This is not for the teens who consistently do their homework and care a lot about school.
For those of you who cannot seem to focus on your homework, read on. First of all, I understand that a lot of the time it is boring. Believe me, I understand that. There are so many assignments that seem irrelevant to the rest of your life. There are so many chapters to read full of facts about things like how a frog reproduces, or how mitochondria are involved in cellular energy. Unless you’re planning to be a biologist, you probably don’t care. You’d definitely rather come home and watch TV, play a sport, eat, nap, or really do anything else besides sit down and study.
How do you move past this hatred of your homework? How do you get yourself motivated to complete your assignments so that you can do well? It seems so easy for some kids. Why isn’t it easy for you?
Here are 5 tips to make the homework process a little bit more palatable.
1. Do not allow yourself the option of not finishing your homework. Until now you’ve given yourself permission to be a little bit lazy. It’s like the person who smokes cigarettes and always says they want to quit. There’s a very different attitude between someone who wants to quit and someone who says, “I’VE HAD IT!!! I’M NEVER SMOKING ANOTHER CIGARETTE AGAIN!!!” You have to get that serious about finishing your homework.
2. Work intensely for a short amount of time, and then take a short break. It is up to you how long each should be depending on your age and attention span. Here’s an example: When I was 20 years old I had a college class that required a lot of studying. I did not enjoy it and struggled to get the work done. I finally decided to work intensely for 50 minutes, not even allowing my mind to wander or my eyes to glance at my phone. Then I’d take a 10 minute break and do whatever I wanted. I was able to get the studying done much more quickly this way. For teenagers who are younger, like 13 years old, I often recommend 15 minutes of intense studying with a 5 minute break.
3. Change it up. If you are partway through an assignment and it is too tedious to complete right now, work on something else. As long as you keep working on something you’re still making progress towards finishing your homework. Let’s pretend you detest math. As a result you often don’t even look at your math book until 9:30 pm. By then you’re tired and out of time. You have to push straight through the assignment without a break or you’ll fall asleep with your calculator on your lap. Start your math early so that if you get bored or frustrated you can take an break to work on English. It makes the process so much more tolerable.
4. Don’t try to be perfect. Some teenagers never start their homework because they are determined to do it perfectly, or just not bother. You are much better off getting a 60% on an assignment than a 0%. You still learn something, and you have a much smaller hole to climb out of. When you’re working on an assignment, just push through to the end. You can go back and make corrections afterward if you have time. Somewhat sloppy work that is finished still helps you more than perfect work that is half done, or not even started.
5. Provide yourself boring alternatives. If you have an essay to write, give yourself an alternative activity to distract yourself, but make it boring. In other words, give yourself the option of either working on your essay or cleaning the bathroom. Choose something that is slightly worse than essay writing. What will happen is that when you’re desperate for a break, you’ll go do the yucky task. However, you’ll quickly tire of the yucky task and prefer to get back to your essay.
See if any of these things help you. This all presupposes that you actually want to do better in school. You can’t be like that cigarette smoker that vaguely talks about quitting but never really means it. You have to truly tell yourself that you are making a change. Once you’ve done that, and mean it, these tips will help your survive homework. What’s even better is that you’ll learn skills needed to survive college and your future job (No matter what job you go on to do, there will be parts of it that are not fun). Muhammad Ali, a famous boxer, said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'” Your homework is like Muhammad Ali having to go on a 5 mile run at 5:00 am, not fun but completely necessary to win.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT