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Q I’m a 14-year-old girl, and procrastinate way too much during my studies. I always seem to find something to distract me, particularly just prior to exams, even if my mum takes away my phone. Can you help?
AStudying for anything can be a daunting prospect and studying for exams doubly so. For many people your age it can be a natural reaction to pretend they don’t even exist – the classic head in the sand approach. Procrastination is the greatest thief of time (or enemy of success), as the old sayings go, as all too often it plays out as, ‘I’ll do it later’, ‘there’s still time’ and then inevitably becomes ‘oh no, I never did it’.
As you approach the next stage in your own academic journey, your exams will certainly become even more vital, therefore you need to nip the issue in the bud now, before it has a serious impact on your future, which would be a shame. I’m pleased you’ve identified the problem as that’s a crucial first step to solving it.
We know our modern world provides us with many distractions, it’s small wonder that we can ever get anything done at all – from our smartphones, the draw of social media updates, the TV and internet – yep, we’re all constantly surrounded with distractions, each one more engaging than the last. All this is at odds with constructive and meaningful study, creating real difficulties when it comes to revising for exams.
When I introduced time management for kids into my programmes, a number of people were sceptical. But it makes perfect sense. Kids need direction and organisation as much as anyone, and a solid time management platform gives them that. But before you can jump into your time management plan, you must work out why it is you’re getting so off-track; you need to identify your own triggers and distractions.
The majority of students make the mistake of leaving their revision to the very last minute, and then rush to try and catch up. They’ve successfully failed to plan.
Leaving revision to the last minute is never an effective way of absorbing information – your mind is panicked by the time pressure, making it harder to build a deep understanding of what you’re learning.
There are numerous ways to approach revision, based on your personal learning style, but all of them involve careful planning.
The first thing to avoid is setting yourself unrealistic targets. Start out small, so rather than telling yourself that you’ll do hours of revision every night, try something different – plan on spending just half an hour each evening revising a topic, but plan to start doing this a month before the exam. Rather than ‘cramming’ a huge amount of revision into a short space of time, this ‘bite-size’ method will give you the opportunity to absorb all you’ll need to know without overloading your brain.
Plan to add another 15 minutes onto this revision schedule nearer exam time.
Remember to avoid distractions whilst you’re studying, only have the materials you need at hand and don’t have other things open on your computer. If you think you’ll be tempted, give your mum the phone, and show her the plan. She’ll be supportive. Focus will come with practice – it’s better to have 30 minutes of pure undisturbed productive revision than hours of pointless procrastination.
Always keep in mind whilst revising: The time and effort you put in now could be directly changing the entire course of your future. Push yourself now, and the rewards could be more than you can ever imagine later. Now that’s worth planning for!
Leaving REVISION until the day before is never an effective way of ABSORBING information - your mind is panicked by the time pressure, making it HARDER to understand what you’re LEARNING
RUSSELL HEMMINGS is a life coach, and clinical and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist