Procrastination positivity: making changes

By | A Level, Career prospects, EdTech, Exams, GCSE, History, How to Use your Brain, How you learn, IB, Online Tutoring, Random Facts, Revision, Study Tips, Tech Tips, Technique, Tutoring, UK Schooling | 178 Comments

As any student knows, procrastination is a fine art. The possibilities for things to do seems endless when you are faced with a work deadline. Yes, that particular task which should be at the very top of your priorities is just a bit…unappealing at this very moment in time. Maybe later.

A real problem with procrastination is that for each individual, it manifests itself in several deeply ingrained habits. Some delve into the cat-video galore that is the internet. Others tackle tasks of lesser priority because they are less threatening or easier to undertake. Some even retire to their bedrooms for a quick ‘procrasti-nap’.  Personally, I am a big fan of the ‘procasti-tidy’ (you ensure your work environment is spotless; perfect for sitting down and further avoiding your essay). Yet no matter how many nonsense neologisms we dream up about this perennial work-place problem, many of us still struggle to find the source of procrastinating behaviour, and a way to stop it or at least channel it into something positive. ‘Procrasti-positivity’: let’s see where this takes us.

As noted in a 2010 study ‘The Thief of Time: Philosophical Essays on Procrastination’ (Andreou and White), procrastination is traditionally characterised as behaviours grounded in ‘irrationality, self-deception, akraisa, irresoluteness, vague goals, hypocrisy and fragmented agency’. Underneath all the jargon, this definition implies that procrastination occurs because we are hapless individuals with little sense of direction. This is, I feel, a fairly unforgiving synopsis. Historically renowned procrastinators such as Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables and Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, are examples of individuals with brilliant minds which had the tendency to wander but nonetheless produced huge volumes of high quality work. George Ainslie’s theory of the causes of procrastination takes a different perspective. Ainslie writes in ‘Procrastination: The Basic Impulse’, that it results from ‘a temporary preference to defer costs and is thus a species of impulse’. In Ainslie’s words, procrastination ‘needs no great pleasure to drive it and no activity to instantiate it. It is just the venerable sin of sloth’. The ‘venerable sin of sloth’ may sound hyperbolic, but is a rather fitting attribute for your typical student. Netflix and a duvet often have a far more immediate draw than thumbing volumes of Rousseau or battling a maths equation.

Personally, I feel that procrastination derives from a sentiment that ‘now’ is never the best time. We will be less tired tomorrow; we will feel better for resting. We will be more productive. However, we need to face the reality the tomorrow may never come. Bite the bullet today and explore these methods to tackle procrastination, or to make it more productive:

  1. Employ implementation intentions: In short, make an action plan of when, where and how you intend to begin your work. Do this when the work is set, before that initial burst of motivation becomes redirected elsewhere.
  2. Leveraging: This strategy encourages you to employ self-discipline and to consider consequences. For instance: ‘If I do not do this work now, I cannot go to the cinema with my friends on Friday night’. This makes it far more likely to consider the consequences of your procrastinating behaviour and should motivate you to get stuck into your work now to avoid future punishment.
  3. Have someone to hold you accountable for the work you are meant to have done. Whether this is a study buddy, friend or parent, ask someone to put positive pressure you on to complete the task, i.e: ‘I would love to spend time with you this evening, but only if you have started this work’

Still procrastinating? Here are some ways to be ‘procasti-positive’:

  1. While cat videos are indeed a joy to behold, unless you are undertaking research in the correlation between humorous cat videos and endorphin surges in the brain, browsing these videos is unlikely to be productive. Use the internet to aid, rather than hinder, your research. There are a great number of fun and interactive study sites such as Schmoop, Sparknotes and GCSE Bitesize where you wind down and learn at the same time.
  2. If you are desperate to leave your desk, see if there is anything else you can do which is relevant to what you are researching. Exhibitions at the local museum, library or art gallery? Are there any films or documentaries you could watch which could deepen your understanding? More often than not, these kinds of activities spark more interest than a text-book and will make facing up to the set task more enjoyable and interesting.
  3. Allocate time for procrastination. Several studies have indicated that the most effective study sessions are those with frequent, but structured, rest breaks. Work on your task for 20 minutes, then have a 10 minutes break. Work for a further 30 minutes, then have a 20 minute break. Then try and work for 45 minutes and give yourself a longer break.  Give yourself time to relax, so that you do not end up relaxing when you intend to work, and vice versa.

Try to implement these techniques next time you are stuck in a loop of procrastination-stress-cramming. They may just work!

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Written by Anna Shepherd

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Essays: how to plan, structure and write an essay

By | A Level, EdTech, Exams, GCSE, History, How to Use your Brain, How you learn, IB, International, Online Tutoring, Revision, Social Learning, Speed reading, Study Tips, Technique, Tutoring, University | 236 Comments

“Prose is architecture” – Ernest Hemingway 

Essays: whether you love them or hate them, they are an inescapable aspect of school and further study. The aim of this post is to demystify the process of constructing a ‘well-structured’ essay.

The Question:

The demands of a written essay can vary hugely from subject to subject, but the general approach should always be based on the same principle: answer the question. Many students struggle with the written essay because they lack focus from the beginning of the essay or lose focus as the essay goes on. You need to plan the ‘destination’ for your essay, so firstly read the question carefully. Look out for directive words such as ‘Discuss’, ‘Explain’ and ‘Explore’. Highlight these words, as they indicate what kind of approach you need to take. This need to spot the directive words is essential, regardless of the subject. For example:

Q: (English Literature): “Women are either vacant beauties or destructive seductresses” – Consider if this is true of at least two plays you have studied.

