Advice to struggling Year 12s from a Year 12’s point of view – Ayoola O

Are you a student struggling to stay focused? Having a problem with how to get into the right mindset or struggling to stay motivated? Well, you aren’t alone. Maybe you just need a push in the right direction or maybe just need some relatable advice from someone your own age. Well this bubble segment is designed to do just that.

“Hey, I am James and I am struggling to say focused during prep sessions. When it comes to working independently I often find it hard to be productive. This is mainly due to the fact that I procrastinate a lot and even when I get down to working I can get distracted very easily. I have found it hard to concentrate for all my life but now I have access to my phone and other devices basically all the time it is even harder. The temptation of using my phone is always reducing my productivity. So far I am putting up with A-levels and I am managing to stay on top of things just about but I want to be able to have more free time. The way I can do that is if I can be more organised. when I first started doing my work I procrastinated a lot and got behind quite quick. After that I had a hard time not only keeping on top of my work, but also trying to get previous pieces of work set done so that I wouldn’t struggle in the future.

My time management is quite bad so when I go to do work I end up spending half of the time avoiding doing it. This meant I would either get it done to a low standard or not complete it. 

I still struggle to focus and even in important situations like exams I loose concentration easily.”

 Hey thank you for coming to me with this question which I believe is not just a problem for you but is prevalent amongst us gen zs (and also arguably an instinsic part of human nature really!) and is something all people across the school, young and old can relate to.

 I truly do thank you for coming to me with this concern of procrastination and admitting that sometimes in prep you have been finding it hard to stay focused. As to be honest with you, I think whether people like to admit it or not, it is an issue which we can all struggle with sometimes for a variety of different reasons. I guess, it is just the case that many people are less prone to it than others. And in this case, it seems as if it is key issue for you hence why you have addressed this concern in particular.  I think firstly, it is important to acknowledge that procrastination is a multi-faceted (often psychological) issue where we simply force off what can be done now to a later date which can often leave us feeling anxious, stressed  and often frustrated for the ordeals that lie ahead (tight deadlines, build up of work, external pressure and anger within ourselves) but in that moment in time we can often distance ourselves from these apprehensions as they feel so far into the future. Especially in the case of your phone and devices that you are using much more than you were before (for work, obviously) it serves as great tool for distracting you and distancing you formi what you really need to do. The prevalence of technology amongst young people is a universal issue not just with you as 76% of all young people used a computer on a daily basis in 2017 and 90% of teens aged 13-17 have used social media. Social media in some ways I guess can be good with connecting with friends, expressing your views or just a source of entertainment but obviously it comes with disadvantages in the sense of blurring the line between work life and personal life.

When you hear a ping from your phone, a new notification from your friend or a new video alert. You grin to yourself. You are immediately invested. You then say ‘it will only take five minutes.’ Then that five minutes turns into ten minutes then  twenty minutes then half an hour. Before you know it it will be an hour and you are sat there with an empty piece of paper with no work achieved and feeling incredibly angry, anxious or irritated at yourself wondering why you can’t stay focused. This perpetual cycle is irritating but it is breakable. I think that it is important that in order to stay focused maybe  having a goal or ambition which is personal to you rather than abstract or vague can be a simple first step in the right direction. Is it one grade higher in your next test?  Is it learning more about a particular topic outside of the curriculum which appeals to you? I don’t know but whatever it is, you need to make it clear to yourself.

Because certainly for me, I feel like a goal feels more tangible when it is fixed in your head whether that be through writing it down on a paper or a book or saying it out loud through affirmations or whatever works for you but really making it clear what you want. This quote from Michelle Obama in her book Becoming really aligns with my own personal way of goal setting. She said: “Don’t ever make decisions based on fear. Make decisions based on hope and possibility. Make decisions based on what should happen, not what shouldn’t.” Don’t be afraid to set ambitious goals or goals which seem far from what you are doing now because through setting these high goals it will fuel you to work harder so you can meet them. I don’t want to be hurling quotes at you but another quote which I have really resonated with is that ‘Fear kills more dream than failure ever will.” You have said that you avoid doing tedious tasks. Now, based on what I have heard from other people and personal experiences, avoidance comes from fear most of the time. We avoid stuff, often simply because hiding from it fearfully is easier than bravely rising up to the challenge. That is why it is not a fault of your skill or talent necessarily but a fault of fear. Someone can be the greatest dancer but are too afraid to put themselves out there that they end up crumbling on stage. Someone could want to be a rugby captain but lack that self-belief within themselves and are afraid of rejection that they fail before they even try for the position. And in a case more similar to yours it is that maybe the thought of starting an A-level task (considering you are still I guess still new to this new leap from gcse like I guess we all are) may create this overwhelming fear every single time you start a new task to a point that fear supersedes your drive and that perseverance to realise that giving each and every academic task all that you possibly can will equal improvement. In that way by getting into the habit with getting on with your prep as soon as possible (straight away before grabbing your phone), you may find it will lead to less prep overload and more free time (although I can understand at the moment we all still trying to get that balance between A levels and free time no matter how much we are working and at the end of the day I think I speak on behalf of most Year 12s balancing time just seems like juggling at the moment).

But without taking that leap, you won’t be able to learn that, hence why it is often our fears which stop us from reaching our potential or reaching our goals not because we are incapable or not gifted. In my opinion, although things may seem impossible. For example, learning a musical instrument may seem super easy to one person while impossible to another person. If we want something, we won’t stop till I achieve whether there will be hurdles along the way or stepbacks. And in that same way, James, I know it may be hard to stay concentrated I think the more confidence you gain in going for each and every task you do, asking for help when necessary and persevering. It may help stimulate a natural not only within the way you work but within yourself.

On that point of self-improvement, you may be wondering, who am I as a student literally the same age as you any right to be giving you advice? Well, firstly I hope that I have given you some good, accessible advice and in some ways I guess you have a point. Because the thing is, in some ways you could argue that the advice from anyone even the most wisest of us is limited in its capacities because people can tell you that you need to do this or you shouldn’t do that but the only person who is going to follow those through  is yourself therefore this advice can only do so much for you. Because at the end of the day, we are all different in how we learn and handle certain situations so I hope my motivational advice has offered at least the smallest bit of help.

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