Starting in high school, I came to realize I had two major problems when it came to doing homework: a short attention span and a tendency to procrastinate my most important assignments until the last minute. However, I by no means let those shortcomings prevent me from getting my work done and emerging with a stellar transcript! Now that I am in college, the techniques I learned have become more important than ever for staying on top of my academics. Below is a list of the tips and tricks that I use to motivate myself to get my work done:
Don't wait until you're "in the mood" to do an assignment.
Especially when it comes to composing papers, it can be tempting to tell yourself to wait until you "feel like it" or recover from your "writer's block". In my experience, doing this rarely ends well: in all likelihood, you'll never be "in the mood" to finish the assignment and will simply end up pushing it back until the last minute. You can certainly give yourself a day or two (if you have them) to let your ideas take on a slightly more coherent form before putting them to paper, but after that, you have to force yourself to sit down and churn it out - no excuses. Even if you start slowly, I often find that I can get into the flow of the piece within twenty to thirty minutes and can complete it in less time than I would have thought possible.
Anxiety is a double-edged sword.
We all procrastinate for slightly different reasons, but, in my experience, we tend to be especially vulnerable when we aren't anxious enough about an upcoming deadline and or are so anxious about completing a task in a satisfactory manner that we put it off to avoid the stress. For those of us who struggle with the former, I've found Tip One to be most helpful. As for people who struggle with the latter, I would recommend starting small and working your way up to more difficult parts of the assignment. The anticipation is almost always worse than the process itself, and I find that it's harder to worry when I am occupied with finishing even minor components of a major project. Putting the whole thing off will only make your anxiety worse and embarking on the enterprise even more daunting.
Though this may seem counterintuitive, the fact of the matter is, we can only work for so long on a given assignment before losing interest or focus. Taking breaks is a good way to give your brain time to digest the problems you're struggling with so you can return to the task at hand with a clearer idea of how to move forward. Most people I've spoken to have found it most productive to schedule in fifteen to twenty minutes of free time when they study so that they won't be tempted to abandon their work early or for too long. If you feel your agenda is too packed for even a short reprieve, try to mix up the types of assignments you're working on: for example, moving to math problems from a writing assignment to exercise a different part of your brain. I've found the most effective break activity to be light to moderate exercise, but choose something that appeals to you and feels like a reward for all of your hard work!
Take care of yourself: don't prioritize homework over eating or sleeping.
It can be tempting to stay up late or skip a meal to finish an assignment, but doing so will almost always be counterproductive. The time you gain by skipping activities vital for your health and well-being will inevitably be lost when you're too exhausted to get anything done the next day or too hungry to focus on the task at hand. Finding balance between taking care of yourself and getting your work done can be one of college's greatest challenges, but listening to your body and its needs will help put you in a better position to do your best academically.
Remind yourself why the work you're doing is important.
I've found that it's always easier to motivate myself to get something done when I know that completing a task will bring me one step closer to something I want. When you're trying to muster up the willpower to study for that Organic Chemistry exam, ask yourself why doing well on the test matters to you. A desire to simply "get a good grade" typically isn't enough - remind yourself where the assignment fits into the class as a whole, and how that class fits into your major and future career plans. If focusing on your long-term goals aren't enough to delay the temptation for short-term gratification, promise yourself a reward for finishing a particularly unpleasant task: maybe go out for a treat, or set aside time to watch your favorite show.
Let's start the semester off right! If you think any of these tips might work for you, try them out sometime in the coming weeks and see what you find - you may be surprised at how much more productive you can be!