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Extreme procrastination

bdubguybdubguy Registered User new member
edited November 2011 in Help / Advice Forum
I am getting desperate. I am a senior in college, and my big project for this semester is a 25-page paper due by Dec 9. As of now I have about 4 pages written. It is meant to be the pinnacle of our undergrad work, and passing this class is required to graduate (which is in May for me). I can't get to solid work on it to save my life it seems. About a month ago, when I was still sort of on schedule, I let my WoW subscription lapse, knowing the new patch coming out would only distract me. Problem is, there is always something else. I will get latched on to some other game instead. In moments, I can force myself to delete some games, especially off of Steam (I wouldn't call them moments of clarity or lucidity, in fact the opposite, it seems as if I shut off my thought process and do it without thinking). After deleting TF2 and Deus Ex, I got back on Gran Turismo 5, which I haven't played in almost a year. After removing the Playstation, I got back into Torchlight. When I beat that, I found myself spending an hour playing fucking Mahjong.

This seems to be some weird compulsive shit I have. I put myself back on Adderall this semester after taking it during high school (didn't want to take any chances) but it doesn't seem to be working like it used to. I have been using the strategy of going to the campus library and studying there, which sometimes works, but even then I sometimes get sidetracked into reading more of my sources (which I can finish later), and weather has made it harder and harder to make the trip out there. I'm at wits end. I'm willing to try anything.

bdubguy on


  • ED!ED! Registered User regular
    It's not "weird compulsive shit" - it's you not learning discipline throughout your academic career (of course I do not if you have actually been diagnosed with anything). One of the first things I tell new students is that they need to refine their study/work habits and stick to it - much like beginning an exercise regimen.

    The only thing you can "try" is to sit down and actually work. Put a sign up in front of you telling yourself to not get distracted if you have to. Because at this point I'd imagine its something like your capstone course which must be passed.

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  • NightDragonNightDragon 6th Grade Username Registered User regular
    I had a similar problem in my senior year of college (I was always a procrastinator, but it got extremely bad my final year). I think in the back of my head I always knew I would get it done, even if getting it done meant being extremely fatigued and miserable and stressed the night before. I don't recommend this.

    How do you work? A little every day, or do you sit down and get large chunks of essays done at a time?

    How can you motivate yourself? How do you best work? Music, caffeine? TV on in the background playing something you don't really care about? Locking yourself in your room during an hour of the day you know you won't be interrupted? Leaving the house completely to help put yourself in a different mentality? Offering yourself a reward for each small step you complete (for every page? Every 2 pages?...every 2 hours?).

    It's getting down to the wire, so you need a plan of action, you need to stick to it, and throughout it all, you need to remind yourself that even if it really sucks, it's temporary. It will all be over soon, but you need to do this. In the end you just have to find a way to get it done. Breaking it down into smaller pieces might make it easier to tackle, mentally. Try not to get overwhelmed with the idea of the entire remaining paper. Right now you'd have to do just over two pages a day, right? That is completely reasonable. Just start somewhere.

  • bdubguybdubguy Registered User new member
    The reason I feel it's compulsive is that this hasn't really happened to me like this before. I have never been one to work ahead, and I usually wait to the last minute, but it's so much worse this semester than ever before, even on other work not related to this long paper. Usually, I'll have maybe a paragraph of a 6-8 page paper written beforehand, and finish it in one hurried marathon session the night before. I've tried to change it for years, but while I have had a lot of improvement in self-discipline elsewhere in my life, in this it hasn't caught on.

    I tend to try to block out a whole day or afternoon to work on nothing but the paper, but even the tiniest distractions are killing me, like they never have before. If I'm a little hungry, I can't seem to work until I get something to eat. If there is a TV on anywhere in the house, it will distract me. It seems endless. This is why I have been going to the library. While there are still some distractions, and I am limited to how many books I can physically carry, I am at least held hostage with no games or anything until it closes. I tried rewards as I have done in the past, but this time I continually cheat.

