Wednesday, December 6, 2017

How to NOT Procrastinate for Olympiads

Okay, let’s just be frank—we ALL procrastinate. Every single one of us. No matter how exceptionally brilliant we might be or how frustratingly hard-working we are, we just love to put off work for the indefinite future instead of doing it right now. Now whether your goal is to nail the Biology Olympiad or simply to write a short blogpost about procrastination, procrastination can be a really debilitating disease keeping you from completing your objectives in time. What’s worse, excelling at Olympiads, national or international, can be a really tough job—you have to go through enormous volumes of textbooks, solve several past papers, and make sure you have a clear understanding of the subject. That’s a LOT of work. And having to tackle procrastination on top of that can be a major drawback as you watch an entire year go to waste only to binge study the night before the regional round. But don’t worry, you’re not alone in this battle against procrastination. And, hopefully, the following tips will help you beat this disease of the mind and be more efficient and productive.

Set smaller tasks with shorter deadlines

It is rather easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer size of a regular textbook and even thinking of getting started can frighten you. So instead of deciding to complete an entire textbook within a month or two, try finishing a chapter per week. The smaller the task the less stressed you’ll be which means you won’t be as much intimidated to start as you’d be otherwise. Now you’ll probably pile up work anyway but hey, isn’t it better to have only one chapter to complete before the weekly deadline rather than having the whole book on your shoulders just a week before the regional round? Also, people tend to procrastinate less when the deadline is closer.

Put up “motivational” posters

As stupid as it may look, this is a method I personally love using. If you ever get a chance of visiting my place, you’ll probably be shocked, if not in coma, by the sight of my room. At first sight, it might appear as if some criminal psychopath has scribbled hate messages all over my walls but look closer and you’ll realize that these are only desperate attempts made by a lazy teenager to force himself to work. Trust me, it actually works. When you wake up every day to see things like “You are a loser” or “Get to work, you lazy slob!” staring you in the face, you don’t really have much choice other than actually getting to work.

Visualize the future you want

A very effective source of motivation would be none other than your own imagination. Imagine that it’s the awarding ceremony of an International Olympiad and your name’s just been announced. Try to feel the joy, the glory, the pride as you walk up the podium with our flag wrapped around your shoulders. A medal gleaming above your chest. Isn’t that just wonderful? I believe that’s enough motivation to keep you pumped up for days!

Remind yourself that the future you is you too

It may sound weird but yes, it is true. The people most prone to suffer from procrastination are those who feel “detached” from their future selves. You can realize this by trying to imagine yourself ten years from now. I, for one, imagine myself as an accomplished physicist working as a researcher at a reputable organization. And yes, that does seem like a different person entirely from who I am right now. But what I fail to see is that it is me who has to do all that hard work, it is me who has to work his way to the top. We procrastinate to avoid the stress associated with all these tasks at hand but all we end up doing is creating more stress for the future us. Convincing yourself that it is you who will have to solve all those question papers anyway (with much less time) might actually help you get started.

Avoid distractions

Not only is procrastination about avoiding stress or other bad feelings that come with work, it has also got to do with the immediate pleasure of doing more “fun” things instead. For example, playing video games. Now I’m not going to ask you to abandon doing what you love most, we all deserve to get a break every now and then but you should always remember to keep it within a limit. Never let yourself get addicted to something. If you find yourself wasting more than two hours a day on a particular task, you know that it’s getting out of hand. It is rather common nowadays to see a kid spend his/her entire day on various social media platforms like Facebook. How to tackle this addiction? Simple. Switch off your phone and tuck it off safely in a place that is away from your immediate line of sight.

The hacks mentioned above, as simple as they may sound, can actually make a difference to the way you study. Now these are no magic tricks; it is you who has to be determined enough to get the job done. And the best hack is to believe in you. Know that you can do it. And that you WILL do it! So waste no more time and get started with whatever it is you’re procrastinating working on right now because I know you wouldn’t be reading this post otherwise. Best of luck!

Writer: Mubtaseem Ahnaf

Ahnaf is a veteran of 9th International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA) and 14th International Linguistics Olympiad.  His interests range from mathematics to history, but true passion lies mainly in the fields of astronomy and physics.