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How Do You Get Work Done?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the motivational-pointers dept.

Education 1153

canuck asks: "I am currently a university student and have a major problem: being able to simply sit down and get work done. I can set aside a day to work, whether it is homework or contract work, and I will be lucky to have an hour done before dinner time. The only time I can actually get solid work done seems to be after midnight under a lot of pressure (ie. a deadline the next day). This has led to too many 5 a.m. nights and turning down too many invitations to go out only to stay in and accomplish nothing. I have stopped playing games, stopped watching TV, tried reading the Seven Habits book, and am currently seeing what classical music does for me. I don't think I have ADHD, and I am not sure what else to try. If it is computer work, the web is always a click away, and I can always escape to my imagination. I know many of you will have had the same problem. Can anyone please give advice on how to overcome this problem, be it a little trick, medication, or anything else?"

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I would recommend some exercise (5, Insightful)

Delphix (571159) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544694)

Exercise would be my first recommendation. It will keep your sleep habits in line pretty well. Physical activity seems to be what's missing from most of our lives today. If I don't make it to the gym, my schedule will slip quickly to 1AM, 2AM, 4AM...which isn't good since I left college years ago ;-) The other thing I would recommend is finding a buddy to go do exercise with you. It helps if you're both accountable to each other for showing up. And just having someone to do it with you doesn't hurt. This carries over to work as well. I'd imagine you sit there thinking about a million things, but you can't concentrate on what you need to do because it seems like you can put it off. The later, you wind up with many things to do and little time. You get a bunch of work done at this point, but there's so much you have trouble keeping up with it. I had the very same problem in college. Another thing that might help you is getting a job a couple hours a week. As long as I've had something constant to do, it's kept me going. Just don't get something that follows you home...go there, do your work and then head to class or do some homework. Honestly, part of it is just sheer will as well. You have to resist the urge to just read a page and put stuff down. Set a bedtime for yourself and a wake up time for yourself and follow them. That's about the best advice I can give you. If you do have some mental disorder such as ADHD only a psychologist can diagnose it. Although many times it's over diagnosed.

Re:I would recommend some exercise (3, Funny)

dark-br (473115) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544776)

Recommend exercise on /.? R u nutz?

I would recommend some of this [thinkgeek.com] . But remember, use it sparingly, dont drink it direclty from the bottle! :)

Re:I would recommend some exercise (4, Funny)

nomadic (141991) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544790)

Recommend exercise on /.? R u nutz?

ya u r right, we dun like even typing in all the lettrs.

Re:I would recommend some exercise (3, Funny)

probbka (308168) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544810)

I wonder how much of that stuff you'd have to drink straight in order to kill yourself...

Like 1, 2 teaspoons?

Re:I would recommend some exercise (1)

dark-br (473115) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544841)

This stuff has 100 mg of caffeine per 1 oz serving.

Letal dosis is arround 10g for a 70kg body weithg, so 10oz would do the trick :)

Re:I would recommend some exercise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544850)

It takes 100 cups of coffee to ingest enough caffeine to kill yourself. Every cup of coffee contains 100mg of caffeine, so you need four bottles to OD.

Some friendly advice... (5, Informative)

eaglebtc (303754) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544698)

You may not have ADHD (Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder), but you may have ADD, which is basically an inability to concentrate or stick to one thing for long periods of time. I have it myself, and I know how frustrating that is. I in fact have pulled many all-nighters and that's when I produce my best work; unfortunately my body does not like that too well.

At the very least you should visit a professional therapist and have them give you a psychiatric evaluation. He/she can diagnose your problem--maybe you're just a really bad procrastinator--and perhaps prescribe some medication, if necessary.

Read this for more information about A.D.D. : ADD Foundation [add.org]

And go buy this book, if you're interested: Driven to Distraction [amazon.com]

Re:Some friendly advice... (4, Insightful)

mesach (191869) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544779)

Agreed. I have ADD, I'm not hyperactive(i do fidgit). But the current buzzword is ADHD, and many people completely forget about ADD as an option if they aren't hyper.

Goto a doctor and try to get on stratera or some equivalent.

AND STAY OFF OF THE WEB... its the worlds greatest time saver/waster

Re:Some friendly advice... (4, Insightful)

chrisbro (207935) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544862)

Hell yes, stay off the web. This has to be my number one time waster. I sometimes just find myself mindlessely hitting refresh every 5 seconds or so on /. or some other news site before I realize that I'm zoned out. There's just too much information on the web out there, you can easily get lost in it. Found myself reading a factoid list of Earth info (wow, I didn't know the longest mountain chain was under the Atlantic!) for an hour the other day while I should have been doing other things. Only use the web if you really need to (or anything else that allows deviation, for that matter).

Re:Some friendly advice... (1)

yack0 (2832) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544863)

Now, instead of everyone ranting about ADD/ADHD and whether it's real or not, let us just link to the old article where it was ranted about last month:

Articles like this [slashdot.org] or this [slashdot.org]

Of course, you could do like half the post already have said and stop farting around reading /. and just get your work done.

Stop Reading Slashdot! (1)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544701)

Seriously, get your surfing out the way first thing in the morning. Then sit down and code. It's not hard. If you can't hack that, learn to love coffee. My record is 55 hours of straight coding. What's yours?

