In many cases, mastering specific skills or methodology aren’t the biggest hurdle to succeeding with math: procrastination is. Time management in general is something with which we see students struggle, especially at the start of a new school year, and even more so one heavily impacted by the COVID pandemic. While each student’s case is unique, what we’ve found to work best is a multi-pronged approach that takes the realities of students’ developing minds into account without sacrificing the need for focused studying.
Addressing time management and specifically procrastination is important for a few reasons, as that kind of patterned inattention can be a drain not only on academic performance but mental health overall. The stress of needing to “catch up” on a sidelined assignment or before a big test is incredibly taxing, and can easily expand from acute stress into math-specific anxiety, which can take weeks if not months to alleviate for affected students.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a few recommendations that can help you focus better on your education and be as proactive as you can be on your way to boosting your math results this school year.
Make a plan
It’s hard to maintain focus and not get distracted if you don’t have a plan. Becoming more organized is the first step toward reducing procrastination, so create a step-by-step plan for completing your assignments. Here at OMC, tutors create plans for their students based on their unique learning needs and abilities, so it’s easier for them to access the resources they need and receive support in realizing their plans. But if you’re studying on your own, you can invest in a planner to ensure your notes and ideas are all in one place and easily accessible whenever you need them.
Once you have an organized plan, your framework will be more structured and easier for you to follow. You will know exactly what you have to do and what next steps you must take in order to get your work done.
Get rid of distractions
Your plan to complete your assignments will only work if you are 100% dedicated to it. We’ve noticed that students are most efficient when they limit the distractions around them and create an environment or learning space that helps them maintain focus. So, ensure that you spend your study and homework time doing exactly that—and not something else like checking your social media every 5 minutes. Limit the distractions around you to maximize your productivity: retreat to a quiet place, set your phone on silent mode, and turn off any devices that might tempt you. This way, you will have the mental clarity you need to focus on being productive and time-efficient.
Juggling multiple assignments can be challenging and switching between them all the time might be counterproductive for most students. To ensure you make the most out of your time and meet your assignment deadlines, set priorities. What is more urgent? And what are the first and next steps you need to take in order to complete your homework or project? Prioritize based on urgency and importance so you maintain a structured framework. Otherwise, you risk your plan crumbling into disorganization.
Listen to your bio clock
Struggling to amass new information or consolidate your knowledge when you’re sleepy can make learning a very unpleasant experience for most students. And it oftentimes tricks them into thinking they don’t like studying or that they are not able to focus. In truth, everyone’s bio clock functions differently and you might be more alert and efficient at different times of the day than most of your peers. Find the time window when you’re most productive and dedicate it to your studying.
Take shorter, more frequent breaks
This may seem counterintuitive, but we’ve seen many students bounce back during a difficult or distracting study session by simply taking more frequent breaks. Of course, the important point is that these are short breaks, 5-10 minutes at most. The principle is simple: younger students especially cannot sustain their focus for long periods without what feels like incredible effort. This is simple biology! Their growing nervous systems are full of energy, and they’ve only begun, in the case of elementary and middle school students, to learn how to modulate that energy, let alone successfully channel it into studying. The result is that even when something grabs their attention, they may have trouble maintaining their focus on it for more than 30-40 minutes at a time.
Procrastination can be a symptom of fatigue, depression, or low achievement expectations. And while this may be true for most adults, students are likelier to procrastinate because they dread the challenge of solving a complex task that may involve a time-consuming process. And in the case of younger students whose nervous systems are still in development and who need to step away from studying every 30-40 minutes, we found that the best response is to yield to this need to some degree.
Taking a break that doesn’t totally fixate them onto something else—i.e., not watching TV or playing a game—can allow their minds to settle, relax, and recalibrate before returning to their homework or exercises. A short walk, sitting quietly, having a small snack, or simply laying down and daydreaming a bit can all be a good use of a short window of non-study time. This also works in tandem with the ideas of working within a schedule and listening to their biological clock.
Scheduling study sessions down to the minute may seem oppressive at first, but making sure that students know when they’ll be able to disconnect and stretch their legs—and that they’re doing so at the right part of the day—is crucial to helping them build effective time management skills that actually work with their competing impulses, rather than struggling against them entirely.
If you are a parent whose child struggles with procrastination or if you are a student trying to overcome this issue, the tips in this article can help you boost proactivity for better academic performance. But if you truly want to beat procrastination the OMC way, reach out to us for more information on how our tutoring programs help students become more proactive and achieve better math results.