    What's worse, last weekend I was in a deep forum discussion about some movie or other, and I spent a ton of time researching my points and finding official sources to back my points, which is exactly what this paper entails. However, while genuine interest and nerdy obsession motivated me to remain so focused on that task, I can't summon the same motivation for this. Even though failing this class will undo the last 5 years of college, I seem to be numb to it. Odd, since in past classes I have been borderline panicking over other deadlines and grades.

  • ToxTox I kill threads he/himRegistered User regular
    There's nothing wrong with you. Nothing medical, anyway. This has never happened before, so it's not a symptom of anything other than you not really wanting to do this.

    You just don't want to write this paper. Maybe you're blocked up mentally about it. Maybe you don't know exactly what you want to say, maybe you just think it's a bullshit assignment and you already know all this stuff and why the fuck should you have to write a paper to prove it when your major is such-and-such and method X would be way more effective at demonstrating your knowledge and...

    ...and you just need to get over it, write your paper, and pass.

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  • EsseeEssee The pinkest of hair. Victoria, BCRegistered User regular
    Yeah, Tox is spot-on. Maybe you've just never had an assignment you disliked this much before... this doesn't really seem much different from your previous pattern of behavior at all, except that it's a longer paper. I have troubles with things being delayed 'till the last minute, too, but on top of that, I'm not even capable of pulling all-nighters because of a sleep disorder. You just have to get all that crap out of the way, starting right now, just go do it, so that when that date finally comes around, the amount of procrastination you'll do anyway even though you start working on it right away will make it work out so that you don't have to do the ENTIRE paper the night before, just a goodly amount of it. Trust me on this.

  • ToxTox I kill threads he/himRegistered User regular
    For reference, I used to do the same thing. Then I went half a class where any of the short written assignments (less than a page, no research) would get done while the case projects (1-2 page paper, researched) would get ignored.

    I decided I didn't want a C, so I started forcing myself to finish those assignments early, not letting myself do anything else until it was done.

    I got an A.

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  • Fuzzy Cumulonimbus CloudFuzzy Cumulonimbus Cloud Registered User regular
    I'm in my senior year and feeling the same temptations. Designate a time for yourself where you can play video games or relax or whatever, then make a deal that you will do work after that. Another trick is DONT LEAVE CAMPUS. If you DONT LEAVE CAMPUS, you can go to the library or somewhere else where you can get work done. There are so many distractions at home.

  • EsseeEssee The pinkest of hair. Victoria, BCRegistered User regular
    Yeah, it's really important to give yourself a space wherein there cannot be any distractions. This may be campus for you, but since you said it's getting tougher to get there due to weather, you might need to create someplace in your apartment/house that is a non-distraction zone. Do you live with anyone else? Whether or not you do-- but especially if you do-- you want this place to be somewhere "away" from your distractions. If you have other people around, use a seperate room if possible. If not, or if you're on your own and there's no seperate room for you to work in, try to turn your workstation away from as many distractions as you can. If this isn't enough, and you're letting things like surfing the net get in the way, turn off the dang internet on your computer, and come up with some way to lock down all games you have (maybe make a second account on the machine with no permissions to launch anything except your word processor). "But no, I actually need the internet for my project! I need to do research!" Then do it on a browser with none of your bookmarks (should already be covered by the second account if you go that route?), and really dedicate yourself to ONLY GOING TO THE RESEARCH SITE or find some way to restrict that as well. Perhaps you should download all the stuff you need first (from a school computer?) and then lock things down.

    I know it's tough, but once you create a space in which you aren't distracted and dedicate yourself to not messing around-- whether you need to take extreme measures like blocking your access to other stuff or not-- you can get this stuff done in a timely manner. Even if you only had--say-- three days left, you could still make it tons easier on yourself by getting going on this right away and being dedicated. (Hint: I said three days because I just had to make a final two-day push on an assignment since I hadn't gotten so much finished before that point, due to severe tooth pain. I posted what I did on brief breaks. I made it, heading out to class in 20 minutes or so now, didn't have to pull an entire all-nighter to finish it. The final length was only about half what you need to finish in total though.)

  • LewieP's MummyLewieP's Mummy Registered User regular
    OK, you have 11 days to write a further 21 pages, that's less than 2 a day, and its for your degree. Do it, stop pratting about.

