Procrastination is the bane of every student’s existence. We know what we should be doing—we just don’t want to do it. It’s easy to put off undesirable assignments until the very last minute, but then we’re forced to pull a stress-induced all-nighter. Seven cups of coffee later, we’re exhausted, frustrated, and turning in an assignment that hardly showcases our best work. Here are the top 10 tips to crush procrastination and actually get some sleep for once!
1. Get organized
You can't do any work if you don't know what assignments need to be completed. Invest in a planner or start using the calendar app on your phone. This makes it much easier to keep track of individual assignments and important due dates. Need help getting started?
2. Set simple, achievable goals
Part of the reason we procrastinate is because the task at hand seems too daunting. It’s a lot easier to get started on a project when you establish simple, reachable goals rather than a big, vague plan. Instead of telling yourself, "I'll study biology tonight,” say, "I'll study chapter six tonight." This makes your goals less intimidating and more attainable by breaking them down into smaller and more easily achievable tasks. It will help you feel more accomplished and driven to keep going if you're checking off more tasks as you go. Setting goals at the beginning of each semester is a great way to do this.
Related: Video: Setting Goals for the School Year
3. Create a timeline/schedule
After you set your goals, create a timeline to complete them. This could be a study schedule for your big exam coming up (“On Tuesday, I'll study chapter five, and on Wednesday, I'll study chapter six”), or it could be mapping out an essay you have to write (“On Saturday, I'll write the introduction and conclusion”). Breaking an assignment into small chunks over time makes it much more manageable.
4. Set a deadline
So many people get trapped in the cycle of "Someday, I'll organize my notes," or "I'll get to that math homework eventually." The truth is “someday” and “eventually” never come. It's important to set a specific date for when you want your goals to be accomplished. If you have an assignment due, aim to have it completed one or two days in advance. That way, if something unexpected happens, you still have extra time to complete it.
Related: How to Manage Your Time as a Student
5. Get rid of distractions
It’s important to rid yourself of all potential disruptions before you begin working so you don’t get needlessly sidetracked halfway through your task. If you tend to spend too much time on Snapchat or Instagram when you should be studying, then shut your phone off (all the way off). Distractions could also be external sources, like annoying siblings. Try listening to classical music or white noise to drown out their constant chatter. Alternatively, you could change study environments all together and head down to the local library or coffee shop, where you can clear your mind and study distraction-free.
6. Time yourself
When loaded with assignments, it's easy to overwork yourself. Plus, our brains can really only handle so much information and focus at a time! So how long should you study for? Everyone is different, but most experts agree on a range of 50 to 90 minutes. Set a timer for a block of focused studying or work to prevent yourself from burning out. You may have to experiment to find your "sweet spot" for the length of time you spend studying. According to the Atlantic, the formula for perfect productivity is to work for 52 minutes and break for 17.
7. Take a break
It's important to take mental breathers from school work every now and then. When your timer goes off, take a 10–30-minute break. Listen to music, take a walk, do some laundry, or scream into a pillow—anything that takes your mind off of work and allows you to relax.
Related: 4 Techniques to Improve Your Time Management
8. Use incentives
Everyone loves being rewarded. It’s important to give yourself incentives, no matter how small. It could be something as simple as, "If I work on this assignment for an hour, I'll watch an episode of my favorite TV show tonight." Or it could be a bigger goal like, "If I get an A in math this semester, I'll go to my favorite restaurant.” It’s easier to pay attention when something is at stake.
9. Get the hard stuff done first
This may make you want to push everything back farther. It's hard to do something that you don't want to do. But guess what? Once you do it, it's over! It's best to complete your most challenging assignments first. That way everything after it seems easier and takes a shorter amount of time. If you keep pushing that English essay back, you’re never going to get it done. It’s best to buckle down and just do it.
10. Tell someone about your goal
It’s easy to forget about assignments or put them off if you’re the only person holding yourself accountable. If you really want to get something done, tell a friend or family member. Now there's someone holding you responsible for your goals. You can't back out or slough it off. As an added bonus, you also have someone to celebrate your victories with, no matter how small. Whether it’s getting an A on that physics test or just finishing a project a few days in advance, your friend will be there to support you.
Related: How to Fight Procrastination and Find Your Motivation
Procrastination gets the better of all of us—so never feel alone when it feels like a struggle to get things done. Whenever you feel the procrastination desire creeping in, remind yourself of your goals, break down your tasks into something more manageable, include breaks, and remember the hard work will all be worth it in the long run.
If you’re going to procrastinate schoolwork, be productive in other ways—like using our College Search tool or Lists & Rankings to discover new schools!