Re:Stop Reading Slashdot! (2, Insightful)

Homology (639438) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544733)

My record is 55 hours of straight coding.

I'm sure that the code produced are of real high quality.

Re:Stop Reading Slashdot! (2, Funny)

cliffiecee (136220) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544764)

> I'm sure that the code produced are of real high quality.

I'm sure the sentence produced are are of real high quality.

Re:Stop Reading Slashdot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544804)

I'm sure the sentence produced are are of real high quality.

He's been Slashdotting for 55 hours.

Re: OT (2, Informative)

E_elven (600520) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544838)

'Code' can be a plural. Therefore, the sentence was correct.

Re:Stop Reading Slashdot! (1)

Homology (639438) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544847)

Dear Sir, I am deeply greatfull that you found a simple grammatical error. However, your attempted solution is incorrect. My 'are' is not to be replaced with 'are are' but with 'is'. Sincerely, Homology.

Re:Stop Reading Slashdot! (5, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544742)

My record is 55 hours of straight coding.

Followed, no doubt, by six weeks of debugging.

Re:Stop Reading Slashdot! (1)

probbka (308168) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544765)

What makes you certain that he's doing coding? He never said he was a CS student...

When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me! :)

my spew (5, Interesting)

mandalayx (674042) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544705)


I'm a university student as well and as you can see (I'm sitting on slashdot) I have some of the same issues. However there have been some shining examples of good behavior on my part, and here are what I think are some of the apparent factors/causes:

a. social proof, i.e. studying with a bunch of people
b. meaning, a meaningful purpose
c. distractions, lack thereof, i.e. lack of other things to think about

Examples with causes:
-studying in the basement of the library (a, c)
-studying for imminent test or other grade-altering material (b, and possibly a)
-studying for something that will be applicable to some upcoming event i.e. work (b, and possibly a)
-studying for something that is less dreadful than what I should *really* be studying (b, c)
-studying at a coffeehouse, with ambient-type music like classical or trance (a, c)

Other notes:

Speaking of coffee, I highly recommend coffee for the few hours that I seem to get out of it, really studying.

Something else I've found useful to keep my mind focused is to bring a notepad which I designate as a "worry pad." When I think of something, like, gee, I should do laundry or pay bills, I just write it on the pad so that I can focus on studying.

I find it helpful to like what I am studying. If I currently don't like it, I try to find a way to like it. If I can't find a way to like it, I begin to consider studying something else....

Or maybe this problem of not being able to study is not a problem as a gift. Perhaps studying as much as some others at your school is not your idea of fun and you can try pursuing something that seems more fun to you (without studying).

EZ... (2, Redundant)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544706)

Quit reading Slashdot.

Typical.. (1)

kmak (692406) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544707)

You're a typical college student... that's all you have.. =P I find locking myself in a study room or a library without any electronics extremely helpful. I usually do this for 8-9 hours straight, bringing food, pillow, and stuff that allows me to be perfectly comfortable. In the meantime, I will slowly, but eventually finish studying or homework... If you don't think you can do it, you can always join a buddy program and get someone to do it with you!

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Wipe Your Ass? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544709)

That would have made a more intersting and informative story than this stupid story.

Just route Slashdot to (2, Funny)

AJWM (19027) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544711)

It'll save you all kinds of time...

This on slashdot? (1)

syd02 (595787) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544712)

I humbly suggest the elimination of the motivational-pointers dept.

one word.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544713)


Re:one word.. (4, Funny)

miketang16 (585602) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544807)


Another word... (1)

3770 (560838) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544809)


one word.. (1)

jclarke (16004) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544835)


Do you like what you do? (3, Insightful)

allism (457899) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544715)

If you REALLY like what you do, you will be more interested in doing it than surfing, you won't procrastinate, etc. If you're not excited about what you're doing (and I mean so excited that you can't WAIT to jump on your latest project) you might wanna consider choosing another field.

Re:Do you like what you do? (4, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544766)

Unfortunately for many people there is no commercial, paying field which they'd enjoy.

If he's really worried about procrastination on the job, however, something a little more structured like systems administration might be a better choice. When you have people screaming at you because they just lost all connectivity, the urge to procrastinate for the most part vanishes.

I use a reward system (5, Interesting)

Beowulf_Boy (239340) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544716)

I use rewards for my self, as stupid as it sounds.

Like today, I have to write some thankyou cards, and fill out some rebate forms. So, I promised my self that after I do that, I'm gonna go to walmart and spend 20$ on something fun and/or stupid!

Re:I use a reward system (1)

mesach (191869) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544824)

make sure you get something with a rebate that you can give as a gift, so you start the cycle over again.

I had the same problem. (5, Informative)

ender-iii (161623) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544718)

It turns out I was depressed. I used to just aimlessly drag boxes across my desktop, lost in my imagination. Maybe not getting work done is just a symptom of a bigger problem. Just a though.

what i used to do... (2, Insightful)

the idoru (125059) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544721)

when i had to study for an exam, or do some work that didn't require the computer, i would use it as an opportunity to defrag my HDDs. keeps you away from the computer/web/games and might just force you to get osmething done.

Re:what i used to do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544769)

...as an opportunity to defrag my HDDs.