    Go and talk to your tutor - get them to help you, its what they're paid to do! Take what you've done so far, work out a schedule with them and stick to it. Make appointments to see them to update your progress and keep them.

    Make a chart with deadlines on it, and as you achieve each deadline, celebrate and reward yourself, even if its just write another page!

    Plan something you really want to do when you've finished to celebrate it, and then remind yourself about it.

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  • JohnnyCacheJohnnyCache Starting Defense Place at the tableRegistered User regular
    get up in the morning, work out, shower, shave (if you're of a shaving persuasion), and eat. As early as possible. Sounds stupid, but I swear it works. Studying can become part of your "pre-reset" routine, the shit you do before you really start your day, and that group of shit is usually a bunch of distaff things you subconsciously consider optional. Also, conversely, GO TO BED. Don't pass out in a chair or play games from bed. Set an alarm for say, 0030, and when it goes off, turn off your electronics, read for half an hour, then undress, go in the bedroom and lay in the bed in the dark.

  • OrikaeshigitaeOrikaeshigitae Registered User, ClubPA regular
    Assuming you haven't bought it illegally, you have Adderall because of a previous ADD diagnosis. I recently was diagnosed with ADD and now my Dexedrine is making my life managable. I thought for years it was a lack of structure and discipline, which admittedly did contribute, but once I forced myself into a routine the same problems presented themselves. Go see your school's counselling centre and ask about upping your dose - at worst, they'll say no, at best, you'll have saved yourself from academic implosion by listening to a doctor instead of a H/A thread.

  • MadpoetMadpoet Registered User regular
    I graduated last year. What you're describing sounds a lot like how I felt during my last classes. I just couldn't bring my brain to bear on the last bits of work. Trying to concentrate just left me tired and with no work done. What helped me was finding someone to talk about what was going on, and admitting that I was scared about re-entering the real world. Going to the gym and lifting a few weights helped too, it's hard to be stressed out after total muscle fatigue. If you're not a weights person, running is a good way to clear the head as well.
    You'll get a lot of advice saying to eliminate distractions, which is poop advice. If the mind doesn't want to work, it just plays tetris with the holes in the ceiling tiles. You need to eliminate the block. Posting here is a good step for that. Keep it up.

  • minirhyderminirhyder BerlinRegistered User regular
    edited November 2011
    Try doing it in small chunks. Write a paragraph, take a 5-10 minute break. Browse some forums, play a browser game, get a snack. Get back to work, write a paragraph take a 5-10 minute break. Distractions are going to happen, this way you'll be timing them in a way that would make you productive.

    Also I've found working at home is the worst. There is no limit to the amount of distractions you will encounter.

    And do you have an outline for your paper? I've found them to be tremendously helpful for papers longer than 8 pages. I used to think they're a waste of time :P

    10 page paper due this Friday, so far I'm on page 1. We've all been there!

    minirhyder on
  • minirhyderminirhyder BerlinRegistered User regular
    edited November 2011
    Ugh quoted myself instead of edit D:

    minirhyder on
  • Indica1Indica1 Registered User regular
    When something is fully in your control, but it feels like it isn't, there is a neat little trick you can do.


    Now this is much easier if you have a god to pray to. If you are an atheist like myself you might feel kind of silly at first, but you need to lower yourself under the feeling of "this is ridiculous".

    Now here is the trick: get on your knees and pray out loud. If you can't get into a mindset of abject humility, then just feel how weak you are against this work. Your very willpower is failing, that should be enough to humble you. The important part is that you humble yourself as much as possible. You know this is fully within your capabilities, but you can't do it. Feel that helplessness. Now pray to whoever and say all of the smallest most pathetic and petty thoughts and feelings you have relating to your situation. Really get into it. Be honest. Ask for help to be stronger.

    When you get up you will be ready to work.

    If the president had any real power, he'd be able to live wherever the fuck he wanted.
  • bdubguybdubguy Registered User new member
    I don't want to judge but I'm an atheist too, and that's the weirdest shit I've ever heard. I get where you're coming from, maybe meditation would give similar results?

