In high school, I was in the International Baccalaureate Program. It was rigorous and intensive. I spent many nights going off of six hours of sleep on average, and I felt burnt out in every waking moment. However, it was high school. My teachers knew me by name and I actually was able to develop a relationship with them based off of respect and my respect for them and unwillingness to disappoint them led me to be able to get (most) of my work done. Now that I'm in college, and being as shy as I am, I don't get to see my teachers every day and they most definitely don't know me by name. My work ethic and motivation to sit down and study has dwindled into something pathetic and, frankly, disappointing. This is when I realized, I needed to teach myself discipline and not rely on others to constantly hold me accountable.
Here's what I learned by observing the intelligent and disciplined people around me:
The first thing I learned was that procrastination is not my friend, it's my vice. I've heard it time and time again and I'm sure you have too. Procrastinating is so satisfying in the moment.
"Yes, I get to watch the next episode of Queer Eye! I can definitely study efficiently, 45 minutes less than what I intended."
NO, YOU CANNOT! Because, one episode will lead to three more and then I get sleepy and by the time I open my notes, I can't process anything that I'm trying to learn. So yes, I did get some wholesome feelings in my heart from watching the Fab 5 spread their love and positivity out into the world, but that means that I also got to fail my bio test.
The best way to beat procrastination is to get rid of your immediate distractions. I started to turn my phone around while studying and I moved my iPad into a drawer so I wouldn't be tempted to watch Netflix while I "study". I noticed how much better I was retaining the information I was reading. But of course, I would reward myself. Start off with giving yourself a 10-minute break every 45 minutes and intermittently increase the timing you put into studying, but I would recommend not going over an hour and fifteen minutes of straight study time because then you'll burn yourself out.
The second thing I learned was that my planner is like my best friend. If I neglect her I won't get to experience the benefits of having her around which hits me hard. Every year I make a big deal about buying my next planner.
It has to be super cute. It can't have an easily bendable spiral and it can't have a delicate cover. I would go to Target, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, literally everywhere that had cheap but cute planners. I'd pick one out and I would fall in love with it. Flashforward into two months of school and guess what? I haven't opened that planner since I bought it.
Having everything written down for all of my classes in one place, especially when in college, has proven to be immensely helpful. For this semester, as soon as I got my syllabuses for my classes, I wrote down the due dates for my assignments and highlighted them to show whether it was a homework assignment, a project/paper, or a test. I'll be honest with you, sometimes I still have a hard time remembering to open up my planner and look at it every day, but on the days that I do, I already feel more motivated to start checking things off.
The third thing I learned is that if I'm going to become a disciplined student then I need to make sure I don't burn myself out. Self-care is so important. It's THE MOST important, if I may be so bold.
I got so used to just watching Netflix and procrastinating on Pinterest and used "self-care" as an excuse. Too much self-care can be just as detrimental to your productivity as not having enough.
Every day should have some bit of joy in it if you're able. And it is up to you. Give yourself ten minutes to just relax and listen to some of your favorite music. Read a good book, one that you enjoy. Go to the gym and get your grind on (not my personal favorite, but to each their own).
Self-care is a way to remind yourself that you're not a machine. You can't just live your life in a go-go-go setting and eventually die out. You owe it to yourself and your beautiful mind and body, that lets you feel everything the way you do, to get some love and appreciation.
I've started to try and watch Netflix a little less and read a little more. I realized I've been using Netflix and TV Shows to avoid responsibility rather than taking the time to enjoy it. Most of the time when I am watching Netflix, I'm still feeling anxious and aware of my bad habits. Reading is a way that I am trying to find some peace and calm in.
And finally, I learned that discipline doesn't always look the same. There are certain things I needed to cater to me.
Like I had mentioned previously, I worked pretty well in high school because I was able to get to know my teachers. In college, I find it incredibly hard to reach out to professors or go to their office hours in fear of being perceived as stupid, which in and of itself is a stupid thing to think.
The people that I look up to in terms of their discipline and work ethic don't need that connection with their teachers to feel motivated to put in effort in their work. And I admire them for that; however, I realized that this is something that I needed to incorporate into becoming a more disciplined version of myself. So I decided to start going to office hours and participating more in class so they can put a face to my name.
As college students, and especially as incoming adults, discipline needs to become an integral part of our lives. We're all in this journey of self-discipline and self-discovery together.