November 03, 2011

Efficiently Lying

I've had so many occasions where I had a big paper due or a midterm in a few days time. In my mind, among the billion other things I'm thinking of, I begin to gauge my understanding of the subject material. Am I prepared? How long would it take if I were to start it now? Is it going to be annoying to do?

Yet, without fail, I always seem to overestimate my ability to work, and severely underestimate the amount of work necessary. It goes something like this:
Brain: Hey, Wonmin. You have a paper due next Monday.
Wonmin: Ya, brain. I know. But I've written papers for this class before and it only took like three hours. Don't worry man.
Brain: But this one is different, it's based on research, not previous readings.
Wonmin: Ya, but it's still only 1000 words. Calm down brain, we got this.
Brain: If you're sure...
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Of course, the paper doesn't go as planned and I stay up way past my suggested bedtime. Hours dwindle, I procrastinate on Facebook, I chat with my suite-mates. It's almost like a test to see how well I can not do my essay.

Have you ever had this happen to you? How do you feel afterwards? After having pulled that all-nighter, after toiling for hours on end cramming, do you make a promise to yourself to never do it again? Then when you inevitably repeat your mistake, you feel a sense of depression and guilt for failing to keep your own promise.

It's the same exact cycle every time.

How can you make sure you break free from this cycle? I suggest you first stop beating yourself up. We all make mistakes and the faster you accept that, the better you will feel.

Second, know what your limits and capabilities are. Five page essay? Should be around eight hours of work. Now is that an actual super efficient eight hours? Of course not, I'm most definitely going to be on Facebook for half that time. Okay. Let's double the allotted time.

This way, you always give yourself enough time to finish your work, even while you procrastinate. Do not feel guilty that you procrastinate. It's just a part of being human. Accept it and anticipate it. Include it in your time calculations. It's going to happen.

Next, do not think in "ifs." They are just a fairy-tale designed to distract you from the real problem and make you feel like crap. For example: "If I work really efficiently, I can do this paper in two hours," or "If I study really hard the night before, I'll be fine for the exam."

The biggest issue with this is, statements like the ones above make it seem like you really have the capacity to do these things. But, in reality, you don't. You procrastinate like the best of us. You get distracted. You have other plans. You have a life beyond academics. Shit happens, and you can never rely on "ifs" in life. Do not set an unrealistic goal for yourself only to be dismayed when you obviously will fail.


On a side note, sorry I haven't blogged in a while. I've just been busy with life and stuff. You know how it is.

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