    And yes, Madpoet, posting here has helped alot. It's almost therapeutic. I've tried a few of your suggestions. Breaking it up into smaller pieces has helped a lot. I think some of the psychological obstacles stemmed from its massive size in my mind, that that helped alleviate that. Also, staying at campus also helped. It's right next to downtown, so there are numerous restaurants within biking distance so I have that covered (spending a bit more on food than I wish but it won't kill me, and is the lesser of two evils as I see it). But simply posting this thread has probably been the single biggest help. I guess it's a variation of the old trick of telling all your friends about what deadlines you have coming up so you feel accountable to them, not some random professor (or boss) who's feelings don't matter to you.

    And Orikaeshigitae, yes I have a legal Rx, but I got back on Adderall because that's what I took for ADHD when I was in high school. As an adult, I tend to be against medication (I think overcoming mental ailments builds character), but when my degree and future are on the line I didn't take any chances and got back on it. It doesn't quite work how I remember it, but I've tried out a few doses and am now on the highest one without really bad side effects (that was one hell of a drill weekend, on amphetamines). However, I have learned to control my hyperactivity as an adult through maturity for lack of a better word, but my docs have told my that not only is adult ADD different from juvenile, but the medications also don't work the same (since brain chemistry changes over time, and even the exact mechanisms of some of these medications aren't fully understood). I was planning on trying to find a different medication over Xmas break, but Adderall is what I have now.

    But like I said, posting here has been the biggest help. The simple knowledge that I have so many people encouraging me, some of whom have been in my shoes, is a major stress reliever.

  • OrikaeshigitaeOrikaeshigitae Registered User, ClubPA regular
    Not to be overly pat, but relying on maturity ended up with you posting this thread. Take your meds so you can work.

  • AsiinaAsiina ... WaterlooRegistered User regular
    Set a timer for work, not for play. Sit down and say "I am going to work for an hour" and set a timer. If you feel yourself beginning to wander mentally just look at the timer. Set it for something reasonable. If you say "I'm going to put aside a whole day to work!" then that's not realistic. You're going to need to eat, go to the bathroom, get up and move around in that time and so you'll feel like a failure for not accomplishing your goal of working for 12+ hours straight. You'd be amazed what you can get done in an hour of strong, undistracted work. I had an assignment I was putting off for weeks cause I didn't want to deal with it, and I set myself an hour to do as much as I could and it took 40 minutes.

    Also, before you work again, look at your assignment and come up with a plan. Divide your work into reasonable chunks that you can look at as goals. A topic/example you want to discuss and assign it an amount of pages. All essays can be broken down into parts this way. Then work on one part at a time and don't even think about the other parts. It helps it from looking like a whole daunting task but rather small, reasonable tasks. It also makes it easier to work and then stop without feeling like you are giving up half way through. You've instead just completed one of the goals. Just be sure, if you do this, to assign some time to looking over your paper for coherence, to make sure all the parts are linked together in a meaningful way.

  • DemerdarDemerdar Registered User regular
    Just realize that this is your job right now, except you are paying for it.

  • UrQuanLord88UrQuanLord88 Registered User regular
    edited December 2011
    If you think you have trouble meeting your deadline, talk to your prof. More often than not, they are willing to help someone who shows at least some effort to succeed in class.

    Set manageable targets and work in small steps. Keep talking about your writing progress to anyone who would listen. To the extreme, report your progress to someone. Having someone else keep track of your progress can exert some pressure to push you when you are at the point of procrastination.

    You can do it. Keep at it.

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  • AsiinaAsiina ... WaterlooRegistered User regular
    If you think you have trouble meeting your deadline, talk to your prof. More often than not, they are willing to help someone who shows at least some effort to succeed in class.

    While this is possible, I wouldn't do it or even think about it. You wouldn't want to get into a habit of expecting your professors to be lenient with their deadlines for you when you really don't have an excuse beyond procrastinating. Also, it doesn't really work. Deadlines, for end of term projects especially, are set up to give TAs time to mark before the grade deadline. There's a reason they are when they are.

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