Part of this difference occurs because as time goes on, so does the amount of work we have to do to maintain high standards in our classes and activities. Another part comes from our brains’ natural tendencies to become more efficient over time. If we learn we can still do well, or at least acceptably, in class while doing slightly less work, it’s natural for us to take the path of least resistance and succumb to the temptation to cut corners.
Of course, this can be unfortunate when your “essay that is due in one week” lands on the cutting room floor until the night before.
So what are some ways that we can keep up the momentum from the beginning of the semester to the end of the semester to avoid the high-stress environments we land in when we procrastinate?
One way is to start of the semester with a rigid schedule. Oftentimes a professor will list off all the due dates for a course in the class syllabus. This is a good time to plan ahead for your next month or so. Personally, I don’t do well with hour-to-hour schedules, but knowing in general what homework I should be getting done each day helps me keep on track. That way, even if I have a bad day where I struggle to finish everything on my plate, I have a good idea of when and how I can catch back up.
Another way is to take a good look at your priorities and decide where you will and won’t compromise. As a math major, I know that I don’t want my grade to drop in my math classes, whereas in my research I can afford to take a week or two off to focus on my grades. Ideally I can maintain both, but knowing ahead of time that I refuse to compromise on getting my math done in a timely manner will help me stay on track with my true goals during the overwhelming parts of the semester.
Finally, in my opinion, the most important way to stay on track is maintaining a reasonable and consistent sleep schedule. This is an area in which I personally struggle. You might think that you’re not losing time staying up an hour or two later binging YouTube or scrolling through Instagram, but chances are the next day you’ll either wake up later or be more tired than you would otherwise. Staying healthy is the best way to ensure you’re doing quality work, and you’ll feel a lot more motivated if you feel awake enough for your daily tasks. Don’t let sleep slip.
Hopefully some of this advice may be helpful for you to keep in mind going into the school year. Sometimes, it’s not the big challenges that are the hardest, but the struggle every day to keep ourselves on track and healthy. Just remember that the work you do to maintain yourself and your grades will not go unrewarded.
-- Joanna Slusarewicz