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Fighting tooth and nail to keep your eyelids from drooping any further, battling both your exhaustion and the glare from your computer screen, you turn your head to look at the clock on the wall.
The hands slowly settle into focus as your brain in a state of pure haze attempts to function, struggling to concentrate on deciphering the long hand from the short hand and what, in combination, they’re trying to tell you.
“Three…twenty-four,” you think to yourself. The marked lack of light shining through your open windows leads you to conclude that that’s 3:24 a.m., not p.m. That level of cognitive function is easier said than done at this point, as you’ve reached the point in the night when you begin to suspect you’re sleep-working.
Sound familiar? Most every student has been put into this predicament a few–if not more–times during their college career. It’s a less-than-thrilling aspect of rigorous education courses, and an entirely avoidable one, at that.
The culprit, of course, is procrastination. The p-word if there ever was one can be blamed for more sleepless nights, barely-passing grades and “sorry, I can’t do anything tonight,” texts than anything else.
But it can be beat.
Making an action plan for attacking the work that needs to be done is step one in beating procrastination. Whether you like it or not, that 15-page paper on the history of the textile industry needs to be done. And, chances are, there’s a specific date by which you’ll have to have it on the desk of your professor. So logically, plan out when you want to get it done by, piece by piece.
Get a desk calendar or planner and write down what days you plan to work on what projects/assignments. If you break that 15-page paper down into segments, choose five days that you’ve got available time to crank out three pages over the course of five days is considerably less daunting than 15 pages in one hellish evening.
Adequate planning, including creating to-do lists (what’s more satisfying than crossing something out?) can help avoid not only procrastination, but overloading yourself with work. By planning your evenings of work out and sticking to it, you can ensure that your work will get done and your evenings can be spent watching the Yankees, not falling asleep standing up over your coffee maker.
2. Work at a desk, not your bed
Believe it or not, where you’re working can have more of an impact on what you’re getting done than you may think. Having a designated work area, be it a desk, an office in your house or a room somewhere on campus can help increase the quantity and quality of the work you put out on a nightly basis. Though sometimes it you might be compelled to ask a friend or classmate to hang around while you’re writing your papers, this can be detrimental to your overall work ethic, as you may find the conversation shifting from the textile industry rather quickly.
Wherever you do choose to work, make sure it’s not your bed. Numerous studies have indicated that your bed should is best suited for sleeping. Trying to get work done while you’re relaxed on your bed can trick your brain into thinking you’re trying to sleep.
3. Take Breaks
Having a predetermined plan of action doesn’t mean sitting at your desk pounding away until you realized you can’t feel your legs anymore. Taking periodic breaks not only won’t harm your work ethic, it’ll more than likely help it. Writing three pages about polyester fibers doesn’t need to be done in one sitting. For every half an hour of unbridled work, try taking a five to ten minute break to unwind. Check your phone, log onto Facebook, listen to some music (if you aren’t already, or take a short walk around the block. Sometimes, a break is exactly what you need to re-energize yourself.
When the conventional methods of harnessing your inner focus fall short, we can always turn to technology to help. Chrome extensions like StayFocused can help increase productivity by blocking certain websites between certain hours of the day. You can also add a list of time-suckers to a list, and StayFocused will prevent you from spending too much time on them.
The Nuclear Option of StayFocused can be huge when it comes to getting work done in crunch time. The Nuclear option prevents you from accessing any of a predetermined list of websites for a time period you decide. This can’t be undone, so tread lightly. If you decide to block Facebook for four hours, prepare yourself to go four full hours completely void of photos and status updates from your friends.
This goes hand-in-hand with both planning and taking breaks. If you’ve been meaning to catch up on House of Cards on Netflix, or have been saving that last ice cream sandwich for a special occasion, consider leveraging them. Simple psychology states that positively reinforcing good behavior (studying) with a small reward (ice cream, House of Cards, etc) can increase the likelihood of the behavior. It doesn’t take a genius (or psychology major) to figure out why this works. If you’re rewarding yourself for studying, you’ll be more motivated to study, it’s as simple as that.
Exhaling, you click “Save” one last time, just to be safe, and close your laptop. After brushing your teeth and washing your face, you hop into bed, pulling the comforter up to your chin. As you doze off to sleep, you catch sight of the clock just before your eyes close.
“Ten fourteen,” you think to yourself. Then, you fall asleep.
That sounds better, doesn’t it?