Rosina's DeskRosina Griffiths, with permission for Varsity


I’m finding it super difficult to get out of the habit of putting off my revision tasks. I’m constantly telling myself that there’s always more time and that I’ll get to it tomorrow. Reaching exams in a wild state of last-minute panic now seems almost inevitable. Do you have any advice to help me stop procrastinating?


I think it’s fair to say that almost everyone is guilty of procrastinating to some degree, particularly when it comes to academic work — look no further than this article for evidence of that!

Before I launch into my list of potential ways in which to keep yourself on task, I would first like you to consider what actually counts as procrastination. It’s very important to be aware that just because you’re not revising at this very second, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be. The goal here is not constant work, but to study well and efficiently when that is what you have chosen to do.

“...consider what actually counts as procrastination”

Revision can feel incredibly unstructured; it’s a huge, shapeless, never-ending concept, which is why it’s so easy to fall into the habit of putting it off. Where on earth are you supposed to start? Taking the time to figure out exactly what your exam preparation needs to entail can be a great way of progressing into a procrastination-free life without having to quit cold turkey. Ask yourself what you need to read again (or for the first time!), what you need to practice, whether you need to email your supervisor; your revision is starting to take shape!

Once you’re on a roll of achievement, it becomes so much easier to keep going and to move onto any pressing matters that you might have been putting off. I recommend putting a couple of easy tasks, even something as simple as replying to an email, or doing the washing up, on your to-do list alongside the more daunting revision-related items. That way you can tick things off almost straight away and, bolstered by the rush of your accomplishment, you’ll be revising before you know it.

Another reason it’s so easy to sideline your studies at the moment is that your deadlines are probably starting to become less frequent. Of course you want to work for your exams, but it can be so difficult to grasp that they are a real concept and, as a result, you struggle to find the motivation to prepare for them. My suggestion to combat this is to schedule moments in your week when you definitely can’t work. This may sound odd, but it’s a gentle way of applying a little pressure on yourself and limiting your opportunities to put things off until later. It’s even better when you’ve got something fun planned because then you can tell yourself that you can’t see that show or go for that drink until you’ve met your revision goals for the day. Another benefit of this is that it’s a good way of making sure that you are scheduling yourself some time off.

“...think about who the most efficient people are in your life”

As I said before, avoiding procrastination should in no way equate to constant work — you need to take breaks. However, in order to prevent your time off from leading you down the path to procrastination, you need to put thought into how you’re spending it. My personal danger point in terms of accidentally embarking on an endless essay evasion is lunch time. My advice, which I very admittedly struggle to follow, is not to watch telly while you eat. Instead, enjoy the sunshine and dine al fresco, or share the meal with a friend. There are also other ways in which your friends can help you in the prevention of procrastination; try studying together, you may find it much harder to scroll through your newsfeed when there’s someone there to keep you honest. If you feel that your friends would be powerless to stop you, then maybe you need to find a more judgemental environment: it’s time to head to the library. As well as the ever-watching eyes keeping you focussed, a visit to the library also provides you with a change of study-scene, which could help you to avoid falling back into old habits.


Mountain View

Selling yourself (out) with a Cambridge Law degree

My final suggestion is to think about who the most efficient people are in your life. What’s their secret? For example, when I find myself being tempted away from my thesis, I try to channel my mum’s Nike spokeswoman-esque ‘Just Do It’ attitude. Ask your productive pals for their top tips, you never know what you might find out.

Now that you’ve successfully used this article as a reason to take a few magical minutes off work, I hope that you’re feeling ready and raring to get revising. You’ve got this.