It’s Skills Blog Friday! This week the Skills Team have some handy tips on how to avoid falling into the procrastination trap when you should be revising… Remember you can follow their blog at

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a student with an impending deadline or upcoming exam, must find any excuse they can think of to avoid writing or revising. Here, we try to give you some simple strategies to minimise the effects of procrastination in the run up to deadline days and the exam period.

Procrastination 1: “I can’t revise or work unless my desk/room/the entire house is straight and I can concentrate”

OK, fair enough there is some mileage in tidying your stuff so that you can find the books and files you need to actually revise. However, a sudden need to irrationally clean things that you have ignored all year must be kept in check! Try to limit tidying to half an hour in your study space only before your first stint of revising – and then no more than 5 minutes each day before you start to keep on top of things.

If you really need a major tidy up then do it at your least productive part of the day – it really does not need much mental input. If you are naturally a morning person, do it in the late evening when your brain is going fuzzy. If you are a night-owl, do it first thing in the morning when you are a bit bleary and mindless tasks are all you can manage. Don’t waste your best times vacuuming!


Procrastination 2: “I just need to check in on [insert preferred social media app here] or I may miss out on important stuff” …an hour later…

Nobody is saying you need to go cold turkey on using social media during revision and exam periods – but there is a limit to how much is sensible. Use social media as a treat to look forward to after you have reached a certain point in your revision – but set yourself a limited time [use the timer app on your phone to alert you when time is up]: “After I have revised topic A, I can have a cup of tea and catch up on SnapChat for 20 minutes”

Alternatively, use fragments of time when it would be difficult to revise or study – walking to uni (though take care not to walk in front of a bus!), sitting on said bus, waiting for the kettle to boil etc for quick catch ups.


Procrastination 3: “I can’t revise all the time – watching TV helps me relax which is important isn’t it?”

Yes…but…it’s all about amount isn’t it. You know yourself if you are watching too much – if you are feeling even slightly guilty about watching something then you probably shouldn’t be. There is a lovely righteous feeling when you know you have revised effectively and you are simply relaxing at the end of the day to wind down a bit – if you don’t have that feeling then turn off the TV!

There is a reason for catch-up TV and recording devices…you can catch-up with your fave programmes when you have finished your assignemtns are handed in and your revising and exams are in the bag. You wouldn’t enjoy them as much knowing you should be studying anyway.


Procrastination 4: “I only went onto to BuzzFeed/YouTube to get some study hacks – I just got a bit sucked into the trending stuff”

Sure, because BuzzFeed or YouTube are the best sources for any study advice. Don’t kid yourself, you just wanted some instant gratification and an excuse not to buckle down! Tim Urban has written a set of brilliant and very funny blog posts about the battle between instant gratification and procrastination which we thoroughly recommend reading – though they are quite long so please do not just use them as another source of procrastination!!

If you genuinely want revision advice then please see our own Exam and Revision Techniques web pages. If you’re still working on essays, check out our Essays and Other Academic Writing web pages for further help. Not only are these pages full of useful information and tips, they also have links to other great resources produced by our colleagues at other universities.


“I can’t just sit around and revise, I need to be more active so I go for a run/to the gym/play sport”

If you are naturally an active person then the forced inactivity of revising can be a real issue and can cause stress in itself. Again, it is all about balance. Create a timetable that not only includes writing, revision and study, but that includes time for the activities you need to do to feel human. Ration your fun activities during the weeks you need to revise to take into account the higher priority that study needs to take before and during the exam period.


For revision, you can always try to combine it with exercise – download appropriate podcasts or even record yourself reading key information and listen to it whilst power walking or jogging. It is amazing how much imagining yourself doing such activities during the exam helps you recall the information you were listening to.

Short walks to get some fresh air and clear your mind can also be an excellent precursor to setting down for some serious study. As you walk, try to recall what you already remember about the topic you intend to revise next – this is a great way of connecting any new stuff you read to what you already know – which makes it easier to remember during the exam.

Here’s hoping you beat procrastination and do really well in all your upcoming exams!