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Monday, January 12, 2015

3 Reasons You Might Be Procrastinating (And What To Do About It)

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It's one of the most common questions that I get asked. Yes, and it is regularly asked with caps lock on. (Really, if you're going to ask me anything, please turn caps lock off to help what’s left of my sanity last a little longer.)

This is a really tough question to answer. It's kind of like they're asking, “how do I stop getting hungry?” To actually offer advice on the matter, I have to completely understand the situation. Maybe you're hungry because you haven't eaten in a month. Maybe you're hungry because you have medical issues. Maybe you're hungry because your Redbull and Adderall diet don't offer enough calories. Really, this is a question that needs some serious background info to even touch on.

If you want to stop procrastinating then you could have any of a number of different problems. Each of those potential problems come with a different solution. Here are three of the most common problems.

1. You Don't Care

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This point should be one of the most obvious ones but sadly, many students don't actually realize how much they don't really care about school. If you don't care about school then you are going to procrastinate. Even worse though, even if you beat that procrastination physically, your brain is going to study terribly.

Many students are scared to admit that they really don't care about school. They have the urge to please their parents or teachers but they really have no internal motivation to learn the information required. This is something that you may need to think about for a while to realize.

You might recognize this problem from completely forgetting about studying. If you never even think to pick up the textbooks (more than a quick thought) then this may be the problem. It may not be though. There are a lot of potential procrastination causes and this one can be one of the trickiest to spot.

Another  way to think about this problem is the “have to” mindset. “Do I have to do this?” No... You absolutely don't have to. No one is pointing a gun at you. You only should study because you want to (ideally.)

How To Solve This Problem

This is the hardest problem to solve.

Procrastination is just a symptom of not caring. Of course you're going to put off learning for school if you don't care about school. That's your brain doing the right thing.

You need to find a way to care about school.

The best way to do that is to change your schooling situation. Get a better method, teacher, or school. That, of course, is impractical for college students and almost impossible for high school students. (It's absolutely natural for self-directed schooling.)

Since that’s probably not an option, your next option is to change the way you feel about school. Find a way to actually care about it. Spend some time thinking about how important the information you learn could be to your future. If you're in high school, think about how it will prepare you for college. If you're in college, think about how it will prepare you for your job. At the very least, think about how the course is a means to an end. Maybe you just need to pass to graduate. (Of course, that pass only motivation won’t help you study more than the minimum but it’s better than nothing.)

Get in the habit of reminding yourself the reasons you have to study every time you want to study.

2. Too Much Study Stress

One of the biggest reasons people don't do things is because those things seem too big to do. It's your brain's defense mechanism.  If you want to do something that your brain doesn't think can be done, you're easily going to be distracted by all the other things you're confident you can do.

You might recognize this problem from thoughts like these: “Well... I want to study but I don't have much time.” or “I want to study but I'm too tired.”

There will always be excuses not to study. You will virtually never be wide awake and have plenty of time to study. Studying is something that has to be done despite those challenges. The problem isn't what you're excuses are, the real problem is that you made studying into way too important a task to manage. (You wouldn't not surf on Facebook or play a video game because you're too tired.)

How To Solve This Problem

Usually, you just need to chill out on the studying a bit. No, I don't mean study less, I mean loosen up your study routine a little. If you normally study an hour a night then cut the study time down to twenty minutes. If you normally work yourself into a curled up ball of stress by the end of the study session then you need to find a way to relax a little. (I've got some articles that can help you with that in the archives.)

Just changing your study routine isn't enough though. Your brain still associates that high stress to studying. That means you're still going to want to procrastinate. You need to break that association in your mind before the procrastination stops.

That association is usually best broken by using a little discipline to develop a study habit. Use your new more relaxed study routine at the same time everyday. Notice the word everyday. Trust me, everyday is way easier than only when you need it. Once that habit sticks you'll be learning more with less stress than ever. (In fact, this blog teaches how you can study only 15 minutes a night and still ace your courses.)

3. Distract Me!

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Okay. Now I'll tell you to study. Then, I'll place you in a room with the most awesome video games around. The room has a phone to talk to your friends. The room has fast internet. The room has a television with hundreds of stations. It has every movie you could ever want to watch. Oh yea... it also has a textbook for that studying. GOOD LUCK!

You cannot be surprised that you're procrastinating when you put yourself in an awesome place to be procrastinating. Your brain is designed to seek out pleasure. Studying is like a subtle pleasant flavored candy versus a sugar packed candy (all the cool things you own.) If you sit down to study with all kinds of awesome things around you, you're going to struggle to get yourself to study.

Sure, with a little practice and discipline it can be easy to study around turned off distractions but when you're stuck in a bad cycle of procrastination, it can be almost impossible to get out.

How To Solve This Problem

At the very least, you need to turn off every possible distraction that you own. That video game, shut it down, and unplug it if you have to. Disconnect from the internet. Your phone needs to get shut down. Do everything in your power to make studying the most interesting and easy thing to do in the place that you study.

Ideally, you don't even want to be in the same room as something more interesting than studying. The farther away you are from something more interesting than studying, the easier it's going to be to get into the studying. (“Wow... I'd really like to play that game but I would have to stand up... and... whatever... I'll just finish studying.”)

To make this happen, it may be smarter for you to head somewhere other than your bedroom for studying. It also helps to get into the habit of studying at the same time everyday. That means, sometimes, your body will just go to the place you study without you needing the discipline to force yourself.

Procrastination is a complicated problem. There is no one size fits all solution but there are some very common problems that people share. Solving procrastination eventually comes down to you making a personal decision of what's important to you. You can put yourself in a good position to choose right but eventually, you've got to make that choice.

Do you want to know how to study in less than 15 minutes a day? Well... that's what this blog is all about: efficient studying. Check out the archives or my books to learn more.

Do you want to learn the secrets about studying that the mainstream educators wont tell you? Follow this blog.

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