I need to get my college act together

Good evening,

I'm a new college student, one who loves to learn. I had a great time in every lecture I attended, I talked to lots of people, and I joined many clubs which match my humanitarian beliefs.

But I have two problems. First, I will pursue interests tangent to my classes even before I finish studying and assignments for the day. I want to learn, so I boot up YouTube and watch some veritasium instead of reading my textbook or a video on my subject. I want to speak Chinese for a future humanitarian career, so I write out Chinese glyphs instead of working out of my math textbook. I'm a student engineer, but my human interests make me justify distracting myself, and my grades suffer.

Second, I sleep far too much. Last summer I began sleeping well after noon, and it's just so easy to lie in bed that I give in to my physical wants. But I have mental needs, and social demands to complete. I missed 15 lectures last semester! If I want to develop a community in Guatemala, I need to educate myself and make connections that will guide me where engineers are needed.

I care about work, yet I don't direct my life to prepare for it. I stay up all night, but I venture off topic and learn nothing I can prove. I really want to less suffering in this world, and to do that my first step is education. I'll never dig a water well, cultivate a farm, or build shelter without focus and activity.

Do you know anyone like me? What advice would you give them?

A lot of students sleep past 12 and miss lectures. I did that sort of thing... we're bad students. I guess you probably also stay up on the internet way too late. The best thing to do is set a strict computer off time (11 ish) so that you give your brain a chance to cool down, and then get to bed! That way you'll actually have a chance of waking in time for early lectures. If you can get a part time job that has morning shifts, do that, because that'll motivate you to adopt a stricter daily routine.

If you are a new student, you've probably joined way too many damn clubs. That's fine, you'll probably drop off on a lot of them and stick to one or two you really like. Some quicker than others. If you don't, go do it.

With any kind of intellectually demanding work concentration can be a problem. One thing which can help there, I find, is using the pomodoro technique to manage time in a smaller scale. Instead of trying to work in one long sitting, pick a manageable period of time (25 minutes is ideal, and most pomodoro apps will default to this) and time yourself while you work. Once you've finished each pomodoro, take a moment to relax and take stock of what you've achieved. Check that what you're doing is productive and decide if you should continue or move on to something else. If you find your productivity is slipping (usually after about 3 or 4 pomodoros, for me) then it's time to take a break and do something else for a bit. Just make sure you set a time to come back once your break is done.

On a broader level, spend a little time planning your study sessions before you begin. Decide how long you want to work (I like to gameify the process by setting myself a target for the number of timers I want to do in a day) and try to balance it around other things you want to do in the day by setting aside time for those things.

On the sleep issue, since you're an undergraduate and have class responsibilities, it really is a matter of just going to bed at a fixed time and giving yourself enough time to sleep at night. If you're struggling to finish all your work, it may be that you feel compelled to stay up late to try and finish it. Generally, this isn't a good idea, and won't ultimately save you time. It's better to scrub the day and try and do better tomorrow (after waking up refreshed) than to try and cut into your sleep to save time.


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