What if you use Linux? :P

Re:what i used to do... (1)

whiteranger99x (235024) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544839)

...as an opportunity to defrag my HDDs.

What if you use Linux? :P

Then go recompile your kernel, KDE and it's libs, or your XServer :P
(I have an AMD K6-2 550MHz, so thinking about compilation on such a CPU is painful)

I have the same problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544722)

I have the same problem. I wonder how many other young geeks are in the same boat?

Re:I have the same problem... (1)

ldwillo (258088) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544854)

It doesn't have to be young geeks. At 49 years I still have the same problem. I found that understanding who I am and what my strengths / weaknesses are in terms of apptitudes, personality and interests have helped me. When I force myself to be someone I'm not I quickly slip into the behavior we're discussing. For me - I am a "troubleshooter". I need to fix problems, even to the point of simply finding anything to fix. Which of course detours me from the task at hand. Frustrating indeed. Just don't beat yourself up over this. Maybe it is just who we are. I'm told it's a gift :)

Pure Fear (1, Informative)

greenmars (685118) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544725)

Exercise is an excellent suggestion, and I find it keeps me on an even keel. I walk 24 miles a week.

But what really motivates me are what-if scenarios about if I lose my job, my house, my wife, my family. I can't relax and forget how horrible it would be to lose what I have worked so hard to get.

No distractions (1)

kelceylehrich (600264) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544726)

Turn off the internet and any other PC distractions and close the door. Just put on some quiet relaxing background music that wont distract you and then just work.

Sleep durring the day (1)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544727)

unless you're a plant or something. You'll have more energy and more free time, and you can party all night long. Just sleep as soon as you get home, wake up refreshed without need of an alarm, and go to work halfway through your day.

Re:Sleep durring the day (1)

Surak (18578) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544802)

unless you're a plant or something

Plants can post on Slashdot? *This* I gotta see. :)

Re:Sleep durring the day (1)

Drakin (415182) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544860)

well, judging by some of the stuff that gets posted, we've definatly got some vegitables on slashdot...

Re:Sleep durring the day (1)

Zerbey (15536) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544856)

He's a student, he does that already!

I say more about this.... (1)

suso (153703) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544730)

but I got distracted by China building a 10 Teraflop computer in the next article down. ;-)

fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544731)

Convince yourself the work is fun. I was a political science major and I was actually interested in the stuff, about history and global economics; how the world really works; war and peace.

i find that most college subjects are at least partially interesting... so be glad you are learning instead of watching some mindless drivel on the tele.

take interesting classes, learn to look on the bright side of it.

ouch (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544732)

The other thing I would recommend is finding a buddy... And just having someone to do it with you doesn't hurt

Speak for yourself, I can't imagine that would not hurt, although, I've never tried.

What I do... (4, Funny)

Jack William Bell (84469) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544734)

Well, first I check /. and see if there is anything interesting. Then I surf around and check the various blogs and newsites I read. After that I check /. again and maybe post a comment to an interesting article.

If, while I am surfing around, I find something cool I post a link to it to me /. journal (which everyone should read, cuz it is full of wierd bullshit). Then I surf some more. That is how I get my w........

Never mind.

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Re:GNAA!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544783)

Wow buddy you didn't even come close to FP this time.

Re:GNAA!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544803)

Um, did I say I got FP, asshat?

Re:GNAA!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544855)

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Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544737)

Pretend every night is 4 hours away from the big exam or the big paper, since that appears to be the time when you get everything done. Just don't pretend that you're handicapped or something.

Adrenalin (1)

aralin (107264) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544739)

Obviously I had similar problem, unless I am under presure and there is some form of danger, I hardly get the work done. I have find out that I can get it done also when I am angry. I think it has something to do with the adrenalin in blood. So I can get on 'adrenalin rush' somehow and then do a 3 days of work in few hours. The downside is you get burnt out feeling for few days afterwards.

The way how you raise adrenalin in your blood may vary, try whats best for you.

Holy Coincidence, Batman! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544740)

I was just going through this about a week ago. I started taking some supplements twice daily and I've been able to work all day for the last couple days non-stop. I also exercise, which helps quite a bit. The supplements I'm taking are:

Tyrosine - 100mg twice a day
Grape Seed Extract - 200mg once a day
Magnesium Citrate - 800mg a day
Ginko Biloba - 120mg twice a day

My concentration has improved dramatically, so I suggest it's work a shot. Don't sue me if you have an allergic reaction and die from any of those supplements, though.

What worked for me. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544741)

I'm ACing this just so it isn't linked to my name. Apologies.

Exercise, like the first poster suggested, didn't do squat for me. Of course, each person is different, but you sound a lot like the way I used to be. A *lot* alike.

What worked for me? Wellbutrin and/or Effexor. I wasn't depressed, and I really wasn't an ADD type. Although I kind of thought I might have been ADD.

All of the sudden, I went from someone who was capable of doing things to someone who actually WAS doing things. I was balancing my freakin' checkbook, which I hadn't done in ages because it was too much trouble. I was getting stuff done, getting things knocked out of the way. It was incredible.

