What’s this, another post about procrastination during finals season? A total surprise, I know. But, dear UCWbLers, I have something to confess: I had a really hard time writing this post. I too have finals work that I should be doing (probably right now as I write) and I too suffer from procrastination. In the spirit of honesty and alleviating some of my own stress along with yours, here are a few strategies that have served me well (and probably will again, in the next week or so).
Set the Stage
I like to decide on specific chunks of time to work on my finals, and prepare myself carefully for minimal distraction. I’ll pick a time when I know my roommate will be out, or go to a nearby cafe. I’ll give myself plenty of time to work on the particular task. Usually I like to have a hot drink (coffee or flavored tea) and my iPod close at hand (often foreign-language or classical music since I can’t really get distracted by singing along). It’s different for everyone, I’m sure, but I like to get comfortable in a quiet space and allow myself breathing space where I can get some serious work done. I find that distractions can be minimized if you plan ahead.
There’s usually at least one freakout in my finals season. “Oh gosh, I have so much to do and so little time to do it in, and look at that, my panicking for the last hour has reduced my time even further!” To combat this, I like to make a finals schedule and assign myself I know is doable in the time I’ve allotted myself for each day. For instance, today is the day I write this post, and tomorrow is the day I write an introduction to my poetry analysis paper, and so on. If you can break up the workload into manageable chunks, you can get more done – and beat the panic.
Don’t Force It
So what happens if you wake up in the morning and realize that it’s just not going to happen today? Maybe you have no ideas, or just can’t bring yourself to complete that day’s chunk. Don’t worry about it. If my essay’s just not coming, I put it off til the next day (or even better, substitute it for another assignment that I feel better about on that day). Forcing yourself to do an assignment before it feels ready isn’t productive, and has led to more than one unsatisfactory final product in my experience.
Mark Your Progress
I’m a big fan of to-do lists. Finals feels less stressful when I can list my assignments and, in truly cathartic fashion, check them off as I finish them (this is also a great help in the aforementioned assignment scheduling process). I recently discovered Wunderlist.com – an online to-do list site that can export your schedule to basically any mobile device – and suddenly my to-do list love has joined the digital age. Plus, to-do lists are practically asking to be doodled on, which is in turn great for stress relief.
Finished with your assignment for the day (or at least, halfway there)? Watch a TV episode, or get food with a friend. Don’t beat yourself up about not doing enough; instead, reward yourself for what you’ve accomplished. So what if you end up spending an hour on homework and three hours on leisure? Your sanity will thank you later.
Don’t Be a Hermit
Additionally, don’t retreat entirely. Devoting yourself wholly to finals is going to drive you crazy and induce more panicked freakouts, and your work will suffer. Remember to get out and see people, or take a walk around the block. Plus, it really helps me to talk to a friend about what I’m working on, or a Writing Center tutor. You’re not alone in this.
That’s all for now! Good luck, and remember – you can do it!