Practical guidance on how to do homework when you are a procrastinator
John is a second-year biology student. He tries to manage studies and work at the same time. He likes attending classes, but he freaks out every time he gets an assignment. John knows that he can do his homework, but there are so many obstacles on his way. He continues to say to himself that he will do his homework tomorrow. But tomorrow never comes.
In the century of positive thinking and imposed can-do attitude, a lot of young people still have a problem with motivation. They start seeing it mainly in high school or in college. Not everybody can manage the increased load of homework. With all the deadlines, it is getting insane. It raises anxiety and neverending stress.
At first, it looks easy. There are an assignment and the deadline. Just put those two together and get the work done. So, why so many students fail to do so?
There is a particular term that can explain where the conscious choice of not to succeed comes from. It is called procrastination. If you put all your tasks on a waiting list till the very end, congratulations you are one of the procrastinators. Needless to say, it can’t dispense you from the homework and other tasks that you will have during the whole life.
You still will have to do it. The good news is that you can control your procrastination and even take advantage out of it. It will help to motivate yourself to study and get the homework done fast. It’s the right time to stop worrying about your assignments and learn how to focus on homework instead.
This article is dedicated to procrastinator John and everyone who doesn’t have enough motivation to do homework.
Who are college procrastinators?
Those who wait for the last minute to get homework done. Usually, this type of people needs physically to feel the deadline. Those students think that they work better under pressure. They prepare for the exams the night before and do assignments in horrible rush and self-loathing.
Those who are afraid to fail. The fear plays a key-role in procrastinators’ behavior. Some students convince themselves that their essays are horrible. Even though they haven’t started writing them yet. This belief freezes the whole process. The homework is waiting for them for a long time. Some might refuse to do the homework at all, just because of fear.
Those who aren’t able to make decisions. The critical point here is that we are not even talking about making the right choices. What is right? What is the truth? It is a very personal philosophy, and it’s better not to go down into it. Students of this type doubt so much in what they are doing that the homework stays on the shelf forever. It’s a bit different from the second type. It is a fear indeed. However, procrastinators of this type are afraid not of failure but of responsibility for the assignment. They question themselves till the very end.
How to motivate yourself to do homework?
Motivation is a way to do something when you don’t want. Some people hate unpacking. Meanwhile, others are eager to do it quickly because they want to invite guests over. They are motivated.
It is essential to understand that it’s not a professor who can motivate students to do homework. Students should find own inspiration and motivation. People are different, so everyone needs a unique approach.
If you haven’t found your approach yet, check these techniques to get motivated to do homework in college. Using specific arguments, you can program your mind to do your best.
#1 It is not an assignment, it’s a mission
This is a psychological trick that you can play with your brain. In the next conversation with yourself when “demotivated you” says “Sorry mate, I’m out,” you can tell him “No, darling, you will do it. No one else can do it”.
You should understand that sooner or later your homework should be done. It is only a matter of time. So, start working on your project today because it is your mission, responsibility, and duty.
Have you ever played tag or a board game with an overwhelming desire to win? Use your competitive spirit against your demotivation.
Getting homework done isn’t the only one thing that leaders genuinely want. They also want to be the first who gets the work done. They want it to be the best. Try to think of your competitors. Who are they? And what do you need to do to be better than them?
Homework is given for students to learn something new. This is just an assignment you may say, but you never know how you can use it afterward.
Maybe it’s not an essay but an introduction to your future book? You can learn something significant. Be curious because learning is fun and it gives you so much more than it takes.
#4 Cost avoidance
You probably understand that you are obligated to do homework. When you are a student, studying becomes your full-time job. Sometimes you even pay for this with own or your parents’ money.
If you want to stay on track and don’t let anyone down(including yourself), you need to take responsibility for this assignment. If you don’t start doing your homework when it’s needed, you will lose time, ideas, your teachers’ respect, and free time afterward. Everyone will be partying while you will do your assignment. Do you need all this? Isn’t it better to do it on time and do not lose anything? There will always be consequences when we do or don’t do homework.
#5 Reward yourself
Employers offer bonuses at work. Teachers usually don’t offer anything. Well, if you do your homework, you will have a good grade, and you won’t be one of those college dropouts who sell burgers down the street.
However, you can’t understand all this at the moment. You might think that everything will remain the same - your dorm, classes, and college friends.
Think of something that can make you feel happy at the moment. Going on a date with your crush or maybe staying in your pajamas for the whole weekend and watching Game of Thrones? Remember that you can do all this once you do homework. Now it is your forbidden fruit.
Important to mention that you don't need to go to extremes. Like if you say that you won’t be seeing your girlfriend or boyfriend until you write your thesis and deadline is in a few months. You can go out and have fun because having a break is essential. Just make a schedule to get your work done. Tell yourself “Dear me, I know you want to relax in a hot tub and do nothing. You will do this after you write 3 pages of your essay”.
