But it’s so hard! I don’t want to do this now!

Many students suffer from procrastination. Putting off homework, and delaying the start of longer term projects, is a time-honored way of not doing a good job. Here are some ways to avoid this.

The Pomodoro Technique

I think the main cause of procrastination is dreading spending all that time on actually doing the work. That’s why this technique is so good. It’s named after the tomato shaped kitchen timer. And it boils down to chunking the work into easy to manage pieces, and having short breaks between them.

First, choose what you’re going to work on. Then, set the timer for 25 minutes. Work until the timer goes off. At this point, take a 5 minute break to do something else. But here’s the important bit: this “something else” isn’t work. Set the timer for 5 minutes, and do whatever you want for that time. Go on social media, take a walk, etc. But when the timer goes off after 5 minutes, it’s time for another 25 minute block of work.

This means that you have a reasonable time to work on your task, and then you get a break. And you don’t have to feel guilty about taking the break, because it’s part of the process.

Yes, the built in breaks mean that you’ll be taking longer overall, but these breaks mean that you’ll be working more effectively during those 25 minutes. So you might make up for it and it will take less time.

Of course, there’s nothing sacred about the 25 minute length of time. That may be fine for high schoolers and college students who are older. In middle school you can change that to 20 minutes.

Break the Problem Down

Another cause of procrastination is looking at a big assignment and not knowing what to do.

The answer here is to break the assignment down into smaller pieces.

Let’s say you have a research paper to write.

Rough draft, final draft, research, rewriting. It’s too much!

Now, break it down into smaller tasks:

  1. Write down what you already know
  2. What is your main argument?
  3. Do research
  4. Rough draft
  5. Better drafts
  6. Final draft

OK. There’s a lot there, but each piece isn’t too bad on its own. Instead of one big monster assignment, you have a bunch of smaller ones, where each one is achievable. You can even give each one a due date to pace yourself and make sure you don’t have it all hit you the day before it’s due.

Homework Anxiety

Do you get panicked about homework assignments? Do you look at the assignment and it turns into the most impossible thing ever, even though you haven’t started it yet?

Don’t shut down over this. Instead use some rating scales. Specifically, do these three things:

  1. Time: How long do you think it will take to do the assignment?
  2. Difficulty: On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is easiest and 5 is hardest, how hard do you think it will be to complete the homework?
  3. Ability: Again on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is “smooth sailing” and 5 is “I have to do what now?”, how likely is it that you’ll complete the assignment?

Then try to do it.

Afterwards, ask yourself how hard it actually was. If it wasn’t as hard, then you shouldn’t get as anxious about it in the future. If it was harder than you thought, then use it as the starting point for a conversation with the teacher.

You can use this to help plan how long each homework assignment will take, and use that to schedule your homework.

I got this idea from this article at lifehacker.