Over the next three weeks, students all over the country will prepare for finals in the form of tests, projects, presentations, and performances. It’s a stressful time, one that is filled with a healthy amount of procrastination, lack of sleep, cups of coffee, and maybe a few tears; all par for the course. This year, however, a worldwide pandemic is added to the obstacle course of finals prep, and, well, it’s got me all kinds of messed up. Assuming I’m not the only one, I thought I’d write a little on my current levels of stress and lack of focus. I am, in fact, using this blog as a full-fledged procrastination tool. You know it’s bad when you use other work as an excuse to not do the real work.
The most difficult part of schoolwork for me is getting started. I can have all the assignments, all the time, and yet, “Wow, look at all these memes to share!” The first step to avoiding procrastination is to set your phone on Do Not Disturb and shove it far underneath your bedroom mattress. This is important. It must be between the mattress and the bed frame and a significant amount of the way in, so it’s not too easy to grab in a moment of weakness.
Once the phone is 86’d, it’s important to create some sort of structure. Studying from home can work with the right setup, but for some of us it’s just too close to the fridge, the TV, the floor, the closet, the bathroom, the old journals, the new journals, the cat, the fish, and the bourbon. In order to avoid the never-ending list of temptations, I suggest the Tomato Method. The Tomato Method sets 25 minute intervals within which we commit to working. Once the time is up, we are allowed five minutes of rest in which we can stand up, dance around, drop and do twenty, or refill that coffee cup. Working for 25 minute intervals keeps me from getting burnt out and I find the time passes quickly, preventing the temptation of an accidental nap at the table.
As we enter into our 7/8/9th month of quarantine, the ultimate cheat code is to learn to forgive ourselves when the day doesn’t go as planned. Expecting ordinary results in extraordinary times won’t do us any favors. Not adjusting for our current reality will only make us feel disappointed when we ultimately fall short. Setting new goals is not only okay, it’s a requirement.
Before you rush to Google the Tomato Timer, take a moment to reassess your timeline. Ask yourself: is this schedule built for a pandemic, or am I still trying to hit my 2019 numbers? If the answer is “no,” take a moment to step back, cut yourself some slack, and remember that if the President of the United States can preemptively pardon himself for charges not yet levied, you can give yourself an extra couple days on that essay.