Got an assignment to write?
Got a deadline looming?
Don’t know where to start?
Have you been putting it off?
Or are you feeling pretty laid back about it because you’ve got ages yet until you need to hand it in, right?
But time doesn’t stand still. The more you put it off the worse that nagging feeling is going to get that you should be at least be starting to check out some sources.
Or maybe you’ve sourced your references, made impeccable notes and have your bibliography in order but just can’t seem to find the time or rather you can’t find the ‘thinking space’ to get into the writing zone, sit down and start hammering away at the keys on your laptop, the words just flowing easily, fluently and succinctly onto the page, perfectly…like a dream.
And that’s the point, isn’t it? We dream about being able to write like that. Before we start writing, we wish that it could be easy…because we know what’s coming. We know that it isn’t going to be. We hope that our ideas, thoughts and viewpoint will magically turn themselves into perfectly synthesised logic of position, line of argument and counter argument.
Perhaps there are people with exceptional academic talents who find the writing process runs more easily and smoothly than for the rest of us. But most of us feel uncomfortable at the thought of writing academically.
We fear the writing process itself, thinking that it is going to be difficult, messy and overly time-consuming. But we also fear that our piece of writing is not going to be good enough. We imagine that we are not going to be able to express our ideas clearly enough. We worry what our supervisor will say in their feedback. We feel that perhaps we don’t have the right to be expressing our opinion on such matters. We don’t feel authoritative enough.
So, we procrastinate.
…the thing is, if we want to be successful in today’s world we have to find strategies to learn how to manage procrastination. It might be to our benefit to put a piece of writing off for a short period if we have an intense week coming up or if there are too many other things going on at the same time.
….we might be putting off writing because we’re persistently finding other things to do such as checking our phones, looking at websites, watching videos on Youtube, signing up for things, messaging, going out, organising stuff and being a slave to constant interruptions. Then we end up complaining about all the things we’ve got to do. But at a certain point we have to ask ourselves what our priorities are.
Stephen Covey in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ says we have to learn to ‘”put first things first” (Habit 3) if we want to be successful. So, if we really want to be our best selves in our academic life we can get rid of the worst of our procrastination if we learn to prioritise.
Well, here are some strategies for prioritising:
- Learn to say no to ourselves and to others.
- Learn to schedule your writing time and use a diary to make yourself accountable.
- Get clear on your own values and the reasons why you have chosen to go to university.
- Create boundaries for yourself so you can plan time for writing, for example, in the mornings and then use the afternoons for going out.
- Learn to work in shorter bursts over longer periods so you avoid doing everything at the last minute. Set a timer if necessary so you stick to it. You will be much more productive this way.
- Keep your notes and references organised in one place so you don’t waste time later.
- Set strict limits on electronic distractions. Keep your phone out of arm’s reach when writing and close all other tabs on your laptop.
- Update people on when you’re going to be writing and when you’ll be free and contactable. That way they won’t bombard you with messages if you don’t answer straight away.
If you put these strategies into practice you will find that your lives improve immeasurably. You will be more productive, people will treat you better and you will being to feel that you actually have more time to get our assignments done but also more time for downtime too.
You’ll feel so much better for it. And you will find that the quality of your writing improves too leading to better marks.