Beat procrastination: six ways to get your study back on track

Top tips on how to keep your motivation for study going until your exams this summer

Are you finding it difficult to get started or sustain already devised study plans? Are you tempted to slip back to the fatal illusion of promising yourself that you will start studying tomorrow?

Every year, commitments regarding how much study you are going to do this year are abandoned as students revert to their old ways.

Here are some top tips on how to keep your motivation for study going until your exams this summer.

1. Never Give up


If you started your study plan this year with a goal of studying during every hour of free time you had available, your motivation is going to wane.

Going from no study at all, to multiple three/four-hour sessions within the first few weeks is unrealistic, and aiming for study to the exclusion of all other possible activities, is not only unsustainable but can also lead to burn-out and inability to concentration in class/lectures.

Everyone who starts a study plan wants to catch up at once with their peers who have been working consistently since the beginning of the course, and they want it now. One of the important things is to start gradually, with one or two topics per day at first, building up to a full three/four-hour schedule, as you get into your stride.

If you have been doing intensive study sessions for the past few weeks and now feel the urge to give up, it might be best to drop back to an hour or two per day for a short period. This hour or two per day of quality study is better than nothing and more encouraging in terms of long-term preparedness for whatever exams or assessments you will face in the summer.

2. Think of your long term goal

Whether your overall goal is to just get the best exam results you can achieve, or to secure the exam results which will gain you access to a particular course , try to visualise this aim whenever you feel like giving up. If you don’t have a target, sit down and think of one that you can focus on as motivation.

What will it feel like when you receive that Leaving or Junior Cert envelope with your best potential grades printed on the results sheet into your hand?

Keeping your motivation up at this stage is about identifying the reason why you’re studying in the first place.

No one studies simply for the sake of studying or keeping your parents off your back.

If that was your only motivation in taking out the books at the beginning of the year, it’s probably why, as the academic year rolls on, you are losing the energy to continue and gradually giving up on your study plans.

3. Track your progress as you go along

If you’re not already doing it, start recording the topics you have covered in your study programme to date.

In a notebook, write down everything that you do every day in relation to study. If you start to lose motivation, look through this notebook and consider how much you’ve already achieved.

If you have studied every day or a couple of days a week for the past month or so, you have actually achieved a lot in that time. If you’re finding it harder every day to sit down and take out those books, look back at your record and see, for example, that you’ve covered a wide range of topics across all of your subjects, which was probably something you never imagined when you put your plan in place.

This logging of study or time spent preparing for your exams is really important motivationally, so you can see where you have come from and what you have already achieved. Looking at this log will make you think, “I’ve invested weeks in this so far, why am I thinking of quitting now?”

4. Don’t let a little relapse bring your overall study plan to a shuddering halt

Everyone has an off-day with a study plan.

However, you can limit the amount of damage this “off-day” does to your study regime. Do not let one lapse destroy your entire motivation. Keep in mind your long-term aims on a day when you’re lacking in motivation to sit down and take out those books.

Remember that you’re trying to actually create a well-balanced programme of work to achieve your long-term career development goals.

Just because you succumb to the temptation to go out with your friends or simply sit and vegetate in front of the TV doesn’t mean you have to abandon your entire long-term study plan.

Remember: you’ve achieved quite a lot over the past month or so. Treat yourself by doing your favourite recreational thing every now and again. Unless you build in relaxation time, no study plan will survive more than a week or so. Balance in everything is the kernel of sustainable progress.

5. Reach out to those who have the skills to help you sustain your efforts

If you’ve been studying for the past few weeks and feel that you are losing the energy or motivation to keep to your programme, ask for help.

Unless you seek this support, uncertainty will have a negative impact on your motivation. Getting professional advice will change the way you study and is a great way to ensure you maintain your programme.

Whether you are studying in school or college in a structured format or in your room at home or in a local library, make sure you get advice from someone who knows what they’re doing, for example a guidance counsellor, teacher, lecturer or tutor.

These people have supported hundreds – if not thousands – of students in your situation previously and they know the best tips to help you get the most out of what you are trying to achieve.

6. Realise the positivity a solid study regime can bring to your long-term success and career development.

Effective study techniques contribute to a far greater sense of preparedness for whatever academic challenges lie ahead of you in the coming months or years.

This, in turn, contributes to you becoming a happier well-balanced person. Whatever your goal is when you began your present course, keep in mind the improvement you’re making to yourself overall, both academically and mentally.

There are great mental health benefits with an effective study regime.

To complete a three-hour study session and look at the sets of summary notes, which you have prepared for yourself as a support in the final days before your exams, will give you that sense of being in control of your own destiny.

Getting on top of the challenges your current course of studies sets for you by sustaining an effective study regime is a highly-effective way to nurture your long-term wellbeing and mental health.

If you can become highly effective at study, you can gain far more effective control of your life going forward, which will enhance your sense of overall well-being.

It will also give you the confidence to realise your ambitions in both your personal and professional life. Sitting down to master your first topic or question is the key to long-term success.