I personally think it was overstimulation. Computer games, television, the Internet, college, everything was so exciting. To sit down and do something that I was capable of but just had little interest in was really next to impossible for some reason. I just couldn't lock my brain in on it.

programming (2, Insightful)

nunofgs (636910) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544744)

I seem to have a bit of the same problem as you when it comes to programming... I sit down, start to code, and at the first problem I encounter, I just load up mozilla and lose myself for hours... I have found a solution tho, I un-plug my cable modem! seriously! Then I resume coding... sometimes I find myself opening mozilla only to find there's no internet connection so I continue coding

It will get easier (1)

Jmstuckman (561420) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544745)

I don't know what you should do in college, but it will get a lot easier once you get a job in a real office. It's FAR easier to concentrate when you get dressed and go to work every day -- your brain KNOWS that it's time to work, and you will actually do it. You need a good way to seperate your dorm/web surfing life from your homework/contract work life. If you find the answer, tell us; I'm sure that we'll be interested!

Exercise (5, Insightful)

fredrikj (629833) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544751)

I am very familiar with your problem, and the thing I'd recommend is getting a decent amount of physical exercise. I always find it easier to concentrate on schoolwork (or any other work) after 30-45 minutes of running and a shower.

The biggest problem is motivation. Often when I don't feel like working, I definitely don't feel like exercising either :)

Rewards (1)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544752)

Give yourself rewards. Make some of your usual things (going to a move, etc) a rewards. You'll only get that new pair of headphones if you manage to finish the term paper this weekend. That way, you get artificial pressure.

Eliminate distractions.

Don't use Linux or LaTeX. :-) I always spend time dicking around playing with new features when I should be doing work if I'm writing a paper. Seriously, if you're working away, absolutely restrict yourself from learning new features of the software you're using properly. Do the bare minimum in research to get whatever it is working properly, and get back to work.

Don't browse your usual news sites. You can only run across something to sidetrack you. Slashdot is really bad about this. Avoid Slashdot comments like the plague.

Get interested in what you're doing. Most schoolwork actually *is* kind of nifty, but if you're treating it as torture, it will be.

Only eat snacks/pizza/whatever when you're doing work. Good way to get yourself in a mood of enjoying homework.

Step #1 (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544753)

First thing to start getting your work done: QUIT READING THE FRIGGIN /.

Medication? (1)

Masque (20587) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544755)

You're going to ask /. for medical advice? Holy cow. Go see a psychiatrist, explain the situation. My doctor heard that caffeine helped me focus and immediately had useful suggestions.

Go out there and get some professional advice. Quickly. You have a five hour deadline for this task.

Huh? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544757)

You are asking how to get work done *on Slashdot*?

Unless you consider drooling on yourself "work", I wouldnt look for answers here.

"Starving Child" Theory (1)

lildogie (54998) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544759)

Sometimes I have one of the little kids inside starving for something, and it won't let me do anything else until it's satisfied.

The way out for me is to vary my activities between physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, family, etc. (or however you slice this for yourself).

Trying to keep some balance between these aspects of my life keeps me out of the rut.

But, I still get into the rut sometimes when I get out of balance. That's life.

One word: Discipline (1, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544761)

Just stop being a child and do your work. Then you can play.

Gotta learn how to be an adult sooner or later, might as well be now.

No this isn't meant to be a troll, its just reality. Use a crutch now, always use a crutch. Its time to grow up dude.

My personal experience... (5, Insightful)

JohnGrahamCumming (684871) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544767)

I'd start with not setting aside an entire day for work, that's just overwhelming
for anyone. When you start by telling yourself "I'm going to work all day" you
are probably going to fail because just the sheer length of the day and magnitude
of what you have to get done can become overwhelming.

The key to fixing your problem is probably to make the tasks in front of you not
seem so overwhelming through a number of techniques. I sympathize with your plight
because as a student myself I had a hard time initially, but it's worth knowing
that over time your ability to work hard for longer will improve... like so many
other things it's a question of practice.

Music may or may not help you, that seems to be a very personal thing. I can't
stand to have music while I work (because I want to listen to it and not work)
but have a colleague who has music on (low volume) all the time. Personally I
have found that the quiet droning voices on NPR help keep my mind on the job and
if something I really do care about comes on it's a little welcome break from
what I am doing.

You might also find that some other non-work activities actually bring more focus
when you are working. If you go to a gym, run or do some other physical exercise
I've found that it has a great effect on concentrating the mind. If you are
drinking a lot of caffeine laden drinks while working you might find that cutting
back enables you to concentrate more because you are not overstimulated by caffeine.

But specifically...

1. Prioritize the work

Sit down and make a list of all the tasks that you have to get done. I use a
real paper notebook for that sort of thing because it's satisfying to cross them
off as you go.

Once you've made the list order them (1, 2, 3, ...) in terms of how much of the
job you'll get done, or how hard they are to do. If you knock off a few hard
tasks at the start when you are more focused you'll start to feel better and the
smaller tasks coming later will seem less overwhelming. (I think in the Seven
Habits book this is "Put first things first"---but really it's commonsense, if
you get out of the way the stuff you are dreading doing you'll feel better and
get more done).

For example, right now I am working on the test suite for my open source project
and it's *boring*, *long* and *hard*. But I've got a list and slowly by slowly
I'm seeing progress.

One reason that lists can be problematic is if you write down all the tasks and
realize that you haven't got enough time... hence the next topic...

