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Succeeding in postgraduate study
Succeeding in postgraduate study

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9.8 Deal effectively with distractions and procrastination

It can sometimes be difficult to get down to your studies because you have distractions to deal with, and you may find that you put off a study task. Distractions can be real (e.g. your work takes precedence, or a child or other family member needs your attention), but they can also be displacement or replacement activities. Some people say that they work best under the pressure of a tight deadline. But is this way of working really productive? Does it work for you? You might find you produce better work under less stress!

  • Set realistic goals for your study session (e.g. ‘I’ll read this section, or work for 40 minutes, before I make that coffee’).
  • Aim to minimise interruptions (e.g. put on your answerphone, ask friends and family not to disturb you, turn off e-mail, social networking and any other distractions).
  • Remember that it is best to try and have short-term deadlines that you stick to for significant study activities, such as completing an assignment by the cut-off date.
  • Try not to feel that you need to produce the perfect assignment or project.
  • Avoid taking on too many commitments – learn to politely say ‘no’.
  • Learn to prioritise your tasks.
  • Make a deal with yourself (e.g. ‘Okay, I’ll go to the pub with my friend tonight, but this means that I’ll need to get up early on Sunday to study instead’).
  • Just do it! You may find that the task doesn’t take as long as you expected and you’ll feel much better for getting it out of the way.