Liz Morrison, LCSW
6 Tried-and-True Ways to Beat Procrastination and Get Back into Homework
When summer ends and school starts up again, there are probably lots of things that will change in your life. You’ll have a more strict routine to follow. You’ll be spending more time with your peers. You’ll get back into school activities and classes. And you’ll have to deal with homework again.
Getting back into homework is tough when you’ve spent a couple of months not having to do any. It’s easy for students to get caught up in a vicious cycle of procrastination and stress around completing homework on time. Just getting started can be the hardest part.
At Liz Morrison Therapy, our counselors help middle schoolers and high schoolers ease into tough transitions and set healthy habits. Getting back into homework and school mode can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to ruin your school year. Here are some of our best tips for getting back into the habit quickly – so you can spend more time with your friends instead of worrying about assignments.
How to Overcome Procrastination and Do Your Homework: 6 Tips
Procrastinating on homework is one of the hardest habits to break, and it’s no secret that it poses a huge challenge to students. And it’s not actually about laziness – it’s about a desire to avoid the negative emotions that accompany whatever thing you have to do.
There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination, and what works for some people won’t work for everyone. The key is to try different emotional management techniques and procrastination-busting methods until you figure out what works for you, and then continue to build on those. As you get better at new time management skills and emotional health habits, completing homework and other tasks will be easier. Ultimately, you’ll be less anxious and distressed about your workload.
Here are 6 ways you can build healthy skillsets around work, break the habit of procrastination, and set yourself up for success at school.
1. Acknowledge the difficulty of transitions
Your schedule is changing as you get back into school. This means your daily activities will change too. This might sound obvious, but many of our clients ignore this important aspect of returning to school. If you’re like most students, you have a lot of feelings about going back to school – you might be nervous, excited, apprehensive, sad, or some mixture of all of the above. And pushing away your difficult feelings can make it much more difficult to transition back to doing homework and attending classes. Maybe you’re someone who has a tough time with classes and schoolwork, or maybe you’re someone who looks forward to new assignments. Either way, you’re not alone. Acknowledging the big changes in your schedule – and how you feel about it all – can make a big difference in making you feel more relaxed and settled. Give yourself grace as you transition. It can help normalize any struggles you’re having and give you some much-needed emotional “wiggle room.”
2. Be realistic about your schedule
One of the biggest reasons students find it hard to get back into homework after the summer break – aside from procrastination – is they’re much busier with extracurriculars, sports, clubs, hanging out with friends, and possibly even working day jobs. There’s simply not a ton of extra time for doing homework, and this can put a lot of stress and pressure on getting everything done. Take a look at your schedule and ask yourself:
Can I realistically get everything done in the time that I have?
Can I feel good while getting everything done? Do I feel balanced and healthy?
Do I have any unnecessary or extra-stressful things in my schedule that I can eliminate?
How can I make sure to spend time on self-care along with all my other obligations?
Working through questions like these in a journal or with a therapist can really help you figure out what’s working and what might benefit from a change.
3. Eliminate distractions
If you’re someone who can focus all your attention on one task at a time without getting distracted, count yourself lucky. But for the rest of you out there, be sure to eliminate distractions when you work. Put your phone on silent and put it somewhere out of sight. Put headphones on with white noise or soothing ocean sounds if that helps you concentrate. Some students like a noisy atmosphere (like a coffee shop or a study group) for getting things done, and others prefer a completely quiet space where they can be alone. Know what you need, and give yourself that.
4. Plan out your homework – and break it up
To properly plan out your homework, it helps to know what’s going to be due and when. Write out a list (or buy a planner) with all your upcoming assignments, and score them on a scale of importance and difficulty. Many students tend to underestimate the time needed to complete their homework, so be realistic about the time different tasks take you. Don’t plan on finishing 4 different projects in one go, because that will just leave you exhausted and braindead. Next, give yourself a time limit for each project or assignment. Finally, work on the hardest thing first so some of the stress about completing difficult tasks is eased. And keep in mind that you don’t have to finish the hardest one first – you just have to get started.
Break up each of your assignments into chunks of time, and make sure to give yourself plenty of time to finish each. For example, say you have a paper due at the end of the week. Instead of trying to write it all the day before it’s due, set aside 30-60 minutes per day all week to work on that paper. Breaking up assignments will give your brain breaks and keep you from feeling super-stressed during and after homework sessions.
5. Set a timer
Setting a timer is a surprisingly useful tool for getting things accomplished. Simply getting started on homework is one of the biggest challenges for many students. Seeing a timer counting down can boost your motivation and help you begin. Setting a timer also is great if you’re easily distracted or have trouble focusing – it gives you an external cue to rely on. It also helps you avoid getting completely sucked in to one task at the expense of everything else you need to do.
Of course, it will likely take some trial and error for you to figure out how much time is actually right for you to work on each of your homework assignments. And this is totally okay. You can always tweak the timer when you need to. But in general, once the timer is up, wrap up what you’re working on. Give yourself a short break, and then move on to the next thing on your list.
6. Ask for help
There’s no shame in asking for extra help. Completing your homework shouldn’t feel like a monumental task. If you feel swamped with assignments and school work and need some support, consider asking your teacher or a tutor to help you. If your school doesn’t have a tutoring service, you can hire one or ask an adult for guidance. And if you are struggling with motivation or with the transition back into school and homework, a therapist can help.
Therapy Can Help You Figure Out How to Get Back Into Homework
If you’re having a hard time getting back into the rhythm of schoolwork and assignments after summer, you’re not alone. And you don’t need to let back-to-school stress get you down. If you’d like support in getting through your anxiety about how to do homework, we’re here for you. We’ll help you learn tools to beat the procrastination cycle, take the stress out of homework, and feel good about completing all your assignments and tasks. You’ll feel more prepared and confident about getting back into the demands of school.
Feel free to contact us for a free 15-minute phone consultation. We can answer any questions you have and see whether we’re a good fit.