2. Set yourself some goals

It's important to take your list and set some goals. "I'm going to finish
task X by lunch". Then try to stick to them. If you find yourself unable to
stick to the goals and timings then go back and replan. You'll have a better
idea of how long the task is going to take and that will motivate you more...
Thinks "If I finish Y tonight, then tomorrow I'll just need to do A, B and C"

3. Reward yourself

I've found that stopping my main tasks and doing a little other task that I
find interesting is a good way to keep the motivation up. For example, I'll
have a goal "finish X" and when I've done it I'll stop and do something unrelated
which I enjoy.

For example on my open source project I have this long boring test suite to write,
each time I complete a task I work on a fun task associated with the performance
of the project. You can do something similar which means you actually praise
yourself through a reward for going something done.

4. Eat well

Nothing like being hungry to screw things up. Eat good food, stop for meals and
eat them.

Good luck,

Re:My personal experience... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544832)

You want focus and motivation? Get married, get a job, spend your credit cards to the max, do things the way you are now doing, get fired, go hungary, and discover its all your fault. Then finally grow up, join the real world, and learn only YOU are responsible for yourself.

Any three of the above should do it.

Break it down. (1)

amembleton (411990) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544770)

I try to break a task down into smaller chunks. And try to set deadlines for the chunks.

I know where you're coming from, I'm also a university student and am about to enter my final year. So far I leave it till the night before and pull an all-nighter. I'm averaging a 2:2, just by doing this method. I'm sure I can graduate with at least a 2:1 if only I'd get my head down.

Something I've recently discovered is that I don't get work done due to distractions, like you say the web. What I now do, if I need to read a book is go to the library. Its full of ppl doing work, so you're in an environment of work without the distraction of computers (if you go to a floor without them). The only distraction I've found in my university are the views, some lovely views over Hull, UK. ahh, well I have gotten work/revision done before the deadline by making use of the library.

Good luck with your studies.

Some Basic Tips (1)

dso (9793) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544772)

The first thing is to make sure you've eaten something healthy with carbohydrates (brain fuel) and low fat.

Secondly, make a todo list that's broken down into smaller task (i.e. not 2 big tasks but maybe 10 small ones) and keep crossing then off, this way you see the project moving forward.

Third, space you caffeine out, too much can make you jumpy and you loose your concentration.

Fourth, try some supplements like Natural Factors PS IQ Memory [naturalfactors.com] it may help.

Finally, when all else fails leave the room and go for a walk, avoid surfing Slashdot, it corrupts the mind!

Two-pronged approach (4, Informative)

delfstrom (205488) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544773)

You can try two things at the same time: Diet and self-hypnosis.

With diet, eliminate sugar & caffeine. Add lots of vegetables. Supplement with fish oils which are like a brain boost. Once I changed my diet around I started thinking clearer and my concentration improved.

With self-hypnosis (either by yourself or with a trained professional) you can train yourself to increase concentration and, more importantly, block out distractions, including distractions from your own mind.

In the end, the most likely cause of your procrastination is because you don't want to be doing what you must do. If you can find a way to better enjoy the work you've been assigned, then you'll find that you can sit down and work on it with ease.

If all else fails (and it shouldn't, as you're the one in control) unplug your network connection, and get someone to check up on you every hour to make sure you're not just sitting there sharpening your pencils or something.

Exactly! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544777)

Thanks so much for posting this, I will read the replies you get with great interest. I remember back in times before I had net access. I just seemed to get a lot more done. Now it's always irc or surf. The other day, the net was down all night, and I sat down and got totally immersed in an interesting book. Felt great. Oh well.

Disconnect from the internet. (3, Funny)

sQuEeDeN (565589) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544778)

Honestly, you'd be amazed what two little things can do:
  1. ifconfig eth0 down

    you'd be amazed at what getting rid of a global distraction can do :)

  2. Ritalin. It's amazing. People give ritalin shit for being overprescribed, but it's remarkable. Just do what everyone in the ivies do (and Exeter): snort it. You'll be more focused than ever before.

Okay, snorting ritalin isn't for everyone, but it helps. I also reccomend exercise as a way to focus your mind. It's effects are hard to explain, but ever since I started biking i've found a tuned body helps the mind. (Sounds like new age shit but, hey, it works.)

Also try downtempo music, much like what you can find on SomaFM [somafm.com]

Suggestions (1)

TheViewFromTheGround (607422) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544780)

Exercise every day or two, eat well, go to the library to study, unplug your network connection, enrich yourself with essays and articles you find interesting, and do creative things (paint, write, draw, whatever).

Being an effective worker has mainly to do with what you don't do when you are working because there's much less separation between the "personal" and the "work" spheres than people seem to think.

maybe you're in the wrong field (1)

Major Tom (164687) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544784)

I have similar problems working in areas I just don't much care about. If you are working on something you really like, the Internet and such won't be a distraction, because they aren't as much fun as your schoolwork. Try some different fields. Maybe you'll have better luck studying history or biology than CS.

For me, it is philosophy. I still love to hack when the opportunity presents itself. But as for CS as an academic discipline... since I discovered philosophy I've never looked back.

