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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

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