How to survive first year: a procrastinator’s guide

You’re going to have to get used to meeting deadlines, handing in reports, completing assignments and ultimately write essays and finish exams. Along the way, you’ll get distracted, willingly and not willingly, as a first year. Here’s how to survive first year: a procrastinator’s guide…

1. Use a diary

The best thing for a procrastinator is a diary. My flatmate had a whiteboard in her room which she used as a planner, wiping it clean weekly and writing up new plans. For me, a happiness planner works best. I am able to set goals each morning and plan my week out efficiently; it doesn’t just focus on tasks, it also reminds me to look after myself and allows me to identify bad habits in my behaviour. I find having a healthy mind helps to keep me focused.

2. Tidy your room

A tidy room also helps aid a healthy mind. When my room is messy, my mind also feels cluttered and I can’t do any work. While I hate tidying my room, once it’s done I can begin thinking about doing some studying. It even helps me procrastinate for a little while first… (Ironic, huh?)

3. Create a reward system

Don’t just slave away at your studies all day. You’ll go insane if you don’t have any downtime so instead, use a reward system to keep yourself focused. You’re meant to have a break around every fifty minutes. I like to set myself a timer and then reward myself with twenty minutes of social media, YouTube or video games. If you’re writing an essay, try to chunk the different sections that way you can break up the goals rather than chase one giant one.

You really should just take a five or ten-minute break, but that is never enough for me! Sometimes, I break up my day with a trip to the beach or going to a restaurant with a friend. Honestly, returning from a nice afternoon out really helps me to get back to my work. Just try to do that less often if you have a lot to do.

4. Log out of social media and put your phone on aeroplane mode

If you’re like me and obsessed with your phone and social media accounts, it might be best to log out of them completely while you’re studying. It’s too easy for me to be on one browser researching for an essay and then mindlessly open Facebook on another tab. If my phone is right next to me, I’ll keep picking it up too. It’s too easy to procrastinate when you have social media and someone’s cat photos at your fingertips.

So, I put it on aeroplane mode to stop receiving notifications. The only reason I don’t put it away completely is that I’ll still use it as a timer. You might want to put it somewhere you can’t reach it easily, though.

5. Don’t connect to the internet if you’re using books

If you’re not using the internet, why not disconnect from the Wi-Fi altogether? It’s just another step from logging out of social media but it can help stop you from wandering away from what you’re meant to be doing. Remember, you can still give yourself a treat once you’ve hit your goal.

6. Use a pen and paper for notetaking

I do this when notetaking from PowerPoint slides and books. Sometimes, I like to physically write down my notes, as this keeps me away from my laptop and time seems to pass much quicker when I can’t see the time on my desktop either.

I put some music on in the background (without vocals) and then write away until my timer beeps. It’s also the best way to study for an exam which has essay-based answers, as the act of physically writing something down helps you to memorise it.

7. Don’t plan to do uni work when you have other plans

It sounds painfully obvious, but you can’t do everything at once. I always tried to leave work for when my boyfriend was visiting because I thought I’d have the motivation; even though I would NEVER do any work, I still thought I would the next time. Now, at the end of university, I’ve learnt my lesson and decided to always get my work done before he visits.

If you have plans that you can’t change, like family visiting or a full day of work, don’t leave your work to this day either. Get it out of the way or it’ll never be done.

8. Aim to do work in the mornings

One of the biggest reasons I procrastinated and pushed things off in first year was because I always left it until the end of the day. I’d wake up tired and probably went to bed having done a little bit of studying – not enough.

The last thing I wanted to do was wake up and get right back into it. But, this just led me to waste my days doing nothing and leaving myself with a lot to do at night again. The days where I changed my routine to study in the morning or afternoon and relaxing at night were much easier for staying focused and productive.

9. Go out drinking less

Another reason I didn’t want to do work? Hangovers. Honestly, at the start of the year I’d go out drinking and maybe make it to my 9 am lecture the next day, but you wouldn’t see me doing any work after that. If you know you’ve got a lot to do in one week, or just want to set aside some study time then try to avoid any nights out, or even go out sober – it is do-able, you know!

10. Don’t beat yourself up if you fail

Honestly, as a procrastinator, I’d get upset with myself so much. Maybe I didn’t make any of my goals that week, maybe I’d taken advantage of my own reward system, chilling out all day rather than just for a little while. It upset me because I’d get stressed about leaving myself with less time to do more work.

The more stressed I’d get, the more I’d want to put things off. Basically, it’s best not to get upset over these things. Being positive and reminding yourself there’s always next time will help motivate you to get back into your plan.

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