Tips for Getting Schoolwork or Writing Done
Basic Principles of Efficacy
This is adapted from work by Dr. Robert Boice, PhD. The principles are his (word for word except the word "writing" in #5 is replaced with "actual work". The explanations are in my own words. The principles are based on controlled studies - not just his opinion.
1. Wait. Do exercises to calm down and focus.
2. Begin before feeling ready. This helps you to develop systematic ways of finding imagination and confidence.
3. Work in brief, daily sessions. Be very consistent in this; make it a habit.
4. Stop. This is often the must difficult principle to put into practice. You have to learn to stop in the middle of things so you don't exhaust yourself. Use a timer or ask a friend to remind you it's time to stop.
5. Balance preliminaries with actual work. Schedule prep time as well as actual work time. For example, if you're writing a paper or article, schedule time for outlining or other preparation steps as well as writing time, and make sure that you devote time to both.
6. Supplant self-defeating thinking and habits. Monitor self-talk. If you're putting yourself down, stop it. Tell yourself that you can do this.
7. Manage emotions. Don't let yourself get too hyper while you're working. It's okay to feel excited about something you're writing or reading once in a while, but don't let yourself get so hyper that you start rushing through things.
8. Moderate attachments and reactions. This applies mainly to when you're writing papers or articles. Don't get so attached to your early drafts that you resist revision. Don't freak out if you get negative feedback.
9. Let others, even critics, do some of the work. This applies more to people in work situations than in school. Delegate and collaborate where you can.
10. Limit wasted effort. Monitor your work habits for inefficiencies - for example, spending a lot of time on something that's not that important.
Some Helpful Quotes
"Most jobs need completion, not perfection." -Unknown
"Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone... The wisdom of life consists in the eliminatin of nonessentials." -Lin Yutang, Chinese writer and educator
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An University Service
Here's the link to the University of Chicago's Student Counseling & Resource Service, for those of you that live in that area:
If only Universities helped students and research workers to overcome procrastination also here in Italy!
Agree but ...
Although this is certainly good advice, it assumes that procratination is simply a work process or time management issue which requires a logical/rational solution. Perhaps here lies the distinction between the common, normal variant of procrastination (that everybody experiences from time to time) and the more clinical, "compulsive escapism" that many of us on this site experience. For those of us in the later category, we know we SHOULD "balance preliminaries with actual work" and "limit wasted effort" but we don't. Just like an alcoholic knows he shouldn't drink (but does anyway).
Anyway, just my two cents.
Simple, brilliant, and effective
"Begin before feeling ready." That's probably the single best piece of advice you could give to a procrastinator. Go ahead, start now, even if you don't feel ready to do whatever it is you're not doing.
For procrastinators who are perfectionists, and I know there are a lot of us, the wait for "ready" can be forever. Don't let "I'm not ready" keep you from making progress.
Start. And then keep on starting.
Question for Flexiblefine
Does this one apply to you too, Flexiblefine? I was wondering if you'd already tried following this advice, how you went about it, and what the outcome was.
Beginning before ready
It's not something I do very consciously -- instead, I often step back and say something like "let's figure out what we need to know" as a first step. I may not be ready to tackle writing a piece of code at a given point (I'm a web developer), but I can dig around and figure out where the new code needs to go.
(I have a task like that right now that I've been procrastinating on -- I know where the code needs to go, I know what it needs to do, but I haven't sat down and worked the code out yet because I want a chunk of time to devote to it. Those chunks don't come, they are made, and I haven't made one yet.)
"I'm not ready yet" usually gets trumped by deadlines for a lot of us, so we end up starting before we feel ready. If we were willing to start when unready before the deadline scared us into it, we would find ourselves farther along.
When I read that suggestion, I recognized it as something that has worked for me, even if I haven't thought of it in those terms. Instead of waiting until I know everything I need to, I redefine my task to start with finding out the stuff I need to know.
I tried it
Some things I'm just ~never~ going to feel ready for. Thanks Flexiblefine :)
I like this
Begin before feeling ready Scary! Sometimes though, I ~never~ feel ready. It makes sense to start anyway.
Wait Not a problem! The waiting, that is, I think I could do with the 'focusing' bit.
Work in brief daily sessions Has been working for me recently (as mentioned in previous posts). A very different way of working to how I used to do things, and very effective.
Balance prelim/work I've a tendency to over-prelim (seems to be a procrastinator tendency)
Supplant self-defeating talk/behaviour We've all been working on this one, and still catching ourselves out!
Manage emotions I ~do~ get hyper when I'm getting lots done. I'm not sure how not to other than not time-bingeing. Any ideas anyone?
Moderate attachments and reactions Easier said than done. I find the behaviour modification ones easier to implement than the ones that involve changing my feelings. Negative feedback ~does~ freak me out (perfectionist tendency).
Let others do some work I'm rarely in a position to do this - I'm usually at the bottom of the pecking order! What I ~have~ tried to do though, is find other things that DSO is willing to do that will free up more time for me. It's usually him who empties the bins etc, so that frees up a bit more morning time for me (I still do the majority of the housework - haven't been doing it lately and it shows - he's beginning to notice the house doesn't actually clean itself! He knows this intellectually, but he still doesn't think I do anything, LOL!).
Limit wasted effort This is a familiar one on this board. It's not as easy as saying 'monitor your work habits'. We need to monitor and ~change~ them, and it's that transition that seems to fox some of us ;) (I'm not good with transitions - even from a task I don't like to one I do - weird).
I'm going to try implementing these tips today.
I've been frustratingly unable to get done what I most need to get done lately, so I'm doing to try using these tips today.
Dr. Boice (author of the tips) devoted his career to helping professors write - dealing with writer's block, procrastination, and other problems.