“I’m in the first year of high school this year and I’ve found I’m really really bad at getting work done like I am not good at it at all. Last year in middle school I didn’t care as much about getting work done because in the long run as long as I was passing my class it wasn’t a big deal. This year it matters more what grades I get and so far I’m getting pretty average grades but they aren’t as good as I’m hoping for. A problem about this is I know I can do better but I just procrastinate and basically don’t try because I don’t like doing work. Which sounds lame but it’s the truth. Well if any of you have advice on stopping procrastinating and pretty much forcing homework down your own throat it would be very much appreciated.”
I definitely understand this feeling. Procrastination is enough of a problem for many of us even when we actually enjoy something, let alone things we don’t really want to do (i.e., in your case, homework). Here are some suggestions that come to mind/that I’ve found helpful at various times:
- Find something fun. Okay, that’s easier said than done with a lot of things, but if you look hard enough, there may be more interesting aspects than you realized to your homework. Even if it really is completely boring, see if you can make it a bit more palatable by coupling it with something you enjoy (which won’t interfere with your work)—whether that be getting together for a study session with friends (just make sure you do do some actual studying, in addition to hanging out ;)), turning on music to listen to while you work, imagining yourself as a fictional character doing math, challenging yourself to use a certain vocabulary word in the course of that essay… whatever it takes. Infuse it with fun, or if not exactly fun, at least with something not-unfun.
- Schedule your work. When your to-do list is a generalized “I should get this done at some point,” it’s very, very easy to just push it off again and again, or even not do at all. Instead, try setting aside specific blocks of time in your day that you’re going to dedicate to doing whatever it is you need to do. The time and amount of time you need to allot will depend on your concentration patterns (some people work best in small chunks spread out, others prefer longer sessions to really get into whatever they’re working on), what it is you need to do and how much of it, what your daily schedule looks like, and so on. It will likely also vary from day to day and from week to week—whatever the specifics look like that, you’ll need to figure out what works best for you, your workload, and your life. But what’s key here is that, once you’ve placed homework (or whatever it is you need to do) on your schedule, stick to it the same way you’d stick to another schedule activity. Put your foot down, and don’t let yourself do anything else with the time.
- Enlist help. That self-discipline can be very difficult; just because you decided you were going to do homework at 6 o’clock doesn’t mean, when 6 o’clock rolls around, you won’t find yourself sprawled on the couch playing video games. So consider asking other people you know—parents, siblings, even friends (generally speaking, people who live with you are preferable for this, because they'll be right on hand already, but others can be helpful as well)—to remind you to stay on track when you’re supposed to be doing something. Make them aware of what’s on your to-do list, and ask them to, well, basically keep bugging you about it until it’s done. You may just find yourself doing the work just for the sake of getting them off your back. :P
(One caution regarding this method, however: When you’re feeling grouchy about the work you have to do that you don’t want to do, it’s easy to get irritated and take it out on someone when they’re “bugging you” about doing it—even if they’re doing so at your request. So make sure you don’t take frustration out on people whose help you enlist; remember to be appreciative of the fact that they’re trying to help you, and that [presumably] they aren’t to blame for the work you have to do.)
- Reward yourself. When you do stick to your planned schedule (or, even if you don’t go with a specific schedule, when you get something finished), celebrate! Neither the accomplishment nor the celebration has to be something huge—it could be as simple as reading a chapter in your book once you finish your math homework, or celebrating the completion of an essay with a snack. It’s important not to get too caught up on the rewards, of course, but within moderation, this can be a very helpful trick. It also helps to set this reward system in advance, so that you know what you’re working with and towards.
- Remind yourself—it’s worth it! Aside from any self-imposed rewards, successfully getting something out of the way is itself a great feeling. Even the most dismal assignment, once you’ve completed it, you can cross off the list and not think about again, and that is a huge relief, not one to discount. Once it’s done, it’s done. Plus, bring to mind other motivations for getting the work done (such as the grades factor you mentioned in your question), the reasons it’s still worth your while. When procrastinating, it’s easy to get caught up in the I-don’t-want-to-do-this mindset. Instead, try to reframe the situation in the I-don’t-want-to-have-to-do-this mindset—and realize that, once you’ve done it, you don’t have to do it anymore. :)
Truth be told, in the end, sometimes it really is just a matter of buckling down no matter how little you want to do so. And that can be a highly challenging, unenjoyable life skill to develop. But the more you make yourself do it, the easier it’ll get to do—making a habit of getting things done on time makes a huge difference (as I can attest from experience). And remember that high school is just a few years of your life. Once you graduate, you’ll get to move on to more advanced procrastination, in college or a career. ;)
Before I sign off, if you’re interested in further reading, let me just point you towards a couple of previous blog posts which you may find helpful, written by other S2S mentors on similar themes: Being Productive (by Cat) and Procrastination Nation (by Jen). (You’ll see much overlap in ideas touched on between my response here and those other blogs, I suspect, but another voice and another take is always good... plus, chances are my fellow mentors explain some things better than I do!)
So hang in there! I hope the rest of your semester in high school goes well, and that you’re able to get the work you need to do done timely and well. Good luck.