Step 3: Get Better at Prioritizing
Due dates are important. Set your short and long-term goals accordingly. Ask yourself the following:
- What needs to get done today?
- What needs to get done this week?
- What needs to get done by the end the first month of the semester?
- What needs to get done by the end the second month of the semester?
- What needs to get done by the end of the semester?
Your time is valuable. Treat it accordingly by getting the most you can out of it.
Above all, avoid procrastination. Procrastination is the kiss of death, because it’s difficult to catch up once you’ve fallen behind. Do you have a problem with procrastination? Be on your guard so that it doesn’t become an issue for you.
Do any of the following descriptions apply to you?
- My paper is due in two days and I haven’t really started writing it yet.
- I’ve had to pull an all-nighter to get an assignment done on time.
- I’ve turned in an assignment late or asked for an extension when I really didn’t have a good excuse not to get it done on time.
- I’ve worked right up to the minute an assignment was due.
- I’ve underestimated how long a reading assignment would take and didn’t finish it in time for class.
- I’ve relied on the Internet for information (like a summary of a concept or a book) because I didn’t finish the reading on time.
If these sound like issues you’ve struggled with in the past, you might want to consider whether you have the tendency to procrastinate and how you want to deal with it in your future classes. You’re already spending a lot of time, energy, and money on the classes you’re taking—don’t let all of that go to waste!
Strategies to Combat Procrastination
Below are some effective strategies for overcoming procrastination:
- Keep your studying “bite-sized”: When confronted with 150 pages of reading or 50 problems to solve, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. Try breaking it down: What if you decide that you will read for 45 minutes or that you will solve 10 problems? That sounds much more manageable.
- Turn off your phone, close your chat windows, and block distracting Web sites. The best advice we’ve ever heard is to treat your studying as if you’re in a movie theater—just turn it off.
- Set up a reward system: If you read for 40 minutes, you can check your phone for 5 minutes. But keep in mind that reward-based systems only work if you stick to an honor system.
- Study in a place reserved for studying ONLY. Your bedroom may have too many distractions (or temptations, such as taking a nap), so it may be best to avoid it when you’re working on school assignments.
- Use checklists: Make your incremental accomplishments visible. Some people take great satisfaction and motivation from checking items off a to-do list. Be very specific when creating this list, and clearly describe each task one step at a time.
In the following video, Joseph Clough shares key strategies for conquering procrastination once and for all.