How to stop procrastinating for finals

Sarah Karkoff, Staff Writer

As finals season descends upon students, it’s always important to have a game plan. However, even the best plans can go by the wayside. Every semester, the detailed plan that I create often gets pushed back further and further until I have too many things on my plate at once. While stopping yourself from getting to that point can be difficult, everything can still get done. Just starting to complete goals is often the hardest part. In order to push over this mental battle, I use a few tricks. Hopefully, these can help you if you struggle with the same issues. 

To get rid of distractions, completing household chores first can be a great way to create a sterile space to actually start your work. Libby Sander writing for the Harvard Business Review explains that “cluttered spaces can have negative effects on our stress and anxiety levels, as well as our ability to focus, our eating choices, and even our sleep.” Therefore, although it seems superfluous, removing clutter can be a great first step in ending your work slump. 

When finally beginning to work, picking music conducive to staying focused is imperative. While many may prefer silence, having something playing in the background can be helpful. Chamorro-Premuzic, a writer at the Harvard Business Review, states, “If you have to work on a boring or easy task (whether it’s new or old), music can enhance your attention by providing extra stimulation to your brain.” Choosing the right music can be the tricky part. Some of my favorite playlists for getting my brain into gear are upbeat songs without lyrics that provide distraction. A few playlists that I recommend are “Minecraft” music, “Mario Kart” study music and study music-Studio Ghibli

Once ready to start your tasks, beginning with the small things first can help make the mental load feel smaller. As the name suggests, creating micro habits involves breaking up a large task into smaller, more manageable ones. Large essays or tests that seem daunting at first glance become easier to start when doled out into bits and pieces. Even if you do not have the time to spread these smaller goals out over weeks, I have found that this technique works even if there is only one day to complete something. 

Another technique that is useful for making sure your studying gets done is the Pomodoro technique. Dr. Amrita Mandal, writing for the National Institutes of Health, explains the technique: First, choose your assignment/work to do; next, set the timer to 25 minutes; work until the timer rings; then, take a five-minute break; finally, take longer breaks (15 to 30 minutes) for every four pomodoro intervals. 

There are a plethora of benefits to utilizing this technique. For one, it diminishes stress and mental exhaustion associated with finals. Additionally, it can boost your attention span along with concentration. When starting the daunting task of studying for hours, it can be easy to pick up your phone and dawdle for even longer. Implementing a set break that is standard throughout helps build a routine to your workflow without creating burnout. 

I have also found that working with a group that holds you accountable can be just as helpful as a sterile environment, depending on the person. Setting a time with others in your class instead of meeting with your friends can be useful. When all together with a common goal, starting that work can feel less intimidating. Moreover, the preparatory tasks that may be necessary for starting the actual process of studying can be split up amongst the group instead of being a solitary problem. Teamwork can simultaneously create a sense of responsibility and ease.

Procrastination can seem impossible to surmount. My individual tricks have helped me get through countless finals seasons. Hopefully, they will be just as useful to you as this semester comes to a close.