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- The action of delaying or postponing something.
- The enemy of a university student!
- The condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.
- Really annoying.
Procrastination and writer’s block can be our enemies as students. Before I suggest some tips to overcome them, let’s consider why we do these things.
While I am a Psychology student, unfortunately I can’t say exactly why each of you reading this may procrastinate, but I can reflect on experiences and knowledge to let you know that people often procrastinate because they want to do a task really well, rather than being ‘lazy’ (it can be easy to fall into the trap of negative self-talk while procrastinating!)
Now we know that we want to do our work really well. And the best way to do that is to work on it efficiently – which can be hard to do at the last minute, fuelled by 500ml energy drinks (tried and tested = 10/10 do not recommend).
Previously, if Procrastination were a subject, I would definitely get an H1. Now, I like to think I’d get an N. I will share with you some tips that have helped me! Many strategies will be applicable to writer’s block too, but I will specifically address it towards the end.
Break it down
Have you ever started an awesome TV series and been like:
“Yes, five seasons, twenty long episodes per season, I’m set for ages!”
You feel like you’re only watching a little bit each day, and then all of a sudden there isn’t a ‘next episode’ button? At the start, watching the whole series seemed like a mammoth task that would take forever – but after watching it in small segments, it was all over in a few weeks (or one week… Yep, I’m guilty of that one). It’s the same with assignments (except it feels like you have to press the ‘yes I’m still watching’ button a bit more often, as you have to create the content). Firstly, plan out the tasks you will have to do, set days to complete each (you can adjust as you go – I often find research takes more time than I expected, and proofreading less time than expected), and then get cracking on your H1 piece of work!
Please read the following step in the tune of ‘We’re All in This Together’ by the cast of High School Musical:
Together, together, together everyone! Together, together, let’s go get that H1!
Sorry not sorry for getting High School Musical stuck in your head.
Make sure you check out the Discussion Board for each of your subjects on LMS – often there’s a thread for study groups. Study groups essentially force you to do some work, because you make a commitment to show up. Just like actually putting on your gym gear and travelling to the gym can be the hardest part of a workout, sometimes opening your laptop and committing to study can be the biggest hurdle to overcome.
If you are having trouble in a subject, ask! In my experience, when I have been a bit shy or worried about asking a question, all my worry has faded away when my tutor / lecturer has been super helpful.
If you need some extra help, you could attend an Academic Skills workshop, or even have a tutor; StudentVIP and notices around campus can be a good resource for finding tutors. If you’re studying an Arts subject, make sure you check if it’s offered in the PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions) program.
We just click on Facebook to check our inbox, and then end up tagging our friends in memes, then before we know it, it’s been three hours! It can be great to set breaks with time limits you can stick to. Here are some ideas:
- Do a short workout – there are heaps of workouts on YouTube of varying lengths – just type in something like ‘ten minute ab workout’. You could also go for a walk around the block
- Find a TV show with 20-30 min episodes to watch (ideally you will be up to date with the show, so you can only watch one episode at a time)
- Watch a TED Talk – I don’t know about you, but watching TED Talks always makes me motivated to go and do good in the world!
- Check out a helpful study article (we have heaps on our blog!)
A perhaps counter-intuitive tip…
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying ‘if you want a job done, give it to a busy person’. I know that I’ve achieved my best results when I was busiest. Being busy means that you have to schedule time to work on a task and it has to be completed in that time. Just like a looming deadline, it just has to be done, and that is often key to pushing through the temptation to procrastinate. You can create your business – e.g. say that ‘on Saturday I will be going out to brunch with a friend, and I want to have my assignment done by then so I can really enjoy my outing as a reward – even though the assignment isn’t due until Monday. Then I can give it one last proofread if I want to, without the stress of the last minute.’
Firstly, start by getting inspired! Find other literature in your field of study, have a read through the articles, and note what you like about them. Did they start with a really nice quote? Did you like the way they contrasted sources in their literature review? Work out how you could use similar methods in your own writing.
Secondly, even though your brain might feel blocked, just try to write down a couple of dot points. Don’t set yourself any restrictions – they can be as out-there as you like! Once you’ve started writing, your brain often kicks into action and starts generating more and more ideas. Think of it like one of those games where you have to think of as many uses as possible for something. Often the first ideas are pretty conventional, but by the end you have some wacky (and awesome) stuff! If you still are having trouble, take a short break – see Tip #3 for some ideas – and then go back to brainstorming, feeling refreshed.
Because exams are coming up soon, here is my last tip. This can be REALLY hard at first, but I have found it so helpful every year I’ve been at uni. If you have a long commute, leave your book and headphones at home and study your notes on the train. There’s often nothing else to do except look out the window. Put your phone in your backpack and under your seat so you aren’t tempted to scroll through Facebook. Think about this – even if you only did this for ONE of your subjects for a TOTAL of ONE hour a week – that’s TWELVE more hours of exam study you will have than you would have had otherwise for that subject.
What are your tips for beating procrastination and writer’s block? Share them in the comments below!