It’s 1 a.m. and your problem set is due at 9 a.m. It’s not that you don’t know how to do the problems, or that you don’t have enough time to finish them. It’s just that this is the second week in a row you’ve had three problem sets assigned, not to mention the two midterms you just finished. Frankly, you’re brain-dead. When your day-to-day consists of going to class, doing homework, meeting your baseline nutritional needs and getting to and from class, there is no chance to take a moment to refresh your focus.
Besides wearing on your sanity, this kind of unyielding schedule will negatively impact your school work. You could be the most diligent, brilliant, well-prepared student on campus and still do poorly on a midterm because your brain is tired of focusing. The challenge is to meet all of your deadlines without holing up in your room for two weeks to study. A trusty Stanford student strategy I employ is to take a break from one assignment and procrastinate by working on a different, less important one. Kids, don’t try this at home. It’s counterproductive.
“But I just don’t have time.” Maybe you don’t have time to go to an hourlong yoga class, but my guess is you do have time for a 10-minute walk. The key is to do something that doesn’t emphasize results, an activity that doesn’t try to accomplish anything besides distracting you in a healthy way. The other day I did the unthinkable: I put down my PWR paper mid-sentence and played my guitar for the first time in a couple of weeks. Nothing drastic, just 20 minutes of noodling around. When I returned to write, the mostly empty page looked less pitiful. The blinking cursor no longer seemed to be mocking me. I felt like I could take on the world, or at least PWR class.
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