Sometimes it’s hard to focus on study. Your productivity and ability to concentrate will be improved if you get into good study habits.
We often procrastinate because a task feels too overwhelming, boring or difficult.
The best way to stop procrastinating is to break down a big task into manageable chunks. Focus on one small task and take action.
For example, an essay requires you to do a series of steps:
If any of these steps feel too big, break them down further. For example, step 3 above involves these mini-steps:
Even if you naturally do these steps, it can help to write them down if you have a tendency to procrastinate. The small steps are less daunting than the larger tasks, and can help you to get started.
Also set yourself a time limit. Small mini-steps set to short timeframes work best. What can you achieve in the next 30 minutes? With practice, you’ll be good at setting realistic timeframes.
Be gentle on yourself and remember that doing something is better than nothing. Start with just one small step.
There are a number of reasons why things take longer than you think they should.
You may be doing too much reading because you don’t want to miss key ideas or you don’t feel ready to start writing.
If you’ve understood the question reasonably well, it’s very unlikely you’ll miss a key idea. Normally two or three relevant readings will be enough to become aware of the main issues. From there, you can supplement your main ideas with other readings. By skim reading a text first, you can gauge whether an article will be 'highly relevant', 'moderately relevant' or 'slightly relevant' to your purposes.
As you read, develop an outline of your answer to the question. This will provide a balanced overview of the issues you need to address, how much space you can devote to them given the word limit, and when you can stop researching.
There is often a temptation to create the perfect plan before you start writing. While it’s a good idea to know where you’re going before you start, it’s not necessary to include every detail in your plan. Flexibility is part of the writing process.
Excessive redrafting of your work can be unnecessarily time-consuming. It’s usually better to aim for a rough first draft to get the major issues and arguments down on paper, followed by a second (and possibly third) draft to re-shape your work. After that, you should only be doing minor editing and proofreading.
External distractions can slow you down when you’re studying. Multitasking is also unhelpful; aim to do one thing at a time.
Things might be taking too long because you’re studying in an inefficient way. Rather than ‘chaining yourself’ to your desk and working continuously over long periods, break up your study into chunks and have frequent short breaks. Reward yourself when you achieve goals. Find out more about how to use your time efficiently.
This material was developed by the Learning Centre, who offer workshops, face-to-face consultations and resources to support your learning. Find out more about how we can help you develop your communication, research and study skills.