Want to stop procrastinating with your learning?
I saw a student a few months ago who wanted to stop procrastinating
That’s not the issue she came to see me about. However, during our conversation she mentioned that she’d been procrastinating on studying for her exams. She thought study was boring, uninteresting and dull – yet, with examinations imminent, she knew she needed to stop procrastinating and get on with it.
Clearly (in my mind, at least) there was a disconnect between what she was studying (her required action) and the relevance and importance of study to her future (her values).
When someone is procrastinating I always examine the issue from a multiple brain perspective.
I know that taking action (or not) is a function of the gut brain. But the gut brain is driven by the values held in the heart brain. If there’s a lack of connection between the two, procrastination ensues.
I asked the young woman in question what she wanted to do after leaving school. She told me that he was keen on science and wanted to become an engineer or an airline pilot. We explored what was important to her about the work involved in those particular professions. Turns out she loved science and engineering; trying to resolve how things worked and why they sometimes didn’t, solving problems, creating new things and earning plenty of money.
These were some of her values for a future career
I asked her how she would feel if she could obtain a career or do further study in those areas. Her face lit up at the thought. I then asked: “How do you think putting some time into your study would help you achieve your goal?” This really simple question is designed to link an immediate task with values and longer term aims.
She paused, then said; “Well I have to study if I’m going to pass my exams. If I don’t pass my exams I’ll either have to go back to school next year or get a job where I don’t need qualifications.” I didn’t reply, just let her think about what she’d said for a few minutes as I watched her physiology change.
So I asked, “So how do you feel about studying now?”
“Really good!” she replied, enthusiastically. We then had a brief conversation about the best ways to study before her exams began the following week; making it feel doable without feeling overwhelming, how much time to allocate and how often to take a break etc,. Then we went back to the topic she’d come to see me about.
A few days later I bumped into her Dad
I asked how his daughter was going with the issues she’d come to see me about. He said he’d seen a big change in her, but what had truly amazed him was that she’d ‘suddenly started studying’ without having to be nagged.
The lesson for us all to stop procrastinating
If you want to learn something the best place to start is by understanding the benefits you’ll gain and why those benefits are important to you (your values)
Typically learning a new skill might:
- Save you time and/or money
- Make life easier
- Improve your relationships
- Increase happiness
- Improve your health and well being.
- Improve your self-respect etc
Determining what’s important to you about learning a new skill and its’ relevance to your current situation will help you avoid procrastination when faced with the work of learning/studying. Simply ask yourself: “Why is studying/learning/practising this subject/new skill important to me?” Make a note of your answer. Then ask the same question twice more, based on your previous answers.
For instance, let’s say you’re procrastinating on learning and practising a new computer programme. You ask yourself, ”What’s important to me about learning and practising this computer programme?” Your answer might be:
“Because I’ll save time and be more efficient when I can use it proficiently.” Your next question would then be:
“Why is saving time and being more efficient important to me?” Your answer to this might be:
“I’ll achieve more each day.” Your next question would then be:
“Why is achieving more each day important to me?” Your answer to this might be:
“Because then I can help more people.”
This value immediately reconnects you with why you’re learning the computer programme in the first place!
If at any point you come to a conclusion that the studying/learning/practising isn’t actually important to you at all – you may want to put yourself out of your misery of procrastination. Stop trying and instead do something that does having meaning for you.