Sep 092008
 

As some of you know, procrastination is a topic of interest for me. I’ve spent some time thinking about it again, and I’ve come to some realizations.

There are many scenerios in which people procrastinate. The one I’m going to talk about today is when a goal becomes too big and unwieldy, and the actions required for its fulfillment are prohibitive. For example, at the start of every school year/term, I pledge to be more proactive with my readings and reviewing class notes. The thing I’ve noticed that happens every year, though, is that I start thinking about ALL the things I can do to study “right” and before long, I’m not motivated to do it anymore.

For example, I’ll start by thinking that I’ll review my class notes right after class, which shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes and will increase my recall of the subject material from 20% to 80% (if I recall correctly), a huge jump for 15 minutes. But, then I start to think, “Oh, perhaps I should type up the notes, add in headings and create a mind-map of the class”. Before long, studying “properly” for each class will take two hours out of my day and after doing it once, I realize how much of it is just drudgery and never do it again, thus falling into my old pattern of doing everything last minute.

Timothy Ferriss talks about this in his speech about The 4-Hour Work Week: He suggests combining the 80/20 principle (20% of effort will result in 80% of return, with diminishing additional returns for each additional percent of effort) and Parkinson’s Law (Work will expand in perceived importance and complexity to fill the time alloted to it). I believe that’s why I end up studying for a deadline such as essay or test, because that deadline forces me to focus only on the important stuff, instead of imagining all sorts of ways I can study “right”. Unfortunately, doing things last minute adds stress and annoyance, and I do worse overall.

As a solution, I am alloting myself 20 minutes a day to study within, at a minium. I’m also taking studying out of the realm of motivated, “when I feel like it” or “when I have to” behaviour and launching a 30-day trial to turn this into a habit. On days I have class, the 20 minutes will likely be taken up by reviewing the notes and making a mind-map. On days I don’t have class, I’ll be doing readings, any homework, studying for tests (as they get closer) and working on essays.

To keep myself accountable, I’m going to post a weekly update on Mondays about how I’m doing. I started my trial yesterday and failed yesterday. Today I’ve put in a bit more than 20 minutes to compensate for the studying I have to do that I didn’t do yesterday, but times don’t carry over. IE, I can say I won’t study today and put in double the time tomorrow, a day without studying is lost. I expect to miss a few days, but that’s ok. I am marking them on a small piece of paper with a grid on it with four rows and 7 columns each of the days. I like to link habitual behaviours together, so I will probably look at this first thing in the morning.

Anyone wanna join me? Post in the comments, and then post in the comment section of my weekly update. I will update this post with a list of names/handles of people and as an added accountability factor, if you don’t post your weekly update, I’ll email you to bug you about it. :p

  5 Responses to “More on Procrastination”

  1. […] this. This is about my new habit of studying for 15 minutes every day. I wrote about it earlier, here. My record has […]

  2. […] goal is to improve my grades. For that goal I’ve started a 30-day trial to study for 15 minutes every day (it’s going rather poorly) to try to take care of the actions required. I also got […]

  3. “For example, I’ll start by thinking that I’ll review my class notes right after class, which shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes and will increase my recall of the subject material from 20% to 80% (if I recall correctly), a huge jump for 15 minutes. But, then I start to think, “Oh, perhaps I should type up the notes, add in headings and create a mind-map of the class”. Before long, studying “properly” for each class will take two hours out of my day and after doing it once, I realize how much of it is just drudgery and never do it again, thus falling into my old pattern of doing everything last minute.”

    i find that very very comforting, knowing that I am not alone.

  4. Thanks for your comment, midi. No, you’re not alone. A lot of the issues we face as students are similar and I like to share my experiences. You might be interested in http://www.calnewport.com/blog/ Study Hacks and Steve Pavlina’s site at http://www.stevepavlina.com especially the following articles:

    http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2006/05/10-tips-for-college-students/

    http://www.stevepavlina.com/articles/do-it-now.htm

    I am considering combining my experiences into a seminar on beating procrastination and some of my own tips and tricks for studying better, easier and faster, would you be interested?

    Enjoy!

  5. […] important to other students. You might be interested in reading about my experiences dealing with procrastination. You might also be interested in Cal Newport’s excellent blog on Study Hacks, or Steve […]

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