It can be incredibly hard to find focus when you have so many distractions around you.
Assignments can be hard enough to complete without any added distractions. How are you supposed to manage your time and complete that quiz when you’ve just remembered that the guitar you’ve been meaning to restring for three years is sitting in the cupboard, calling your name? And how could you open a textbook when this is the perfect opportunity to finally get around to reading War and Peace? Procrastination can be a killer of productivity. Luckily for you, Navigator has compiled a volume of handy tips sourced from university staff and your fellow students.
Set expectations and deadlines
Shannon King, a Bachelor of Social Work student, believes in “setting expectations and deadlines for things.” Shannon likes to begin each day by making a schedule of items to achieve by day’s end, and advises us to try the same. “But don’t make one that will set you up for failure,” she says.
When experimenting with the schedule method it’s important to make your goals achievable, make sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew. Setting yourself too many goals can lead to feelings of inadequacy if you don’t complete each one, whereas setting appropriate goals and achieving them all leads to a strong sense of accomplishment and readiness for more.
Claire Pasvolsky, a lecturer and academic in the School of Creative Industries, suggests further breaking up the schedule method into mindful hourly segments.
“Once you have created your Daily Running Order, and before you enter each new hour,” says Pasvolsky, “ask yourself: ‘what is my intention for this hourly segment?’” At the end of each hour, you then check in with yourself and ask, ‘did I achieve my intention?’
Pasvolsky stresses the benefit of checking in with yourself. “This is really important,” she says, “because we often underestimate how much we actually do achieve on a daily basis.” Affirming your accomplishments, no matter how small or trivial they seem, sets you up to make more. Writing them down on paper can be even more effective.
Take regular breaks and stick to your schedule
Jordan Pasterfield, who studies a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy, echoes the sentiment of mindfulness. “If you’re planning on doing a full day of study,” she says, “work out the hours and don’t go over or under them.” Jordan also recommends leaving your phone in another room and regular, but short, study breaks of about 10-15 minutes per hour of study. This can be a good chance to get up, stretch those legs, reply to that message, and grab a well-earned snack.
Staying hydrated and lightly fed will keep you focused. It’s easy for the brain to get side-tracked if you’re hungry and thirsty, so remember to take care of your physical needs as well. Stepping outside for some fresh air and sunshine can also give your brain a massive boost.
It can be hard to re-focus after a nice break. But Charles Hersey, a Bachelor of Nursing student, has a novel way of getting back into rhythm.
“I will do like an hour of work,” he says, “then take a break. When I come back for my next lot of work I do it in a different room. It sounds dumb, but it makes things less monotonous.”
Be kind to yourself and relax after the days work
Once you have achieved all you’ve set out to it’s time to reward yourself! Everybody is in agreement here. A productive day is a license to have a relaxed and enjoyable afternoon and evening.
“I think it’s important to allow breaks and treats into your running order for self-motivation and entertainment,” says Claire Pasvolsky. “The bigger the achievement, the bigger the reward. For example, if you finish an assignment, get those Ugg boots on and settle in for an episode of your favourite show”
And it is important. Times of leisure and relaxation act as a balance against all your hard work. If you don’t take time for yourself then you’ll end up burning out from being in ‘work mode’ all the time. And nobody needs that. So remember: plan your productivity, minimise distractions, check-in with yourself and check off your goals, stay fed and hydrated, take a break, finish it off, then take it easy.
If you need more information on how to break the cycle of procrastination, head on over to www.newcastle.edu.au/current-students/support/personal/counselling/study-and-wellbeing-resources