Close up of Christmas decorations in a market stall

Christmas holidays are here and it’s time for a well deserved break, right? Wrong, not if you’re in the midst of your GCSEs, A levels or at University. You’ve got coursework to do, a dissertation to write, or mocks or exams to revise for. If you’re struggling to get your head down over the festive season, here’s a few tips to stop you getting distracted and keep you motivated.

Firstly, find out what type of learner you are. Learning types are generally split into three styles -  kinesthetic, auditory or visual - and there are plenty of quizzes online that offer you the chance to see what style suits you most. Once you’ve worked out what type of learner you are, you can use this to your advantage and tailor your revision or work your accordingly. For example, if you are a visual learner, you may find drawing pictures or diagrams on colourful key cards useful. If you are kinesthetic learner you may find it easier to devise some sort of game or practical activity which helps you remember the facts. If you are an auditory learner you may benefit more from listening to what you are meant to revise read out, through audio books or videos. Working and revising in a way that suits you means that you’ll get bored less easily, be less likely to quit, and more likely to enjoy your work and want to continue. 

Secondly, and in addition to your learning style, you might want to think about your ideal working conditions. Try out a few different working conditions to see what you find the most comfortable and productive. Some people work best in complete silence, the only noise being their pen scratching across the paper, some like working with the radio on so faintly it’s still quiet enough for them to work but gives them a faint background noise, whilst others prefer to blast music incredibly loudly through their headphones blocking off what’s going on around them and causing them to focus.

 Traditional empty library

Image Credit: Marcus Gossler/ Wikicommons  

Also, find your ideal workspace. This may be in a local library where everyone is speaking in whispers, a cafe where you’ve the noise of day-to-day people coming and going, or in your room where you can be away from your family. Some of you may like being out the house, giving yourself structure to the day, while many of you might like having your workspace and notes being in the same place.

Next, write a to-do list. Sort out everything you need to get done before your Christmas holidays end. Ticking things off a list feels very rewarding and, as you see your list getting smaller and smaller you find enjoyment in getting everything done and out the way. In the Christmas holidays all you want to do is relax, so getting the majority of your work done early is wholly satisfying and gives you time to laze around. 

An illustration of an empty to do list

Image Credit: Mufidah Kasslaias/ acreelman  

Prioritize! Work out what work needs to be done urgently, what will take the longest and what’s less important. If you’ve got a really long essay to get through, don’t leave that to the last minute; get it out the way so you can forget about it.

But, at the same time, think about how you like to see your list diminishing. Are you someone who likes to get lots of little things out the way so you’ve got less to worry about when it comes to your major project or are you someone who likes to get that major project out the way as quickly as possible so you can sweat the small stuff towards the end? 

Set Goals and Restrict yourself. Don’t set yourself ridiculous goals. If you make easy and achievable goals that can be reached quickly you will feel like you’re getting more done and be able to move on from things quickly. Obviously don’t try and get all your work done in the first 2 days of the holiday. Spread it out a bit and enjoy yourself.

Take regular breaks. As is often cited, you can only maintain concentration for about 45 minutes at a time, so do 45 minutes work and then treat yourself to a 10-minute break where you can go to the loo, have a snack and watch a few cat videos. Another 45 minutes at work and then a 10-minute break can be rinsed and repeated throughout the day. Don’t go overboard with the work and forget to take any breaks, as you’ll lose motivation quickly, while at the same time, don’t get carried away with those cat videos.

A cat sitting on the bed looking at the camera with his eyes closed

Image Credit: Yumi Kimura/ Wikicommons  

If you’re someone prone to distraction, remove anything that you might compete for your attention. This might simply involve putting your phone and laptop in another room so you can’t get at it or organising a revision playlist so you won’t be tempted to skip over or sing along to certain tracks. If you’re procrastination routine amounts to tidying your room/the house, or cooking dinner, perhaps think about leaving for the day and finding another safe haven in which to work where you’re not besieged by clutter. 

All this hard work is for a reason, and keep reminding yourself of why you’ve got to suffer in the short-term. Pictures on your walls can be a good incentive, for example the university you want to go or your summer holiday you’re planning, so every time you lift your head the pictures will kick you back into action.

If you’re this way inclined, following Twitter/Instagram accounts such as Life Goals or Inspirational Quotes may also motivate you in teasing you about the life you may just achieve if you work that little bit harder. You might also be harking after some new shoes or make-up, or a spa away day, and treating yourself some rewards after the long slog is over might also be an incentive.

Lastly, stop reading blogs about how to not get distracted and just get on with your work! You may put the pro in procrastinate but now is not the time and that essay won’t write itself!