This blog is about how not to cram. Procrastination is one of the leading causes in why students have failing grades. It is a natural human tendency, and nothing to be ashamed of, but in order to ensure success academically, regardless of outside circumstances, it is important to foster good study habits.
Why do we procrastinate?
Before we turn this into an age specific epidemic, let’s be clear, people of ALL ages suffer from procrastination. It is so much easier to put things off until tomorrow. Statistically, many intelligent people suffer from procrastination because they know they can accomplish tasks quickly and wait until the last minute to get it done. However, when you procrastinate you do not take the unexpected into account. Procrastination only works if there are no unexpected events, which in the game of life seems like a risky gamble. You never know when the unexpected will occur and generally these events happen whether you have an important test the next day or not. I have found that there are a few ways to tackle procrastination.
Pretend the due date is earlier than it really is. If you’re the type of person that always procrastinates and you leave work unfinished as close to the due date as possible, then it is in your benefit to mentally change the due date. If something is due on Friday, tell yourself that it’s due on Wednesday. This extra time factors in procrastination as well as problems that might arise such as the printer not working or the internet shutting down. There are so many things that can go wrong and typically it is a technological problem. These are valid excuses, but they would not be an issue if you were getting your work done ahead of time. Deadlines and due dates are something that you need to set a preliminary deadline for so you don’t fall into the trap of being in the 11th hour and you can’t get it done.
Break thing up into small tangible pieces. It is terrible to study for a three chapter test the night before it is due. You are not going to be able to learn that material; it is impossible and nobody could do it. The best method is to break the information up into tangible segments over the course of several days so it is manageable instead overwhelming.
Let me give you an example: athletes practice all week long for sporting events rather than run for five hours before a big game. The same logic applies for studying. Why would you cram for five or six hours the day before a test and believe you are prepared for the test the next day? It does not make sense for you to learn everything all at once. Statistically, it has been shown that people learn things better when they are broken up into small chunks. This allows you to understand what you know and what you don’t know. When you return to study the next day, you are prepared to review what you already know to ensure you comprehend it, while also having a plan of attack for what you do not know.
You also really don’t want to cram because your brain needs time to process the information that it’s learning. A lot of the time the processing time requires a good amount of sleep before you take a test. When people stay up late or pull an all-nighter right before an exam they tend to do poorly because they’re exhausted and their brain has not been able to process and file the information. It is a misconception that the information is going to be fresh in your brain from cramming the night before. In fact, I tell my students not to learn any new information the night before the test. You should have learned everything you need to know prior to the day before the test. The day before the test is meant for reviewing and taking a practice test on what you already know.
I hope this helps and that you find yourself procrastinating less and not cramming. To learn more about study habits check out my previous blog post about how memory works. For more information, sign up for a free consultation on my website!