Everyone suffers from procrastination. but not everyone overcomes it. In this article, Matrix Scholarship student Alan Wong shares how he overcame procrastination in 8 steps to ace Year 12!
In this article, Matrix Scholarship Student, Alan Wong, shares how he overcame procrastination in 8 steps. Read on to see how Alan turned his weaknesses into his strengths to score an ATAR of 99.95!
Overcoming procrastination is easier when you have the right resources and support. Here’s the short course that helped Alan score his 99.95 ATAR.
I’ve found it difficult to find the motivation and carve out the time to study instead of watching Youtube or TV Shows.
Before you turn away to browse Youtube and think this is going to be another useless article proclaiming someone has defeated procrastination, I’m going to give you my honest reflection on my journey with procrastination.
I haven’t “overcome” it, more so found ways to work with it.
I’ve found the best way to deal with this simply to adapt around it. And in perhaps the classic procrastinator move, I’ve procrastinated on trying to change this, so cue Step 1…
It’s something I still do now, but in consciously recognising that I do it, it’s helped me to minimise its effect over me. We’re all individuals, and constantly we’ll hear stories of people who study numerous hours a day, fellow classmates seemingly having the motivation to do papers well into the night…
Initially, I felt bad for myself, considering why the switch didn’t flip.
Perhaps for you, the switch has flipped and you’ve found the sudden jolt of motivation in Year 12. Instead, nothing has really changed for me personally. It’s felt the same as Year 11, and then the years before that. This period comes with lots of questions and doubt:
“Why can’t I find the same motivation?”
Comparison and competition is something we do all the time. It is what drives school ranking and ATAR rank. Yet perhaps it’s making you less motivated, more anxious, procrastinate more.
It’s good to admire, appreciate how others may model our own studying habits. But as soon as that leads to doubt and self-loathing, it becomes a distraction and only contributes to the anxiety which drives us to watch Youtube videos instead of studying.
Recognising that other people don’t really matter, this comes naturally. We each have our best strategies and most optimal approaches to learning. I wasted time trying to imitate making neat notes, but it didn’t work for me.
A main root cause of procrastination, at least for me, is having too much to do, and feeling overwhelmed. The best way to tackle this is to write everything down so it doesn’t float around as cloudy ideas in your brain, but specific tasks that you can see in writing.
Because of this, this is the most important step and you must do it daily. Either when you wake up, after a glass of water, or before bed. Take 10-15 minutes just to sit down and write down everything that you have yet to do, and do a mind dump.
Some of my Matrix peers have written about the task matrix, where tasks are split into four categories based on their urgency and importance. This may work for you to organise your thoughts.
I’ve found the best way is to start out by just setting one task to complete from my brainstormed page.
I’ve often fallen into the trap of planning out when I’ll do something each free period or hour, but once you fall behind on one task, it spills over and you end up throwing away the whole plan. I’ve found it best to go along, and just set one task I’ll do next.
The biggest trap I fell into this year was believing in the myth of “Time Management”. At least for me, this concept is totally useless. Pomodoros and splitting into 25-5 minutes proved unhelpful for me as I tried to use them over the lockdown.
The timing is too strict, and I personally can’t get into the flow of completing a task. With all the talk around Pomodoros, I fell into the trap of believing it was the only way productive people organise their time.
Instead, the best way to complete a task is to simply set a deadline for it. Nothing else.
Case in point, I’ve been working on this article for four weeks now, rewriting stuff as I’ve been reading Atomic Habits by James Clear (try and make the time to read it).
Today I’ve been wrapping Year 12 presents for graduation, and it’s now 10:45pm. And the only reason why I’m writing here is because I told Allison, the wonderful HR manager at Matrix, that I’d send this article to her by Sunday 11:59pm (and I received at 1:59am, Ed.).
An article that I was taking hours and hours to write takes no time if you’re in the flow, with a bit of time pressure. Flow states are when you are purely concentrated on the task at hand, and can make hours feel like nothing.
For me, and I would suggest for most procrastinators, this is a much more productive way to get work done compared to Pomodoro’s.
Coming off Step 5, thus I find you should schedule your most important tasks last. We’re always told to get started on projects early, and work on them slowly. If that works for you, great! But I would guess that for the rest of us, that’s only a fantasy.
Instead, I would recommend you schedule the most important tasks last. Grind out work the night before or the morning it is due (I normally do maths homework on the train and on a clipboard while walking to school). You’ll find that you easily enter a state of “flow”, where you’re laser-focused in on completing the task that’s imminently due.
This harks back to my main point: attention management, not time management.
We humans are notoriously difficult at predicting how long something will take.
Instead of trying to predict it, just work around it. So what do you do in the free hours after school, when the panic monster hasn’t kicked in yet? (I’m sure you’ve seen Tim Urban’s legendary TED Talk while procrastinating on Youtube. His blog, Wait But Why, is also a great place to go for interesting life topics in general). You (try) to do everything that doesn’t have a distinct deadline. Such as studying for a test, or planning out a school event.
You may attribute procrastination to a lack of focus, motivation etc. but perhaps it’s as simple as being tired. It’s just easier, relaxing, to lie in bed after school and watch Youtube instead of studying. And to be honest, it only makes sense. We’ve already been at school focusing for 6 hours, it seems reasonable that we SHOULDN’T be able to focus after that.
So instead of watching videos or playing games, just go to sleep. It’s not easy if we have Matrix after school, but on any free days, or even after sports training, just take a quick nap, up to an hour or even more. I find it helps me to reset and focus back in.
Other major points here are really quite subtle, but can bring about major differences to your focus. Drink lots of water, and do so regularly. It’s much harder to focus when you’re dehydrated. Similarly, cut down on the amount of carbohydrates you’re consuming. It varies from person to person, but almost always, after eating a full meal and especially one with lots of bread, rice, pasta etc. we’ll feel much more tired.
Indeed, often, the reason why we’re not focused is not because of a “lack of motivation” or “a lack of focus” but simply because our body is just being itself. It’s telling us what we need, whether to rest up or digest a large meal.
Also, exercising is a great way to help combat this. Doing a few bodyweight exercises helps to get the blood flowing and to help refocus. I find it easiest just to do whatever exercises I’m in the mood for: we make enough decisions and follow enough strict plans throughout the day already.
Let’s face it, we’re more than likely to fail at this. I’ve failed at my own plan above numerous times, and continue to do so. I’m not going to pretend that I know what I’m doing. But really all of this is one big learning process.
The most important lessons you’ll learn now aren’t about analysing texts or solving integrals, it’s about managing life and the non-stop process of everyday learning.
So, definitely make sure to read, books about “time management”, our attention, planning etc. There almost definitely won’t be a time when suddenly it clicks and you know how to be productive, I’m not expecting it to. But, instead, we can slowly learn and improve, optimising the process.
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