Is your attention going offline because of all that online?

Ilinka Bijma | december 8, 2020
aandacht laag online werk offline

A strange start…

The new academic year started in September – this time online. The introductory weeks had quite restricting measures and there was a bit of a grim atmosphere among students. Especially for first year students, student life has started in an unusual manner. In a time where you are supposed to be tightly packed together in bars and clubs, you’re specifically being told not to. Student associations are seeing a huge rise in membership numbers. Clearly there is a need for social contact (NOS, 2020). The lack of interaction during classes has made it far more difficult to make connections with others.


Online education brings along a heap of challenges. Many students at the start of the Corona pandemic got to experience this in full force. As a teacher and student coach, I found myself in a unique situation. The pandemic suddenly put me in the same boat as my students and there was a mutual understanding of each other’s struggles. Suddenly I was doing everything from home: providing classes, giving lectures, coaching students – all from the same desk. Staying motivated when all of a sudden you are studying, sleeping, cooking, eating and relaxing in the same space was a huge challenge for students too.

Master of procrastination

Working from home was a bigger challenge than I expected. Aside from mulling over the current situation and dealing with the insecurities caused by the Corona crisis, I struggled to work effectively. I was confronted with the urge to postpone my work and the frustration that comes along with that procrastination. There are enough distractions at home to keep me from doing what I ought to do. The last few years, I have mostly worked with students to examine procrastination and give them the necessary tools to fix it. Now the tables were turned and I found myself wondering: How can I work more efficiently at home? Then it popped into my head: practice what you preach.

Experimenting with yourself

If you want to change your study behavior and your coping mechanisms, I encourage you to see the process as an experiment with yourself. The tools you are given do not provide a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. Prevent frustrations and actively try to figure out what does and does not work for you. The essence of a successful experiment, aside from actively applying tools and strategies, is regular (preferably daily) moments of self reflection. Two simple questions are central to this self reflection: What felt good today? And What was challenging?

I have a small notebook on my bedside table that I use every night to write about my day and reflect on the tools I have used. Based on that, I try to set an intention for the next day. This could for example be ‘less screen time’. Instead of using every break to scroll through Instagram or watch a show, I might go for a short walk outside. For one person short breaks in between work might be very effective, while others might work better with two long breaks in a day. The Pomodoro technique is all about time management: focus on work for 25 minutes and then take a five minute break. You can work with a day or week schedule and use targeted rewards. Visualize your progression by using mind-maps or post-it notes.

On our site you can find a free PDF version of the Wake Up Student calendar (in Dutch).

This way there are several tools that you can experiment with. Through planning and self reflection, you improve your consciousness and your insight into your own behavior. This is essential for positive change.

Why do I procrastinate?

Aside from practical tips to work more effectively and stop procrastinating, there is still the important question of why you (and I) procrastinate. Procrastination is often linked to laziness or carelessness, but this is often not the case. It can be a form of avoidance stemming from a fear of failure, and perfectionism often gets in the way too. The reasoning of ‘If I don’t do it I can’t fail’ works on the short term, but only creates more pressure and stress on the long term. If you are struggling to write because every sentence has to be perfect, try the ,free writing strategy. If you have a fear of failure, it is important to examine your expectations and judgements of yourself. We as coaches would love to work with you to explore this.

If you need any support in tackling procrastination, among other things, don’t hesitate to sign up and get to know one of our coaches (in-person or online).


NOS (2020), Forse toestroom studentenverenigingen door behoefte aan sociale contacten. Verkregen op 31-08-2020 via

#procrastination #focus #studyingonline #student #studyingabroad

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