Keeping the Edge Without Losing the Fun

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As classes begin, many individuals will be experiencing college life for the first time, and those returning will have to make, sometimes unwanted, adjustments to cope with the ever-increasing difficulty upper level classes can bring. Undoubtedly, many people will struggle, never seeming to “get the hang of” balancing their classes, work, family, and social lives. Some students will see the problem and attempt to fix it, some will see the problem but try to convince themselves that they don’t, and then for some the problem will evade them entirely. Often times, the problem lies in time management.

It is likely that 50% of college students procrastinate regularly and 80-95% occasionally. So, you are not alone if you find yourself watching TV or going out with friends instead of jumping on your homework that isn’t due for 2 days. Personally, when I become overwhelmed with my class load, work, and family obligations I tend to shut down and find any excuse to avoid dealing with the responsibility. I will wash dishes, unclog the bathtub, clean out the litter box, whatever I would normally avoid doing under normal circumstances becomes appealing when overwhelmed. Knowing this about myself is half the battle. If I find myself with a strong desire to clean out the litter box, I stop and ask myself, “What are you avoiding right now?” However, if you go out with friends or watch TV to avoid “work” it may be harder to recognize that as an “unusual urge.” So, how can you avoid procrastination and increase your chances of success (whatever that may be for you) and thus of long-term happiness?

I will be as brief as I can because, if you are like me, you may put off reading this if gets too long. Basically, procrastination seems to come from the lack of immediate reward. That is, if watching TV provides an instant reward (i.e., pleasure) and doing your homework provides a distant reward (i.e., good grades or a college degree), most will choose watching TV without any pervasive conscious thought. If, however, serious thought is given to the situation – a pros and cons list or a step by step of the consequences associated with each choice – most would be compelled to choose the homework. I say compelled because the instant rewards are very powerful. So, here is an idea to help ensure you complete the work necessary during this academic semester and keep the edge you need in the job market while still finding plenty of time for fun and excitement.

SET GOALS.

It seems simple, but it just might work. Have you ever set a goal? If you have, and you achieved it, you know how rewarding it can be. Almost every class you take will have some sort of syllabus or outline of projects/assignments due, and you know there will be some sort of homework virtually every week. Take those outlines and that knowledge and use them to set realistic goals for yourself throughout the semester. Also, it is just as important to set goals for your social life.

Get a notebook specifically for goals and keep it beside you bed, in your purse or backpack, or on the coffee table in your living room. Take you each syllabus and create goals for when you want to be finished with each project or assignment. If the assignment is large (e.g., 10-page paper, larger-than-life sculpture, etc.), set % goals. For example, “On September 22 I want to have roughly 25% of project x completed.” For homework, use your natural schedule and set goals to do coursework on x day every week. That is, a week or two into the semester, you may notice that Thursday nights someone always calls you to go out. Do NOT schedule time to do homework on Thursday night (there may be times when you have to set study time for tests on Thursday, but it should not be a reoccurring thing). If you notice you watch TV with no real purpose on Wednesday nights, set a goal to work on homework for 3-4 hours every Wednesday. For your social life, use the goals set for your academic life to guide you. If you know you have a goal to study on a particular day for 4 hours, be sure to set a goal to do something enjoyable the day before or after. This way, when someone calls on a study/homework day it will easier to say, “No, I cannot go tonight I have work to do, but tomorrow night we can kick it!”

It may help to read each goal out loud to yourself at the start of each day.

Last thing, when starting a task to complete a goal try and visualize how you will complete, at least, the first few steps. This will help get you over the hump of “where should I start” and allow you the confidence to tackle the task at hand. Do not think there is only one way to get started. If you think x is the way, visualize it to see how it works out. If it seems to work, go for it!

Helpful Quotes:

You will never “find” time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.
Charles Bruxton

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.
H. Jackson Brown

In truth, people can generally make time for what they choose to do; it is not really the time but the will that is lacking.
Sir John Lubbock

The surest way to be late is to have plenty of time.
Leo Kennedy

A year from now you will wish you had started today.
Karen Lamb

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