Let’s discuss overcoming procrastination; how to study when you feel like you just cannot do it. I’m going to break this down into three easy principles.
The first is the location and environment where you’re studying. In another video I’ll go into more detail about what makes for a good study environment. But for the sake of this video let’s assume that you’re in a place where you’re not getting distracted, where you’re able to focus, and get work done.
2. JUST START
Number two, is Just Start. The hardest part, and the reason why we all procrastinate is that it’s so difficult to start. Getting yourself to start makes the whole process that much easier – it’s all downhill from there. So what I would tell myself is that I’m just going to work for 5 minutes. A smaller obligation is easier to start than a larger obligation. And once those 5 minutes were up and I ask myself, ‘Do I need to take a break? Or can I keep working?’ More often than not, it was a lot easier to just keep working at that point.
Another thing that’s going to help is breaking your work into sizeable chunks. If you have a lot of work to do, don’t tell yourself that you need to get all that work done in one go. For example if you have this entire textbook that you need to read, having the goal of finishing the textbook is going to be a daunting task and you’re not going to want to ever get to it. But if you tell yourself you’re going to read one section or one chapter, it becomes a lot more manageable. By doing this, and by organizing your work in your to-do list in this way of smaller chunks, you build momentum as you complete each task which helps to carry you forward.
3. TAKE BREAKS
Now, there’s a little bit of a science and a technique in how to take breaks.
First of all is the frequency; how often should you be taking breaks? I recommend every 30-60 minutes. Anything shorter than that – you’re not getting much work done, and anything longer than that your attention span is deteriorating and you’re having diminishing returns in your studying.
The next is duration; how long should your breaks be? That obviously depends on how long you’re studying for. So if you’re only been studying for 30 minutes, take a short 5 minute break. If you’re studying for 60 minutes, take a longer 10 minute break. Taking breaks much longer than this defeats the purpose of taking the break and trying to study in the first place.
Know when to stop. There are going to be times when you’re going to be sitting down, and even though you’re taking these breaks you’re just so burned out and you can’t focus and you can’t get anything done – it’s times like this when it’s better to get up, go to the gym, do something productive. Go eat, get away from your desk, get away from your work space, clear your mind. When you return it’ll be that much easier to get back into it.
4. POMODORO TECHNIQUE
The Pomodoro Technique is a highly effective productivity and study hack. It’s simple in concept – work for 25 minutes, and then take a 5 minute break; repeat 4 times. So in total, you’re working for a total of 2 hours. After 4 Pomodoro’s with intervening breaks, you take a longer 20 minute break, thus reaching a total of 2 hours and 20 minutes. You can repeat this cycle as many times as you would like. The app that I used to time myself is called 30/30 for iOS, but there’s many free alternatives out there. I like this app because it gives you some flexibility and it has a very clean interface.
The reason I’m such a big proponent of the Pomodoro technique is when you first start studying, when your mind is fresh, you’re going to feel like you can get so much work done. Yet, I found that when I worked nonstop I would get burned out much faster. By the time the afternoon or the evening came, I wouldn’t be able to work anymore. So instead, by doing the Pomodoro technique and by taking that break after 25 minutes even when I felt like I could keep going, that helped keep me fresh throughout the day. And I was able to study and maintain my productivity and my retention for longer periods of time.