If you are one of those people that wait until the last minute to do work (I know I am), you can get stuck in a bit of a jam. Picture that busy week that we all have. There was a soccer game you had to go to, a bunch of different meetings for the clubs you’re involved in, the party you just couldn’t miss, and all those things your friends were doing that were just way more interesting than that awful assignment. Next thing you know it's 10 p.m. and you still have to write a 15-page paper that’s due at 8:30 the following morning (this was me last week). And we will all somehow swear that we had "absolutely no other time to do it."
College is a stressful time. You have four classes to handle along with at least two hours of homework in each class, and if you’re like me, you are also trying to be involved in as many different things on campus as possible. You're then packing your schedule as tightly as possible, which then leaves you with little to no time to get things done. There becomes a tendency to wait until last minute and people somehow like the suspense of doing things down to the wire. This can undoubtedly lead to stress. I believe there is some kind of cheap thrill that accompanies doing something the last minute it's due, and in a lot of cases, some people work more efficiently under these kinds of circumstances, but some do not.
If you are one of those people, here is how to succeed:
1. Stop and get in the zone.
This works for people in different ways. Most people need to just zone out other thoughts or distractions and resist the urge to procrastinate. I challenge you all the next time you're cramming and are about to open up a different page/browse Facebook/talk to your roommate, to think, "is this distraction or procrastination effort worth getting a C on this assignment?" Which yes, is probably not the end of the world, but can still negatively affect your grade. There are actually apps that allow you to block sites for up to 24 hours, to reduce your social media distractions.
Here's a list of apps to use to block distractions . One particular one I like is called "Freedom."
2. Make a checklist.
It could be that you have multiple different things due the next day, or an assignment that has many different parts. It is easy to waste a good amount of time freaking out and getting mad at yourself for waiting last minute, but instead, use that time to write out a checklist of everything you need to do and even in a time span to do it. Make sure to give yourself extra time just in case. Even schedule in breaks so that you are not going to explode!
Evernote is a good website and an app for checklists and allows you to make as many different checklists as you need!
3. Go to a productive setting.
It may be hard to get things done in a house or dorm filled with friends chatting about upcoming weekend plans or their favorite TV shows airing. Go to the library and seclude yourself in a quiet section. Or if you don’t like the library because it becomes more a social scene than study scene, walk over to one of your department buildings. Try to find a comfy spot where you can focus -- but don't get too comfortable where you’ll fall asleep!
4. Exercise (quickly).
Exercising your body helps your brain. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which makes you feel better. In return, you will feel more confident in your work and have a better ability to focus.
5. Read some inspirational quotes.
This depends on the person, whether it will work or not. Reading a few inspirational quotes, regardless what they are about, will motivate you to do well and move forward. I like to read some quotes every day because it boosts your mood and makes you want to work hard. Here's a list of quotes that I particularly find inspiring.
6. Drink caffeine.
I hate to say this but if you are in for a long night and are committed to it,
or energy drinks will help you get through it. But don't overdo it or you might find yourself in a caffeine overdose and once again paralyzed with anxiety.
7. Play music.
This depends on the person. Some people work better with music, some see it as a distraction. If you are going with music, I suggest not rap or rock music, or any music with words in that case. You’ll end up listening to the words of the song and singing along instead of focusing on the assignment. Try some soothing or classical music (I actually have a playlist called “soothing” for times of stress). Below is a good playlist to help you focus:
8. Reward yourself.
Studies show that people work better with positive rewards. Set milestones in your progression and reward yourself with each one; this can be either a piece of candy or your favorite snack.
NOTE: The reward should not be the same thing as a distraction, in other words, you cannot reward yourself with time to browse the net or checking your Instagram feed.
It is always better to not let yourself get into a situation where you feel you need to cram. However, for a college student you are bound to find yourself in a cramming crisis. Don’t freak out – make the best plan possible and get to it!