devices from your study environment. Wherever possible, it can be helpful to print off relevant materials in hard copy rather than read them on-screen, to remove all temptation.
3. Have snacks and water readily available.
Hunger and thirst are also distractions that can decrease your mental concentration, and keeping full and hydrated works wonders for your ability to concentrate on your work rather than be distracted by your bodily needs.
See our article on study nutrition for further information on how to get the best out of yourself when it’s time to get something done – this is a really underappreciated aspect of minimizing procrastination!
4. Let your friends and family know ahead of time when they shouldn’t bother you.
If you communicate your study schedule to the people close to you, chances are, not only will it help avoid distraction but they’ll help keep you on track! Making a plan and sticking to it is a really important part of avoiding procrastination (see Procrastination Part 2: Breaking Down your Workload).
This can really help create an environment where you have minimal chance of being disrupted by others – intentionally or unintentionally.