A Procrastinator's Guide to Good Grades
Step 1: be a smart person.
Thank you for reading.
In all seriousness, I find it difficult not to procrastinate when I am tired from my non-negotiable responsibilities. In the little free time I have, how can I stop myself from binging shows or mindlessly scrolling on social media while obsessively checking the time I'm wasting?
Below are things that help my grades despite my chronic procrastination. Hopefully, you will find at least one thing helpful.
Scenario 1: It is the start of a new semester. You are tired of anxiously cramming your assignments and readings last minute only to get undesirable grades, and your GPA is dropping. You swear you will be the embodiment of every productivity guru this time.
1. If you have ingested any productivity content, you would have heard this before: visually plan your deadlines and tasks. It’s simple, maybe even cliche, but it works. Knowing when you will be the busiest in the semester shows you when to procrastinate to your heart’s content. I highly suggest against procrastinating amidst deadlines unless you want peak anxiety and self-loathing (this is not a challenge).
2. Make weekly or monthly lists of your school work, but no need to set fixed dates for their completion because we all know it will be a waste of ink, and you won’t stick to the schedule. Instead, complete the work whenever you get spurs of motivation, even if just for five minutes. You will likely be more focused and complete more tasks than if you were to distractedly stare at your screen for an hour and only read but did not understand the first paragraph. Basically, let yourself procrastinate if that is all you want to do.
3. You will likely have short spurs of motivation, so skim reading will be your best friend. For academic articles, I read the conclusion first and then go through the results or discussion section for additional information on the concepts from the conclusion. For textbooks, I note the subheadings and italicized key terms (if applicable) and compare them to my lecture notes. The overlapped information will be your focus. If there is no overlap, I prioritize learning the recurring concepts in the lecture notes before reading into those highlighted in the textbook.
4. Since you are feeling peak motivation right now for your academics, try to preview as many course materials as you can before you are bored again. It’s good to simply read the titles of the textbook chapters or the academic articles. I also like to count how many pages of assigned readings I will have each week, so I can mentally prepare myself. It might even motivate you to read in advance. If you have no intrinsic motivation for school, use capitalism as your motivation and think about the money you will waste if you fail the course you paid for. This should do the trick.
Scenario 2: You procrastinated like there is no tomorrow since the semester started again and only have a few weeks or a few days before your deadlines or scheduled exams. You’ve cursed, self-loathed, and had more mental breakdowns than you can count in the last 24 hours. You’re thinking, maybe you can fail this time and get a 200% on your next assignments or exams to make up for it.
1. Read the assignment or exam outline: make a list of the things you need for the tasks and ignore things that “would be helpful to know” unless you have extra time to help yourself to them. If there are no outlines, focus on the concepts that got brought up so many times that you can recall them despite being distracted while in class.
2. Catch up on lectures: you’ve probably heard this as much as you have procrastinated, but understand the recurring concepts noted during lectures and tutorials to the level of being able to teach them to your friends who know nothing about the topic. (Tip: always remember at least one example for each core concept, preferably the ones used by your professor, it will help you sound like you know what you’re talking about)
3. Catch up (kind of) on readings: let’s be real, you feel braindead after catching up on your lectures and the urge to just “wing it” increases by the second. But I suggest at least skimming the conclusions of your readings. You might find information on concepts the professor mentioned but didn’t explain in the lectures.
4. Too overwhelmed to focus on studying: BREATH. I like to repeat these affirmations to myself at times like these:
-Stressing out won't help me. I can only try my best to do my best.
-The grade does not define my intelligence or worth.
-I have the privilege to gain knowledge that many people will never have, and I am grateful for that.
-Many great thinkers did not always get the best grades, and many have experienced the worst downfalls.
-I will still have a successful future.
5. Unfortunately, sometimes you just have to study or work on your assignment amidst a mental breakdown because you don’t have time to do them separately. And sometimes, you just have to take the late penalty to give yourself more time to produce a better product (if it’s an exam and not an assignment, then good luck cramming). Think about the possibility of that late penalty being the only deduction you get or in addition to a few more points that still end with you getting a desirable grade.
Anyways, my spur of motivation for the day (or semester, who knows) ends here. Don’t sacrifice your well-being for your grades.
Counseling services: https://www.sfu.ca/students/health/get-support.html
Academic workshops: https://www.lib.sfu.ca/about/reach-us/news-events/workshops/upcoming