FYI: In the “University Survival Tips” category of my blog, I’ll write a couple posts per week about something I’ve learned over the past six months (how to study effectively, meet new people, avoid the freshman fifteen, become friends with your teachers without being a suck-up, etc). I’ll definitely need your advice, so don’t hesitate to drop me a line with some tips of your own.
Whether you’re in high school, university or the workplace, time management has probably been a problem for you at some point in your life. If you’re like me and you really like to procrastinate, putting things off can seem like the best option at the time – and sometimes, it works. When I’m writing 1,500-word essays for my courses, for example, it’s not uncommon for me to do some of my best thinking on Sunday nights. And get this: the essays are due on Monday mornings! But university has taught me that procrastination will always come back to haunt me, so lately I’ve been trying something new called “Do It Now”. Pretty boring, I know…but think of it this way. The sooner you get stuff done, the sooner you can hang out with your friends or do whatever it is that you like to do when there’s no work to be done and you’re free as a bird. Sounds like heaven, don’t it?
I hope the following anti-procrastination tips will help you as much as they’ve helped me.
1. Make a schedule.
I’m a pretty busy person. I take 5 exercise classes each week, have several hours of lectures every day, go out with my friends often, etc. While it can be tough to arrange my schedule so that there’s an equal balance of work and play, I find it helps me to put these appointments in my BlackBerry calendar, which has a very loud, very annoying (albeit very effective) alarm. Remember to include smaller things like “Laundry” and “Call Grandma” because the less urgent tasks are the ones you’ll be most tempted to put off for as long as you can. Hopefully an irritating daily alarm will motivate you to return that sweater or start your essay now as opposed to later.
2. Stick to the schedule.
It’s frustrating when you have work to do and your friends want you to hang out with them. You feel bad saying no to them, but you’d feel ten times worse if you had to stay up til the early hours of the morning finishing your work. That’s why I figure out when my assignments are due and when the parties/events are beforehand and and organize my BlackBerry calendar with all of these dates. Then I add in an alarm for any important assignments that are due (the alarm goes off a day or two in advance so that I know the deadline is coming up). This seems be working because every time a “deadline alarm” goes off, I check to make sure that I’ll be finished that assignment/task within a couple of days.
3. Set attainable goals.
You’ve probably had people tell you that you can “achieve anything you set your mind to.” While support from your friends and loved ones is definitely a confidence booster, it can sometimes be a little aggravating. I find that they occasionally nag me to the point where I just lose interest in whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing. My suggestion is to set goals that you know you’ll be able to accomplish. If you aim to write just 300 words of a paper today and 300 tomorrow, you’ll feel like those are easily achievable goals. It’s much easier to sit down at your computer and tell yourself “Just 300 words by the end of the night” than “Okay, 1,500 words by the end of the night…where do I start?!” Baby steps are key in getting things done – don’t bite off more than you can chew.
4. Make plans with other people.
Though it’s taken me some time to realize this, one of the best things about university is that you’ll always find someone who’s in the same (or at least a very similar) situation as you. If you hand in a paper late, cram for an exam, or rush to finish an assignment so that you’ll have time to party, there will always be another person doing the same thing. However, since none of these situations are ideal, you might benefit from planning things with your friends. For example, I wanted to sign up for yoga classes this year but I knew I wouldn’t be motivated enough to attend the bi-weekly classes. Then my roommate joined yoga too, and so far we’ve gone to most of the classes. It’s great because I can cross things off my to-do list and also have someone else to keep me motivated (this works for everything from exercising to studying to grocery shopping).
Try these tips and see if they help you…you don’t have anything to lose. 🙂