#6 I’ve found a new job
Try to explain to yourself how good it will be once you do your assignment. You will be able to go to parties without a pang of conscience. You will be free because your mind will be out of thoughts about how to do homework fast.
People who are motivated this way, perfectly know what they want and try to reach their goal. Those people usually say “I’ve found a new job” instead of “I quit my job.”
If you think it will work for you as well, think of the future sense of achievement. Imagine how your teacher and other students praise you.
#7 I quit my job
On the contrary, some people use their fear to motivate themselves to do homework. In this case, a person tries to knock off the negativity. It means they draw attention to something they want to escape. They say that they quit their job instead of saying “I’ve found a new one.”
People who are guided by this kind of motivation (escape the negativity) perfectly determine what they do not want. However, they are not aware of what they are looking for. If it works with you, try to think about what can happen if you refuse to do your homework now.
You might lose your place at college
Your professor might lose respect for you
It will take more time and energy to retake your class while your friends will enjoy their freedom
Feel free to use those two kinds of motivation at the same time. The mix of fear and future enjoyment might trigger the increased motivation to study.
When do you need to take breaks?
Taking breaks isn’t a problem for procrastinators. They are really good at it. However, once they start working on their homework, they might forget about the importance of breaks. Close deadline motivates to work fast and sometimes even non-stop.
You understand that your forest is on fire and there is no time to drink some water, you have to extinguish the fire before it is too late. On the other hand, if you stop and drink just a little bit, you will have more energy afterward. Just a metaphor.
Don’t feel guilty about taking breaks. It is an investment.
It helps you to focus
Your brain is getting tired when it processes too much information. Treat it as your muscles. You can exercise in the gym, and it is perfect for your body, but it can become a disaster once you overdo it.
In 40 minutes after continuous work, you may lose your concentration. For example, people who live close to the airport are getting used to aircraft noise very quickly. They stop hearing it because their brain decides that it is not that important, it is a simple background, so they don’t focus on it. You need to take a break if you want to keep your ability to focus on the task.
So, every hour make sure to stand up, make a cup of tea for yourself, stare out of the window. Scrolling Facebook or Instagram isn't taking a break because in this case, your mind is still focused and occupied. You want to relax, not to absorb too much information.
It is good for your eyes
It is difficult to imagine doing your homework without a laptop or phone. Obviously, you need to have access to the information. However, typing or reading from your computer for a long time is not good both for your eyes and productivity.
A lot of people spend on their devices from 6 to 9 hours daily. Needless to say that it has a significant impact on our eyes. Every two hour you might feel eye strain, also known as asthenopia. So, make sure to focus your eyes on anything else for 20 seconds every hour.
You can do homework without hurting your health.
How to set up an effective timetable?
If you really want to do your homework correctly, you will have to work on your schedule. It would be nice not to worry about it at all and just do it when you feel like it. However, you may never want to do it. What for if there is no deadline in your head? Obviously, there is a deadline in college, but students are not always capable to fully understand it and do their homework on time. Especially when there are so many other great things to do. Relationships, first jobs, hobbies, and parties.
If you are tired of being messy with your life, it’s time to set up a time table.
Some tips that can help you to do so:
#1 Make a schedule for the whole week
Make sure to sit down on Sunday and write down everything you need to do during next week. Be precise and write an exact hour when you want to do it. Of course, you won’t be able to stick to your schedule every day. It is life. Things may change any minute. Today you are planning to work on your project the whole week non-stop. The next day you wake up in Mexico with the colossal hangover. You wish!
#2 Mark important tasks
Apparently, everybody has a lot of things to do. Sometimes looking at to-do list can be painful itself. So, it is better to split your tasks into three sections:
Important and Urgent (e.g., write lead to my essay)
Important and not urgent (e.g., go to the gym)
Not important and not urgent ( e.g., email-checking, tinder swiping)
When it comes to sections “important and urgent” and “important and not urgent,” it should be done in the first place.
Even in these sections, you will have tasks that will be divided into “easy” and “difficult” ones. So, when you start feeling anxious because there so many things to do on the list, try to start with the easiest task. This little trick will help you to put yourself in the mood to do your homework.
Once you have one task behind you, you will see that other things aren’t that difficult. Something may take more time, something less. It doesn’t matter because all you have to do is to concentrate on productivity.
What is “not important and not urgent” and why do you need to put this on your list? It is something that you know you will probably be doing just to avoid real homework.
How to eliminate the distractions?
When students consciously start working on their project, they try to eliminate all the distractions. Our life is full of them. We live in the century of the fast transmission of information. Previous generations used to wait for letters for years. Now people can chat with almost anybody in the world at any time. The Internet is one of the greatest things that happened to us, but at the same time, it is a huge distraction that we don’t know how to avoid. You can say that to your professor when he asks about your homework.
I hope we will procrastinate together at least a few more paragraphs, so there will be no need to justify yourself in front of your professor.
Try to answer the question. Are you capable of taking measures to get rid of all the distractions and do your homework? In case your answer is no (nothing to be ashamed of), some homework apps might solve your problem.