Preferably (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544786)

by someone else

This might help... (1)

Dr. Shim (576902) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544789)

Ditch the TV.
I don't have one, and I'm still breathing. :)

Figure out how you like to work/study. (1)

the_argent (28326) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544791)

I recently went back to school via an online university (The one that's named after a mythical bird...) and one of the first classes was identifying your personal learning habits. Take a look at yourself and your personal habits. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Like to have background music/noise, or do you like the quiet? Identify these things, then build your study enviroment around them. You'll do yourself more harm than good if you try to work/study in an enviroment that isn't what your mind likes to have around it. The book we used was Peak Learning by Ronald Gross, ISBN # 0-87477-957-X. I'd suggest picking one up and spending a few days going through the excercises in it, it helped me both in my study and work habits.

Self dicipline - nothing else will do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544793)

Face it - either you will exercise some self dicipline and do the work when you need to or you will fail to do so.

This may sound rude and/or offensive, but it is coming from somebody who went from a barely passing D student to a 4.0 gpa. How? By deciding to exercise the self discipline necessary to study before anything else.
Going to miss a party? Too bad.
Going to miss a tv show or sports game? Record it.

Either you will decide studying is important enough for you to exercise the self discipline to study or you will be a poor student. There is no middle ground.

The best method... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544797)

Go to the stable, cuddle with the mare till she gets hot, get the bucket and fuck till you nearly drop dead, kiss her goodnight, sleep whole night, make love to her in the morning again, eat some good breakfast and get to work. You'll be so motivated that within matter of hours you'll have weeks of work done.

Work ? What is work ? (1)

Pelops (454213) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544798)

Apparently, it seems that some people are actually working.

Life can be sometimes scary. I will head back to bed so i won't be traumatized any more minute.


set intermediate goals (2, Informative)

AdamBa (64128) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544805)

You may be overwhelmed by the size of the task ahead of you. One way to help is to set a series of intermediate goals. So you say, "within the next hour I will have the data structures defined" or "by 9 pm I will have coded up the main input routine."

Then you can promise yourself that once that is done, you will give yourself X amount of time to goof off, surf the web, ask questions on slashdot, etc. Then it's back to the next goal. Or you can say that if you finish the goal early, then you will allow yourself to play for the unused time...if you fool around too much in the middle, you won't get the free time allowance.

This gives you a sense of accomplishment as you realize you have done *something* and you don't spend mental time stressing over your lack of results so far. Don't worry too much about trying to balance each goal to be the same amount of time, etc. just make it something that shows good forward progress.

Now of course setting goals takes time, so it will cost you some time to do this...but the overall result should be more productivity given the work habits you describe. The shorter the time period for the each goal (i.e. is it half a day's work or 15 minutes' work) then the lower your "work to planning" ratio is, but for some things you may really need to do some microplanning to get going.

You also should try to identify what part of the work you find the hardest to get done. For example when I am writing code I find actually typing in the code the first time to be the hardest part...I can design the algorithm/etc OK, and then once I have the first version typed in I can get it compiling no problem, then debugging is a cool mental challenge. But the part where I just type in all the variable declarations and for loops and whatnot is the hardest to avoid procrastinating during.

So if you can figure that out, then you can focus on getting over that hump (set goals of the shortest duration during that time).

- adam

I had the same problem (4, Interesting)

spineboy (22918) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544814)

I'm a doctor and i REALLY needed to study ALOT- both during med school and in residency. After working a 100-120 hours in a week, it's hard to get motivated. What I found out, and so did many other people, was that the best way was to read BEFORE you went home for the day. Make it part of work at least for an hour or two a day. Once you go home, there are too many distractions and you won't get stuff done (I've been there).

The other thing to do is make lists of small segments, if you procrastinate. This will force you to work more steadily. Yes I'm a procrastinator too, and this works.

The last thing to do is get out of the house and go somewhere where there are NO distractions. Not Borders or Barnes and Nobles, but the local law school library, where nothing interests you and everybody else is working hard.
My 2 cents worth.

Get started (2, Insightful)

Vireo (190514) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544816)

As many out there, I have the same problem (major case of procrastination). However, I sometimes get the job done. Generally, the problem does not lie when working: the problem is getting started. Once I'm studying or working on a project (be it code, report, etc.), I generally enter "the zone" and I am able to work for 3-4 hours straight at an amazing pace. So what you want to do is get over the preparation phase and get started the earlier possible. Find something interesting fast in what you have to do.

Another tip: when studying, do not just read a book. Take notes.

seriously (1)

claude_juan (582361) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544817)

so you have problems getting important stuff done in time alotted. no health problems. college student. i've got it!

quit crying! use this thing called willpower. its kind of like a diet. it wont work unless you dedicate yourself to it. same thing. make yourself do it. quit cheating. and dont bore people with your lack of willpower.

OK! This worked for me. (0)

MrSquish (459359) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544818)

I used to drink a lot of pop (or SODA if you call it that ;) and eat lot's of candy ect. i cut back on pop and drink lot's of water + a little caffine never hurts.. anywya all in all i can work much better. also i beleave that people with "add" are just used to concentrating on what they like (ie trained from tv (switch channels to whatever you want) radio .. really anywhere you go. i mean think about it.. possibly anyway good luck and just keep at it.. your not alone and ritilen does NOT work or whatever it's called now (i have friend's who've tried that some for years but nothing changes except it keeps your mind occupied? or something to the effect you don't go wow look at this ie it's anti tv ect..) hope you read this + something here helps.. good luck!

