Thursday, October 16, 2014

Yes, I am procrastinating right now.

Good morning, readers!

After the past few tours I've given, I've been thinking a lot about the way I represent myself to students. I am a self-defined hard worker, and I do believe my professors, classmates, and colleagues would agree.

However, I am not a robot. When I first became a tour guide, I used to be afraid to admit my faults--like how, on a daily basis, I STILL struggle with time management. Normally when I'm speaking to prospective students I paint it as a thing of the past, something I "used to" have a problem with until I took my first year seminar course and learned tricks from my professor to stay on top of my work.

I will give myself the credit of knowing that my time management skills have indeed improved immensely since my freshman year. This comes naturally, as you become more used to the college routine and the knowledge that you're going to be scheduling your week and doing things differently every semester.

But if I'm being honest with myself, the struggle is still real. And I think that's true for most of us--we will always have days, weeks, or semesters when we just cannot get a grasp of what the perfect schedule is for us.
Gosh, where did the time go?

I think this is important to recognize, nothing to shy away from, and nothing to be embarrassed about. Because time management skills and procrastination are such huge issues among our generation, it's necessary to talk about.

So, back in the day when I was a first-year student, I wasn't quite sure how to handle the whole college thing. For the first time in my young adult life, my day wasn't dictated by a bell schedule. I had to keep an eye on the time for myself and get myself to class on time. I had more responsibility and more freedom at the same time--I mean, how weird it was that I didn't have to start the morning with the pledge of allegiance, that I could go put my books away in my room rather than my locker (and maybe take a nap before my next class while I was at it), and that I could freely venture off-campus during the school day if I wanted to? I didn't even have to take gym class anymore! It seemed great.

Then, a few weeks into the semester, I suddenly became incredibly overwhelmed. I realized that I had no idea when I should be eating, sleeping, or doing homework, and two out of three of those things ended up often happening at 3 a.m. (I bet you can guess which ones). I'd show up to class with dark circles under my eyes. I hadn't yet discovered coffee, but the black tea in my to-go mug was a constant. It was around this time that Professor Sloane, my first year seminar instructor, decided to talk to my class (most of whom looked as much of a wreck as I did) about time management.

Since then, I've pulled more than a few all-nighters. I've eaten pizza at 4 a.m. I've spent my weekend engaging in fun activity after fun activity (or laying around watching Netflix) until 10 p.m. on Sunday evening, a prime time to start thinking about homework (and not actually starting until 11). I've admittedly been late to class due to trying to complete or print an assignment last-minute. I've made all the mistakes and poor time-management choices one could possibly make.

Why am I telling you this? To remind you that you are not alone and it happens. We all procrastinate and we all make some of those bad choices. It doesn't make us bad people, it makes us normal people.

So, what do I do when I get stuck in a procrastination rut?

-You're working on a paper. Your research is done and laid out in front of you, you've got Microsoft Word up on your computer, and twenty minutes ago you typed a heading and your first two sentences. Since then, you've been staring at the blinking cursor on your screen in a total daze. What gives?

This is your brain telling you that you need to take a break. You need a few minutes to get yourself back into the groove you were in earlier, or something that will help you transition from the reading and processing information phase into the writing phase. Rather than letting your brain sit idle, as that can easily get you to lose interest, turn your attention to something else that will help you get into a good mindset for the task at hand. For me, that was switching over to write this blog post. I just finished my research for a paper I'm working on, and halfway into my first paragraph began to zone out. So I came over here. Is it a form of procrastination? Yes. But it's a productive form of procrastination (strange such a thing can exist, I know) and as soon as I'm done with this I know I'll be ready to focus on my paper.

-You just don't want to do it. But you have to.

More often than not, this will happen to me when I have to leave my house in order to work on something, such as when I have a project that involves using Adobe programs and I have to walk over to Bergeron or Jeanmarie and get on a computer. The way I handle this is simple, but it's effective. All I do is repeat to myself how much I truly enjoy the work I'm doing. Hopefully, especially by the time you're in college, you're passionate about what you're learning (if you're not, then the source of your problem isn't procrastination, it's that you might not be doing what's best for you, and you might want to re-evaluate what you really want to do). Once I get myself off the couch and over to a computer lab, I get completely lost in my work. I'm so transfixed on my project that I don't realize how much time passes (which explains the whole 4 a.m. thing) and I often leave the lab feeling great about the time I put in (and wishing I had started earlier).

-Your friends want to chill, but you have stuff to do.

Maybe they finished all their work while you were binge-watching Gilmore Girls and eating a tub of Cheese Balls. That was your choice. Take ownership of it, pity yourself for a few minutes, go through the stages of anger while you think about how your friends are having a great time without you, and then move on. Chances are they're doing the same thing this Sunday that they'll be doing next Sunday (or something equally fun), and maybe you can join them then, if you work your schedule out better this week. In fact, make that your goal so that you can enjoy that time.

If you do choose to hang out with them over homework (maybe they had concert tickets or something out of the ordinary was happening), you need to take ownership of that decision, too. You know you're getting home at 11 p.m. and you still need to write a speech for the next day that counts for half your grade? Well, okay, but realize that when you're still awake the next morning, you made this choice. Make some coffee, put on a nice dress and a smile, rock that speech and then go home and take a long nap. It happens to all of us. Just don't make it a habit, and remember above all that you need to take care of yourself.

So kids, that's that. Manage your time well. If you make a mistake, forgive yourself, and remember for next time where you went wrong. Now that I've had a productive hour of procrastination, I'm ready to tackle that paper. Let's get to it!

PS, I'm stealing this cute idea from my lovely housemate Merrill: What I'm listening to right now: "Brothers" album by The Black Keys

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