Consider using apps that can block certain websites, social networks, and messengers. Just anything that consumes a lot of your time. When you are doing your homework, you should be fully in the present moment.
There are a lot of such apps on the market:
You can sign up for Freedom website blocker. It can be used for iOS, Android and both for Windows and Mac. So, you can have it on all your devices.
Other than that, you can use Off time App. The advantage of this application is that you can make a list of things you want to access and things - you don’t. You can fully organize your phone, so it will not block everything at the same time. Be the boss!
Moment App can also interest many students because it doesn’t only block Fb and Instagram, it also counts how much time you spend scrolling. Once you see, how many hours (!)you spend there, it will be easier to give up on this.
For more detailed analysis you can test all of them and choose the best one for yourself.
Do you really need to do homework with friends?
If you see that procrastination affects you and you are not able to get yourself together, consider studying with friends. Doing your homework in the group might be healthy and productive. Even when your friends are procrastinators as well. Working with others will help you to do your homework faster.
First of all, you can discuss your homework with friends and make sure you understand what you need to do, share your fear and insecurities (what procrastinators usually have) and motivate each other to finish your assignment. Studying with friends is a possibility to brainstorm ideas. You might have a lot of good thoughts, but they are very unclear because you keep them all inside of you. However, when you are with others, you will have to talk and shape your ideas.
When you work with your friends and meet on a regular basis, there is even more responsibility. You feel responsible not only for your work but also for not letting others down. You should get your job done on time and come to the meetings.
Secondly, studying with friends not only motivates you to get your homework done fast but also entertains you. Yes, it is correct. Working on your assignment with other people in the room is fun because you can always take a break and discuss something else, have inside jokes.
It will also calm your mind when it comes to the deadline. When you work on the project together, the responsibility is shared. You understand that if you fail, you will take others with you. Hopefully, you will not count on this so much.
How to organize your working space
Needless to say that messy desk distracts students from doing their homework and affects their productivity. If you want to do homework effectively, follow these simple steps:
Get rid of unnecessary stuff. To do your homework, you should have only one pan and one copybook. There is no need to keep thousands of them on your desk. Just clean up your working space. If you think that you can’t study without your phone, headphones, or wallet, find a place for them somewhere else. Putting all this into your desk drawer is a good option.
Put all your books and necessary papers at arm’s length. You don’t have to stand up every time you need something. It will not help you to do homework fast.
Scan all the essential documents and save them on your laptop. It will save your time. Forget about printing everything out. It seems like it will be easier to find what you need in the printed copy, but in practice, it only creates a mess around you. Let it be on your device instead.
Buy a cute plant for your desk. At first, it looks like it is going to distract you. The truth is that it will help you to relax and be more creative. Psychologists have found out that plant on your desk can increase your productivity by up to 15%. You can take a break and look at the plant. It is good for your eyes, and it can help you to relax.
Don’t bring food to your desk. If you are hungry, it is better to go to the kitchen and eat there. Take a proper break! Otherwise, it will be difficult to concentrate at your desk. Your brain will consider it a place where you eat and relax, not work on your homework.
The power of procrastination
When a lot of people are struggling with their procrastination and hate themselves for having it, Adam Gran, psychologist, and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania discovered a new side of procrastinators.
He designed a few experiments to prove that procrastination helps to be more creative. The thing is, that when you take a break from your work or even live on the edge of a deadline, your brain has time to process the information and create something unique. You need to start working on your assignment before it is too late, but instead, you continuously ask yourself “why do I have no motivation to do homework” and do other things meanwhile. You start washing dishes, surfing on the internet, telling your friends that you need to do homework. At the same time, you can’t stop thinking about getting started on your project. Your subconsciousness is generating great ideas meanwhile.
The youngest tenured professor at the Wharton School, Adam Gran regrets now that he didn’t know this earlier and declined to invest into the startup of four procrastinators at the time. As he mentioned in TED talks, guys seemed so insecure about what they were doing and did not stick to the deadline, so Adam Gran decided not to give it a shot. At the moment Warby Parker company worth a billion dollars. Procrastinators took their time and apparently did a great job.
Your best ideas may come to you through procrastination. It was confirmed by geniuses like Leonardo da Vinci, Martin Luther King Jr., Franz Kafka, and Abraham Lincoln. If they thought procrastination was their most significant disadvantage and just gave up, the world around us would be different now.
Procrastination doesn’t only help to be creative, it also helps to finish other tasks. You can’t start doing your homework, but instead, you do so many other things. Does that sound familiar to you? That is what procrastinators do.
Learn more: resources that help with homework
Luckily, there are so many resources that can help students to do homework. Here are some useful links to different platforms that can help you out with your assignment:
How to Study Math in College:
Strategies for Essay Writing:
Understanding the Assignment:
What’s the Purpose of Homework?
List of Apps that can help with math:
Time for homework! (consider it a sign;)