Led Zeppelin & Dr Pepper does it for me (1)

John Harrison (223649) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544819)

You sound just like me in college. There was only a short period in college during which I was proactive and got things done way ahead of time. The rest of the time I was wasting time right until deadlines and then grinding things out. I was pretty good at it too, but it wasn't worth the stress.

The exercise suggestion above is a good one and then you just have to find how you work best. If you are only productive after 11 pm then at least make good use of the rest of the day. Don't waste it on /., games or TV.

Discipline yourself....OR (0)

domenic v1.0 (610623) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544820)

do what I did one time when my dealine was 2 days away and I thought it was impossible to get some projects done, I had a friend come over to take my DSL modem and cables away. that way i had no surfing but pure hardcore computer work just on the good ol' comp. I usually do work faster with just the radio on and it works fine for me, but I too had that problem with having the web just a click away. So i recommend doing it cold turkey style. Permanently cut yourself off from the web before starting a project or lock yourself in a room with just the computer (and radio if it helps you concentrate much like it does for me). AND REMOVE GAMES FROM YOUR COMPUTER TOO!!!

Listen to your body (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544821)

As others have mentioned take care of the sleep and exercise. My body tells me that my development efforts (or anything creative) happens best in the evening and never in the mid-afternoon. Not everyone has this luxury, but I don't even consider hitting the editor before 8pm. Also consider that there is a lead time for maximum creativity. If possible, schedule uninterrupted time that includes a ramp up period. In the long run, conforming your schedule to your body rhythms yields the most productivity.

Try prayer (2, Interesting)

SLi (132609) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544827)

No, really. It helps.

It also helps to "remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy", Exodus 20:8. Whether it be Saturday, Sunday or some other day, I believe the important thing is to have the day once a week and to actually share time with God on that day, and to refrain from working on that day. Very important for the peace of mind and concentration. (I have found this very different from just "remember to rest".)

Remember, the Law is for our own good, not because God just happened to decide it should be so.

mod parent down (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544849)

Okay, this is a SERIOUS article about REAL LIFE. Keep your fairy tale spells and crap out of this.

Get caught. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544828)

I have a major problem: being able to simply sit down and get work done. Can anyone please give advice on how to overcome this problem?

Simple. Get caught.

There's nothing more motivating than getting a warning about your performance, particularly if it's coupled with the boss making subtle remarks that prove they know exactly how much surfing you've been doing.

Turned my work around, I can tell you.

You know what you might have? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544829)

If you're on Slashdot, it's possible you have Information Addiction [nytimes.com] , as recently discussed here on Slashdot [slashdot.org] . It's sorta like ADHD in some of the symptoms. Anyway, if you do think it applies to you, you're not alone. I'll often plan ahead to get something done, have full intention of doing it and plenty of time, but it just doesn't happen. I always find something "more productive" to do. Writing a paper is hard when you decide you have to read all about the IRC RFC.

overcoming this problem (5, Insightful)

Poletown (692868) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544830)

I used to suffer from this problem REAL BAD. Like you, I could not get anything done, even if I locked myself in my office for the whole day. The Internet, MP3's, TV, whatever was available served as a distraction. I purchased countless books on procrastination, all of the "PUMP YOURSELF UP" motivator books, asked other people for advice, etc. Nothing worked. Then one day, I don't even remember how, I came up with a system that worked. Each time I had a project to work on, I would sit down the night before and develop a plan. 1) I break down each of the major tasks needed to be completed. 2) Under each task, I break down all of the subsections that needed to be completed 3) Under each subsection, I fill in the details that needed to be done (sometimes in paragraph form). 4) After everything is listed, I go back through and assign time guidlines. When I follow this, it works out great. I think the whole problem is that sometimes a big project like writing a term paper is just overwhelming. Rather than trying to figure out where to begin and what to do, it's easier just to click onto your browser of choice and say "I'll do it later". When everything is listed and broken down into little sections, the project isn't as overwhelming. Just a bunch of 'little projects' that need to be done. I'm not if this will work for you, but it makes things MUCH easier for me. Good Luck

Solution: DO NOT WAIT TO GET STARTED! (3, Insightful)

Knife_Edge (582068) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544831)

The instant you think of something that you need to do, immediately begin doing it. If you are at college, you should have a constant barrage of things. Do not bother trying to organize your time beyond the classes you must attend and meals you must eat. If you follow my advice correctly, you should be busy constantly.

The problem you are having is that you have many things to do. Sitting around worrying which to work on first is just a waste of time. Which did you think of first? Work on that one until you make significant progress, then switch to whatever you thought of next. Constant calculations about how to make yourself more efficient by prioritizing tasks drain your energy and increase your stress, while using my 'work whenever you think about work' method will get things done.

If you get distracted between the time you think of something you need to do and the time it takes to start doing it, you have the attention span of a hamster. I would warn you that you can make up all sorts of excuses for this, like attention deficit disorder, all the while insisting that you are intelligent (which may be true). But being intelligent is only the potential to do things - nobody will care that you are intelligent if you are too unfocused to use your mind. Lack of accomplishment equals lack of capability in most people's minds.

