Thursday, February 17, 2011

How to get out of a rut, or, how to get off of your butt and DO things!

Since around the last week of January, right when the semester started (for new readers, I'm a grad student), I have just As in, not myself. Out-of-sorts. I have had a routine that has worked for me for years and years: wake up early, eat breakfast and drink coffee, take a shower, get ready, and go!
I am (er, I have been) a morning person - my natural rhythm, it seems, is to go to bed early - usually between 9:00 and 10:00 - and wake up early - usually around 5:00 or 5:30. I just feel better when I stick to that rhythm. But since starting grad school, my entire schedule has changed. Most of my classes are in the evening - 6:30 - 9:15 p.m. - and since my drive from school to home is 40 minutes, I don't get home until almost 10:00 some nights. Needless to say, I'm not ready to jump into bed and fall asleep then, so I stay up until midnight or so, and then there is no way I'm going to wake up at 5:00 the next morning! So I sleep later...and later... and the next thing I know, its 9:30 a.m., and I feel like I've wasted precious hours of my day. Its a vicious cycle - sleep later, stay awake later.... on and on until I've re-shaped my entire sleep/wake cycle. And it has been throwing me off! I feel tired and lethargic throughout the day. Motivation? Yeah, right! I just want to sit quietly and relax!

Time management has been another big problem for me. You see, I've always been a procrastinator. I was the girl in high school who put everything off until the last minute, then scrambled to get it done and still got an A. I've always been like that. It just works for me. I know that I can get my work done, it will be on time, and it will be done well. My "system" has always served me well - until now. Grad school is supposed to be so much more difficult than undergrad.... but for me, its actually easier. I have literally HALF as many classes - only 3 grad classes, as opposed to the 6 I would normally schedule as an undergrad) - which means I have wayyyy more down-time, and lots of time to get assignments done. So what do I do? Procrastinate! And then everything piles up, and I start feeling guilty for "wasting" my free days. My work still gets done, on time and done well, but... its the guilty feeling that bothers me.

Of course I'm NOT wasting any time...I just feel like I am because I don't do anything all that interesting on my free days.... mostly I just relax and take it easy (see above paragraph). Then I'm left with one or two days each week that require some scrambling to get everything done.... the more scrambling I do on those days, the more relaxing I want to do on my free days, and again, its a vicious cycle.

Needless to say, I desperately need to break out of these cycles! I've been trying to manage my time a little better, brainstorming up ways to kick these bad habits, and I think I've come up with some solutions. And I don't think my problem is unique to students: I'm sure that people in all stages of life probably go through the same, or similar, funks. Right?

So, here are some little steps that I'm going to be taking to try to
get out of my rut:

1) Make a list of goals for tomorrow before you go to bed.
I'm a lifelong list-a-holic. Lists make me feel more organized, and give me something concrete to shoot for during the day. Plus, I get a sick satisfaction from crossing things off of my list. ;-)
The list should be as simple as possible - not too daunting so you shy away from it, but enough that you will actually accomplish something, and, more importantly, feel like you've accomplished something.

My list for today was:
*Get up early, take a shower, and get going!
*Get my GIS lab done (its due today!)
*Work out at the gym for 1/2 hour

So that's not too bad, right? Easy goals to accomplish! I got up at 6:00, ate breakfast, typed this post (ok, so that wasn't on the list....but that's ok!), and I'm going to get my shower and go to campus soon! I did a lot of my GIS lab last night, so I've got a head-start....and I'm going to go to the gym at some point today - my gym bag is packed and ready to go!

2) Give yourself rewards!
For me, this is key. I have to feel like I'm doing something for myself or I'll start floundering. Yesterday was a really tough day for me. I felt super guilty and stressed-out for not having my lab finished yet (even though I knew I'd have time to do it today; its just, why do I put myself through that stress?), which resulted in me feeling really anxious and irritable. So what did I do? Bribed myself with some little treats to get some work done last night. After babysitting until 4:30, I went to the grocery store (necessary, not a treat ;-) and decided to stop at Starbucks nextdoor for a nice, big frappucino. I promised myself that I would enjoy my frappucino (and the benefits of its caffeine), and then would go home and churn out some work! I also treated myself to watching Lars and the Real Girl (looove that movie!) while I did my work... I haven't sat in bed with my laptop and done any work in months. I usually sit at my desk. So even though it might sound silly, watching a movie and doing work in bed really was a treat to me.

3) Remember, its the little things that count!
And I mean really little.... like, (don't laugh) STICKERS!! I use a daily planner to help me stay organized (highly recommended!), but sometimes seeing those little squares filled with things that need to get done can be pretty intimidating. Stickers make it seem so much more...friendly. :-D Yesterday, I flipped through my planner and stuck little stickers throughout.... each week when I turn the page, I'll have a sweet little surprise waiting for me, cheering me on.

What are some of the things you do to motivate yourself??

I'd love to hear!


  1. My problem is just the opposite of yours. I'm up before God, today 2:00 a.m. and by dark I'm dead!

  2. It take a lot to motivate me to organize :) I generally dump everything in the middle of the floor so that I MUST!

  3. Just stumbled upon your blog & let's just say it must have been fate! I have been feeling the EXACT same way! It's rough! But, I too am a list making fiend & hope to use some of your coping mechanisms to get back on the ball. Thanks for the inspiring post! Here's to getting going & not procrastinating! :) Good luck through this semester of grad-school!

  4. I'm afraid I might be you in an alternate life, like one of those creepy sci-fi movies.
    I am such a procrastinator, and while I'm not in grad-school, I definitely feel the guilt when i cram all my responsibilities into as few hours as possible.
    It stinks that your classes contradict your personal rhythm, hope things become a little more balanced!

  5. Finally some antidotes to procrastination! Found you through the Etsy Blog Team. Thanks for the tips!

  6. My program is kind of tough. since I am a craftoholic ( I have an online Etsy shop)I work at night ,so when the kids go to sleep around 11.00 I start working on my projects! and before I know it it's 4.00!!

  7. Reading this was spooky, you sound so much like me! I get up at 6am, review my list for the day then exercise for about an hour. Working out is the best anti-procrastination activity I've ever found! It somehow puts me in a good mindset for uni work.

    I love the stickers idea, I might try that ;)

  8. I was that girl in high school ad college too. Now I am in my 7th year of grad school -- almost done with the PhD, but I am still mostly a procrastinator (see:posting on blogs instead of reading literary criticism). Deadlines are still my main motivators :(

    OK, on that note -- I am going to close the computer and get to work!


I love reading your comments! Thanks so much! xo

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...