Why I am a Terrible Student
This will come as a shock to many, but I am a terrible student. I know, I know. That doesn’t sound right. I get good grades and participate in class, and I’ve always done the reading. But I promise you, it’s bad:
I have just spent 1 and a half days re-watching the first 2 seasons of How to Get Away with Murder because I’ve been locked in a semi-comfortable bubble of procrastination. The only reason I’ve climbed out of bed to write this is that I lured myself out of with coffee and the promise of meatballs and pasta for tea.
I’m a procrastinator. There I said it.
This isn’t a new thing. I remember as far back as A Levels, working out how long it would take me to memorise a textbook of research, and then waiting until the last minute to revise. I could normally cram everything I needed for a Psychology exam into my brain over 3 or 4 days, sit the exam, and then rinse it all out with 10 hours of video games.
When it came to my bachelor’s, I discovered that I could also turn essay writing into a fine art. I could knock out a 2-3000 word essay in 3 days, and then spend a few more editing until I hated the sight of the thing. And I always submitted a day or two early, so I didn’t have to stand in the queue coming out of the English office.
For some reason, in the world of work, procrastination was never an issue. There were a few parts of my job that weren’t particularly thrilling, but I would always schedule time for them and make sure they got done. Honestly, after 3 and a half years outside of education, I thought I’d kicked the habit. That I had rid myself of the procrastination bug. I thought that when I went back to being a full time student, I would be able to work 9-5 (or let’s be realistic, 10-5:30) Monday to Friday, and I would be super productive all the time.
Yet, here I am, having spent a good portion of the morning going “one more episode”, “after this one finishes”, tucked up warm in bed, with that curl of anxiety sitting in the pit of my stomach.
Of course, in days gone by, I used to sit on that feeling until it burnt up my insides and I literally couldn’t rationalise not doing the work for a moment longer. You would have been lucky if you’d seen this blog post by 11 pm this evening (GMT). These days, however, I like to think I’ve found ways to work with myself, that make life easier:
- I’ve learnt how to tell when I actually need time off – Thursday was a good day, but a long day, which ended with myself and a friend stuck in a car park for 2 hours, due to traffic in the centre of Birmingham. I didn’t get to bed until 1am. So Friday, I was not in the mood to move.
2. I’ve learnt how to time manage – because I took Friday to recover, everything had been pushed back to today. So I got up early, knowing how long it was going to take me to get motivated on a Saturday.
3. I’ve learnt how to nudge myself along – this usually involves step 1) get laptop, step 2) get back into bed. My house can get cold during the day, so I sometimes catch myself in a procrastination loop because I don’t want to get out of the warm place. Once the laptop is in the bed, I have little excuse not to work. If I do little things that make working easier, I get more done.
4. I keep an eye on how I’m feeling – that anxious curl in the pit of my stomach, is both why I procrastinate, and why I need to do things. So if I find myself getting antsy, I use that energy to push myself forward rather than sitting on it. Even if it’s just sending and e-mail or making an essay plan, it’s all progress that counts.
5. I’ve learnt how to forgive myself – there was a time when I would get really irritated with my procrastination. I would sit for hours beating myself up about it, but now I sort of role my eyes and think okay, friend, time to get going. This is normally followed by me standing up with a groan like an old man and making myself a cup of coffee before I’ll do anything more (I may be on decaff, but coffee is life.)
So yes, I’m a terrible student, but luckily enough I’m a fantastic procrastinator. Adjusting to my MA has been something of a whirlwind, but I’m getting there. I hope.
I’d be interested to know how you folks deal with procrastination? How do you get motivated? I’ve noticed I’m getting readers from all over the place, so I sort of want to know if procrastination tips differ from country to country.