Blog of the Peer Advising Leadership Program, College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

October 1, 2010 6:36 PM

How to Dodge the Procrastination Bug

"There are a million ways to lose a work day, but not even a single way to get one back. " -Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister
You may delay, but time will not. -Benjamin Franklin
Procrastination is opportunity's assassin. -Victor Kiam

It isn't easy keeping up with coursework. As Richard Gibson of the Student Learning Center (SLC) mentioned two Wednesdays ago at CNR's "How to Study for Biology" workshop, "you are never done." You can keep up with your classes and still not be done. And the procrastination bug just makes this situation even worse.

At Berkeley, being able to be up-to-date with the material can be what differentiates between a good grade and a bad grade, depending on your definitions of each. For example, I have suffered from the procrastination bug in the past two years and have gotten B's where I could've gotten A's if I had spent more time and procrastinated less. In fact, I still procrastinate every now and then, but I've learnt how to handle and better manage my time.

Here are some of the ways that I find work for me, and hopefully will work for you:

1. Stay away from the computer.
This is the most important point for me. If I have my computer in front of me, I might notice that, hey! I have an email. Let me go check that out. One hour later, I might've found a really cool music artist that I really like, or read something particularly funny, but accomplished nothing in terms of coursework. So I try to stay away from the computer when I study. If you are like me (can't focus in front of the computer, go to the library, or another study area, and leave your laptop at home.

Elodie, what can I do if I need my computer to work?
What do you need your computer for? If it's for slides, utilize CNR's Resource Center. You can print a maximum of 10 pages per day for free. If you're really good about it, you can print out each of your lecture slides a couple times a week and you won't have to spend any money (on ink, paper, or paying at the Microcomputer Facilities)! Another resource that I've been pointed to is Eshleman Hall's Open Computing Facility, which allows each student that opens an account to print 250 free pages.

If this is for an online assignment (i.e. Mastering Physics, NST 10's weekly online assignments), there isn't an easy way of going at it. I would personally go to any computer facility and use the computers there. These facilities are usually open for a certain amount of time, and pretty much make me fell time-conscious as I work, so I tend to get distracted less.

Well, I'm environmentally conscious, so I don't want to print my notes/slides.
Think of it this way: you can print them one-sided and use the back as scratch paper. Then, instead of using a new sheet of paper to rewrite your notes (another study tip!), you can use the back of your lecture notes!

However, if you still don't want to print them out, that's fine too! Just treat reviewing your slides like an online assignment, and go to a microcomputer facility.

2. Plan your schedule.

This is something else that really works for me. Treat your study time as its own class. Find some open spaces in your schedule (i.e. that pesky hour between two classes in which you have nothing to do) and dedicate that time solely to studying. It doesn't have to be five hours long. It doesn't have to be at night, if you're thinking about tip #1 and are afraid to walk back home in the dark (PS: use BearWALK!). It just has to be a period of time that you can add into your routine and consistently do every week. Before you know it, it's become as much of a part of your schedule as classes!

I'd also encourage for you to set up a period of time dedicated to what you want to do. Don't overwork yourself by scheduling as many study hours as possible. Use your own judgement (look at tip #3) and make sure that you have time to breathe and relax.

3. Set yourself some realistic goals, and reward yourself if you meet them.

Set yourself goals! Get a sense of how long it takes you, on average, to go through problem sets or reading assignments, then set realistic goals. For example, tell yourself, "I will finish reviewing this week's lectures by tomorrow" or "I will finish this problem set by the end of the weekend." Then, (and this will need some self-restraint) if you meet your goal, treat yourself! Get something that you might not normally get, or do something that you really want to do, but can't.

4. Follow the study tips mentioned in previous blog entries.
All of the other Peer Advisors have really good tips for studying, but you should also view certain tips as preventing procrastination. For example, one tip was setting up an appointment with your GSI to meet outside of their regular office hours. If you can, make it regular, so that each week, you basically impose onto yourself a deadline to study the material and prepare yourself with questions, instead of waiting until the night before to email your GSI or professor. Additionally, your GSI might be able to correct any misconceptions you might have, which will result in a better understanding of the material and a better grade.

Midterms are coming up, but these tips can still be of use to you, especially starting the period after midterms. :) I hope that these tips will really help you!


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