  • Directive: ‘Consider if this is true’: this question directive is asking you to directly address the given statement with a consideration of both sides of the argument. This question demands the production of a counter-argument to the one given. The opinion given is fairly black-and-white. You can often infer from this that you are required to adopt a more sophisticated and nuanced view of the issue at hand. The number of marks indicates that you are likely to need to explore a number of issues in depth.

Q: (Biology): “Explain the process of mitosis”

  • Directive: ‘Explain’: this question directive is more typical of scientific essay questions and it reflects the more objective approach which science takes. You are asked to explain a ‘process’, so this question simply requires a correct and adequate explanation of all the stages of the process with the employment of the correct scientific terms.

Q: (History): “What caused the outbreak of the Vietnam War?” (24 marks)

  • Directive: ‘What caused’: This directive is asking you to consider a number of causal factors leading to a particular event. This kind of question, like the English question, requires some form of judgement to be made as to which factor was the most important, and why.

The Plan:

Once you have read and understood the question, move on to the planning stage. Ensure you keep to 3 main principles for this stage of the process: relevance, selectivity and precision. Ensure you have done all the reading, thinking and planning possible before you start writing. Your essay plan should be so detailed that the writing task should come smoothly and fluently with a maintained focus on a carefully constructed argument. When you are researching for your essay (i.e: reading over a chapter in a book for an English essay), ensure that you are engaging with the material with an analytical eye. Do not just observe interesting or relevant elements of the material, but engage with the material. Why are these elements interesting or relevant? Why are they important? How is this conveyed? Your plan should consist of your essay in bullet-point format under the headings ‘Introduction’, ‘Main Body’ and ‘Conclusion’. Feel free to include sub-headings under this titles to signal each individual point and the focus of each paragraph.

The Introduction:

Structure:

  • Define key concepts/issues
  • Introduce texts and specific areas of focus
  • State main thesis/argument

The Main Body:

Your essay should show a logical progression and a clear commitment to the question and original thesis. Ensure that each paragraph begins with a clear topic sentence and ends with a clear link back to your main thesis/the question. Your argument should demonstrate a logical progression towards a more nuanced and developed version of the thesis stated in your introduction. Try and replicate the following structure (PEEL)

  • Topic sentence: State issue for discussion (this is your point)
  • Example: Give an example to demonstrate this point. Ensure it is an accurate and appropriate form of textual evidence.
  • Explain: Explain why this example demonstrates your point.
  • Link: Link this explanation back to your main thesis. Clearly demonstrate how you have supported your own thesis using this textual evidence.

 

The Conclusion:

 The purpose of the conclusion is to draw all the threads of your argument together to demonstrate how your exploration of the arguments put forward has led you to a more developed and nuanced thesis. Re-state this more refined thesis to conclude your essay. Try to avoid writing things such as ‘Finally, in conclusion’. Not only is this a tautology (saying the same thing twice over) but your paragraphing and development of your argument should signal that the conclusion of the essay has arrived without the need to announce it.

And with that we have arrived at our destination! Put this structuring method to the test next time you write an essay task and see what a difference it makes. Happy writing!

Written by Anna Shepherd

Online tutoring: what is it, and why is it preferable to traditional methods?

By | A Level, Career prospects, EdTech, Exams, GCSE, History, How to Use your Brain, How you learn, International, Online Tutoring, Revision, Social Learning, Study Tips, Tech Tips, Tutoring, University | 1,165 Comments

What is online tutoring?

The movement of tutoring from table to tablet has been an inevitable by-product of the new digital age. Thanks to the synaptic speeds of modern internet, we have found ways to speak, teach and learn through increasingly convenient means. At Tute HK, tutors conduct lessons over a video call on our online platform. All students require for a lesson is a microphone, webcam and the willingness to learn. Tute HK has a wealth of online resources for students to benefit from such as past papers and subject-specific power-points. The tutor is able to explain concepts to their student via the microphone and by uploading text and images to an interactive whiteboard which the student is then able to download and save.

Why is online tutoring preferable to more traditional methods?

Expertise: Online tutoring enables your children to receive optimum academic support no matter where you are in the world. Our bank of talented tutors at Tute.HK is primarily made up of university students, both undergraduate and postgraduate. Many of our tutors attend top UK universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and UCL. This enables students to access the skills and expertise earned by our tutors at these excellent institutions, all from the comfort of home.

Practicality: Online tutoring also has several practical advantages; tutoring via the internet eliminates expense costs (such as travel) incurred by face-to-face tutoring, and can take place any time, any place at the convenience of tutor and student. Online tutoring is therefore incredibly time efficient, as tutors are able to squeeze in an hour’s tutoring before their morning lecture, while their pupil may wish to take their lesson right after school. In this way, the time difference between the UK and Hong Kong is often surprisingly favourable to the respective lifestyles of UK-based tutors and HK-based students. Our advanced online platform facilitates overseas communication between students and tutors at no extra cost.

Wider learning: The online platform is not only the hub of individual lessons, but also of live webinars run by academics and wider learning programmes which expose students to a wide range of extra-curricular subjects. Students are even able to playback their online lessons at a later date, enabling them to utilise their past sessions for revision purposes. The appeal of online tutoring lies in the incorporation of the individual student focus retained from traditional forms of tutoring, with revolutionary new technology to enhance and broaden the learning experience.

Education is evolving. Ensure your child’s education is adapting with it and sign up with Tute HK here. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with our latest news and bright ideas!

written by Anna Shepherd