Procrastinating is the smart thing to do if your strategy doesn’t work well.
Most students think they’re procrastinators. I would disagree with that characterization. I’d argue that most students are logical enough to hate wasting their time.
When you’re studying with a bad strategy, you’re wasting your time.
The highest scoring students are rarely the students that spend the most time studying. Sure… there is the occasional top of the class student that throws their life away studying endlessly about things they don’t care about but they’re the exception, not the rule.
The students that spend the most time studying are the ones struggling to get by in class. They’re the ones that spend hours and hours preparing for class but get almost nowhere. They regularly use all-nighters. Whenever a big test is coming up, they can waste hours preparing for it.
The fundamental difference between high scoring students and low scoring students has little to do with intelligence.
You don’t need to be particularly intelligent to get good grades.
(If you think you lack intelligence then it could be a sign you’re actually more intelligent than you think. Fools rarely question their own intelligence.)
The difference between high scoring students and low scoring students is, what I’m going to call:
Systematic Academics – The Stress Free – High Results Approach
Systematic Academics is just a systematic approach to academics.
The standard approach students use is based heavily on emotions.
The emotional academics approach looks like this:
- They won’t study because they “don’t feel like it.”
- The night before the test they’ll spend extra time studying because they’re worried.
- When they get a bad score, they change their strategy on a whim.
- They let whatever is happening in their personal life affect their routine.
The huge problem that develops from the emotional approach to academics is the unpredictability.
When you’re changing your strategies based on your emotions, you can’t expect to use anything consistently enough to make reasonable judgments about those strategies.
You need to know what you’re doing to know when you need to change something.
Not feeling like studying, isn’t necessarily a good reason to skip studying because you can get caught up using it regularly.
Studying the night before the test is dramatically less effective because your stress hormones are going to be off the charts. (Those hormones are just going to get worse if you spend hours “studying” while worrying about your score.)
Getting a bad score, doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change your strategy. Maybe you had a bad day.
When life is going wrong, you’re going to end up hurting your grades.
Using the emotional approach to academics, you’re basing your final grade on thousands of emotional factors that you’re going to struggle to manage.
The systematic academics approach will look like this:
- The student will skip studying because they have previously set criteria that have been met.
- The student will spend the same amount of time studying as every other time.
- The student will only change their approach when previously set criteria have been met.
- The student is habitual enough to avoid most problems interrupting their study routine.
The best part of this approach is the fact that it takes out almost every hard decision you need to make during emotional moments.
It’s hard to make good judgments during tough times.
By having a plan, you don’t need to make good decisions.
Don’t Let Disappointment Crush You
When you get a disappointing score, you’re going to want to change your approach so it never happens again.
The usual student will take that disappointing score as a sign they need to work “harder” or study more. After two or three disappointments they’re burning themselves out with all their work.
When they finally fail to keep up, their grades drop even more.
Then they just blame themselves for the same reasons never realizing this approach made burn out inevitable.
The systematic approach advocates are waiting for more than just a single emotional reaction to changing something. Those criteria might be:
- Get 2 lower than average scores in a row
- It’s been 2 weeks since starting the study strategy.
- The scores are on work done using this strategy.
- There have been no major emotional upsets (breakups, family problems, friend issues.)
- It’s been 2 months
- My average grade is lower
If all these criteria are met then changing your strategy might make sense.
The important thing is that you hardly even have to think about it to decide.
It’s as simple as a checklist.
If the checklist criteria are met then you change what you do. If not then you don’t.
Eliminate Procrastination Forever
I never procrastinate anymore.
I used to have a major problem with it. These days I do what I plan to do almost without even thinking about it beforehand.
This particular topic is complicated. For the full explanation you might want to read:
This is one of the most important things about a systematic approach to academics and using that to eliminate procrastination.
Discipline is hard.
Habits are brainless.
You don’t need to be disciplined to study when studying is a habit. Your body will just do it.
The only tough part is setting up that habit to begin with. Once you do that, you’ll find it easier to keep that habit than to change it.
There are three parts you need to think about for any good habit.
This is what makes you start studying.
Make sure to use something that’s impossible to avoid. If you eat dinner at the same time every night, study immediately after it every day. That means you’ll always have the cue.
Don’t just set a time of day. If you say you’ll study at 6pm each evening and if you’re distracted by something else at 5:59pm, you might never get the cue to start. If you end up starting at 6:05pm then you might still study but it’s not automatic. That takes discipline.
Pick an impossible to miss cue. (Waking up is a better time than most students appreciate. After school is ideal.)
The routine is what you do.
No… that doesn’t just mean pull out whatever aspect of school you want to do. It needs to be as routine as possible.
Make your routine the same every time.
If you always start with your homework in English class then keep that up.
If you always start with reading assignments then do that.
What do you normally do first? That’s what you should be doing first (whenever possible.)
This is what reinforces your habit.
You do this after you complete the routine.
This can be an obvious reward like a candy bar or a bowl of ice cream but it doesn’t have to be.
I’d recommend limiting those kinds of rewards to only the first week or two
After you finish your routine, you can just pause and think about how awesome you are for a minute. Pump your fist and get excited that you got what you needed to get done.
What Happens When This System Malfunctions…
This is the key point you need to realize…
The system isn’t meant to work perfectly for everything.
The system exists so you can tinker with it until it does work.
When you do the same things, you can watch your results and know the actions you need to take to get similar results.
If you want different results then you just do something different.
You don’t need to worry about how you feel any particular day. You can just trust the results because you know what created those results.
When you get good grades with the emotional approach, you never know what caused those good grades.
When you systematically get those good grades, you know how you got them and you can keep it up for as long as you want to. (Burnout becomes a problem of the past.)
Kay W. is a 3.8 GPA student that spends most of her time on her hobbies and only studies when she gets bored. She originally found Smart Student Secrets 4 years ago and now she fights the good fight writing articles to help other students make the changes she made.