It’s ten minutes to a deadline and you’re hurriedly typing the final paragraph for a paper. At some point, we’ve all been there. Work was put off by poor time management and the continual promise that time would be found later. Assignments weren’t put on a calendar. You spent too much time on social media. Everything added up until the rare moment you graciously gave school your attention and realized your paper is due in four hours, not twenty-four hours. Last week, after realizing you hated the stress, you promised not to procrastinate again. Yet, here you are, rinsing and repeating, writing substandard papers in pursuit of a word count. Students can often fall into a vicious cycle of procrastination, which can only be broken by proper time management and organization.
Congratulations! You’ve reached the first step of recovery, which is admitting you have a problem. Being a procrastination master is a skill worth being proud of; however, if the cycle negatively affects your grades, attitude towards school, and home life, then it’s probably time for a change. Start by identifying where the time in your day is allocated, and make a list if necessary. Students enrolled in online courses tend to lead busier lives, which is why they turn to a non-traditional method of completing their degrees. You may find yourself juggling work, your children, chores, hobbies, appointments, or any combination with school. Now you must prioritize. Make a list of your time hierarchy. What areas in your life are rigid with time? What areas are more flexible? This helps identify where you can steal time to focus on schoolwork. Once you’ve got a rough idea of where and how time in the day is spent, you’ll be able to choose where schoolwork fits in.
The second step towards a less stressful school career is organization. Transitioning to a more structured approach to school is a lifestyle change and requires more than just base effort. Take some time to study the different class syllabi and write down assignment due dates on a calendar. Knowing when things are due in relation to where you are in the week is imperative to providing a bit of structure to your study time. Afterwards, pick a time every day to devote to your studies. You don’t need to study at the same time, but you should work toward a consistent routine. A reminder should be put in place to prompt you to do schoolwork. Everyone is different, so the reminder must be something that works for you: a dry erase calendar, a To-Do list, or a phone alarm may push you in the right direction. Eventually you won’t need to rely on reminders to get the job done.
Great, now you have a plan! Unfortunately, the plan won’t help you at all if you don’t execute it. Your successes ultimately depend on how much you want them and the effort you are willing to put into assignments. Creating daily or weekly goal lists for assignments and study sessions will facilitate a feeling of accomplishment within the longer semesters. Furthermore, taking full advantage of your ASU coach by reflecting on past assignments, planning for future projects, and discussing study times will keep you on the right track. By keeping track of your goals and involving your ASU coach, you will feel more accountable for your schoolwork, which will push you to give it adequate focus.
In the words of motivation speaker Jim Rohn, “There are two types of pain you will go through in life, the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. Discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tonnes.” Spending time focusing on school may not be as enjoyable as spending time with family or engaging in hobbies. Despite this concession, it is also important to note your degree will ultimately help your future. Carving out time to study on a daily basis may not be exciting, but you’ll avoid the stressful meltdown involved with procrastinating on an assignment, put forth a better effort, and consequently get a better grade. Break the cycle of procrastination today!