Here’s one for all my fellow students! We are all guilty of procrastinating from time to time, and I am delighted to tell you it’s normal. Here is some valuable information I’d like to share about the brain, that has helped me understand why I sometimes feel opposed to the idea of studying.
Why we Procrastinate
Current psychology research believes the brain can be divided into 3 developmental areas. One of these areas of the brain is called the Limbic System, and this part is responsible for all our fundamental emotions, like pain, fear, fight-or-flight, pleasure and reward. It is responsible keeping us out of situations that make us feel stressed and uncomfortable and that are associated with pain. Well, procrastination is essentially the limbic brain subconsciously finding ways for us to avoid the pain and discomfort of studying or revision, and the thoughts of failure, poor performance and disappointment.
If you are a bit geeky like me and would like to learn more about the limbic brain’s role in procrastination, check out this 5-minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Npguemshl4E
The good news? We can train our brains to reduce how often we procrastinate, thanks to a thing called ‘neuroplasticity’. It is what a lot of Physiotherapy is based upon; the ability of the brain to adapt and rewire in response to change. Now that I know I procrastinate because of the way we’ve evolved, I consciously attempt to alter the way I think about revision. Being aware I am subconsciously avoiding pain allows me to feel the fear, and do it anyway.
If you’d like to understand more about neuroplasticity, check out this 2-minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELpfYCZa87g
Things That Work For Me
I’m certainly not perfect. But, since learning this about my brain I have found ways to reduce how much I am avoiding my work, and I have actually increased my productivity. Here are the main techniques that work for me:
- Telling my brain off. Knowing my brain is programmed against me has helped me to consciously override this brain setting (most of the time).
- Breaking to grab a cup of tea, because tea fixes everything. It is ok to take breaks, in fact it is recommended by nearly all revision experts.
- Setting realistic outcomes for revision. Saying ‘I must do 9 hours uninterrupted is silly’. Don’t do it.
- Changing it up every so often. I know how I study most effectively 99% of the time, but sometimes it helps to change things. This week I am studying with a friend, and last week I taught my dog what I had learnt so far in anatomy. I find it makes my knowledge more rounded and flexible, so I don’t just have my notes imprinted on my brain as my only tool.
- Knowing my learning style. I know I am mostly a visual learner, so to power through most productively, I know I need coloured pencils & paper, silence and a big mug of tea.
Know Your Downfalls
I know that sitting in an unclean area while revising is a non-starter for me. I also know that if I haven’t had a cup of tea in the hour before sitting down to study, making one before starting is a necessary requirement. I must turn my phone off, sit facing away from my wall posters/photos and put in earplugs because noise and images make my mind wander. I break up my revision using the Pomodoro tool as much as possible. This is basically doing 25-minutes of solid study, a 5-minute break, repeating about 4 times until taking a 30-minute break. If I hit a wall, I go for a walk. All my best thoughts and ideas are had on my walks, like my idea to start this blog.
I hope this helps, and that you take this information into account when you next find yourself cleaning your bathroom to avoid an assignment.
Til next week!