Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Do something every day, a.k.a. build and maintain momentum

Working and going to school full-time is a tremendous challenge. For many of us this means balancing work, family, school and other commitments.

I believe that one of the most important strategies for success is to do something school-related every day.

How many times have you sat down in the evening to do school work, after a long day at the office and an early evening with your family, and looked at your books and decided you just didn't have the energy to read the chapter you planned on reading. Or you thought, "there is no way I can start this paper, I'm just too tired"? In these cases, do something, even if it is something small and not what you had planned on doing.

Too tired for a full homework session? Here are some alternatives: read half of the chapter instead of the whole thing; print articles you have been needing to print; search for articles for an upcoming paper; work on your reference list or a table or any other part of a paper that doesn't take quite as much concentration as writing; check those APA questions that you know you need to resolve; post to your discussion group or complete other online work that is a little more active than heavy reading; grab the easiest or shortest article on your reading list and read that; or read just a few pages of the next chapter that is due.

Printing articles, or reading a few pages may not sound like much, however at the end of the week, those little bits of work add up and you will still have more accomplished than if you had said "I'm too tired to work, I'll do it this weekend."

In addition, doing something (almost) every day, helps you build and maintain momentum. Getting restarted on a Saturday morning after you haven't opened a book for four days is typically more difficult than getting started when you have at least some momentum from having done something every day.

A word about "(almost)" every day... I also have ideas on the importance of breaks and days off... I'll save these for another post.

Thoughts? What kinds of work do you do when you are tired for the most intense work? How do you keep yourself moving?

You can do it! One day at a time!



  1. Hi,

    Good points raised. I think we get distracted because we overload our mind with all the issues that are going to face us in the future and that prevents us from functioning for the present.

    I think it is best to compartmentalise our days for instance :-
    8-7 PM focus on office work
    8PM - 9 PM study for our course
    Sat - work on our course for 5-6 hours
    Sunday - have a blast etc.
    Then we may be more effective. I know that it works for me but I must say that I have a fantastic family that allows me to do that.

    I am an adult Doctoral level student from India who has recently relocated from UK and am in USA for next 5 years till I find out what my destiny has in store for me.

    Would love to hear about what else needs to be done from you all

    Best regards

  2. Hi Aninda,

    Thanks for writing! You make several good points. I think a lot about chunking or compartmentalizing time and about even brief amounts of time off (Sunday: have a blast!). I also think about how we are sometimes distracted in ways that keep us from working effectively. These are all issues I will take on in future blog posts. In the meantime, I'd love to hear from others -- what have you figured out about working effectively? What are your struggles re: academic and the rest of life? Have a good day all. Harriet


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