Concentrate. Stay busy. Start now.

Don't work from home (2, Interesting)

Zerbey (15536) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544836)

That is probably your biggest problem. When in school, I never got work done at home, too many distractions! The best thing to do if you want to get some serious studying done, go to the library or form a study group (yeah, nerdy as hell but think of the nice big salary you're working towards in a few years).

Think of school as a job, a shitty paying job but a job nonetheless, and make set hours every day that you'll dedicate to work. Sneak in lunchtimes and breaks as well or you'll burn out in a couple of hours. It'll get you into a routine that'll ultimately end up in that nice piece of paper that's your ticket to big bucks (hopefully!).

It doesn't get any better in the real world either, I have a hard time getting motivated even though I know I'm getting paid for it!

Motivation (1)

Dylan2000 (592069) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544840)

Motivation and desire. You have to want to do this work more than you want to do all those other things- TV, web, snacking, whatever, because otherwise the work can't beat them.

This is a basic psychological thing and we all go through it; it's one thing for your outer lobes to realise that the work is important but it's another thing to make your brain stem choose the unpleasant and boring thing over the fun and interesting thing.

I don't think locking yourself away from all distractions is the answer either, because you can still daydream. I think you just need to try to find ways to make the work more interesting and stimulating.

I've had projects where I've worked until 6AM, gone to bed and tried to sleep but after 10 minutes just got up again and went back to my workstation because all I wanted to do was work on this project. That's how to beat the distractions.

Perhaps this will help (5, Informative)

jaaron (551839) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544845)

Read less slashdot. :)

Okay, I'm sure that will get posted a hundred times, but here are some other ideas:
  • Start Small: If it's a serious issue, trying to change your entire lifestyle at once can be difficult. Not impossible, but a better approach might be to start with something small and work your way up. Perhaps starting with exercise (as someone mentioned) or managing your sleep schedule, or just some random chore. Do that regularly and you'll start to have more and more control.
  • Eliminate Distractions: If it's homework, then leave the apartment and go to the library. Find somewhere where you simply don't have any other distractions -- no computers, radios, TV's, people to bug you, etc. Changing your environment will help.
  • Accountability: Explain to a close friend your problem. Have them check up on you and encourage you. Knowing you'll have to face up to someone who cares (and not your professor or boss) can give you some motivation.
  • Rewards: Have the integrity not to give yourself rewards until after you've accomplished something. But a reward system can help. Promise to go watch a movie or buy something special or go on a vacation once you've accomplished a particular goal. Again, having someone make sure you don't cheat helps.
  • Journal: By far what's helped me is keeping a regular journal. This may not help everyone, but it helps me be honest with myself. I can better gauge change that occurs over months and years by keeping a written record. I can work out goals, anxieties and plans. It works for me.

At least those are some of my ideas. Also, finding some way or time to calm down and reflect on life helps to. This can be when you exercise, or do your journal, or go to church (if you're into that sort of thing). Point it, every now and then you'll need to stop and remember why it is you want to be productive.

While you will probably get a lot of trolls responding to this, a good work ethic is important and not easily gained. It's something a lot of us could use improvement on.

Chunk up the task (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6544846)

I alway outline my big tasks a make a list of things that have to be done. You don't have to do "8 hours of homework" you have to read these three chapters, write a paper, and *blah*. So you list those tasks on paper and do them one at a time.

Using the list you can visually see your progress, you can see the whole "task" laid out, and you have predefined times to take breaks (i.e. I can read slashdot after I read chapter 12).

Easy, and it works.

The web is a concentration vacuum (2, Interesting)

Trolling4Dollars (627073) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544852)

After I got a subscription to an ISP back in 1997, I noticed that my productivity went down with regards to music composition and production. It was quite a shock to me since I'd always been able to come up with new things almost every day. Then, at one point, I was reading the online diary of one of my favorite musicians (Ryuichi Sakamoto) and he noted that ever since he started using the web, he'd become less productive. He suggested that it was a combination of the distraction it provides, the wealth of information that exists as it relates to your own personal interests and the "six degrees" nature of most web content that leads you from one of your interests to another. His personal approach was to schedule time that he was allowed to use the web. After reading this, I applied this approach to my own life by completely removing the ability of my audio production system to do anything on the Internet. It can only share files and mount other shares on my LAN, but that's it. This could be done in a number of ways. So, if you have more than one machine, I'd suggest that you dedicate one to being your development machine and leave off any ability to access the web. It's worked for me, although I will say, that if you catch yourself spending less time at the "development" machine, you might want to check your web usage vs. your productivity.

it might sound bizarre... (1)

BobWeiner (83404) | more than 11 years ago | (#6544859)

...but keep a written list of activities and items you need to do for that day. By writing your 'To Do's' on a piece of paper (instead of typing it on your computer), you'll reinforce the idea that things have to get done. Paste up that list on your monitor, and as you accomplish a task, cross thru the item (don't erase). By seeing what you have accomplished, you will be further motivated to getting the other items done. Prioritize your work, and don't try to get everything done in one day. If that doesn't help, and you really want to kill some time, read my toon [pcweenies.com] . :)
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