There sometimes comes a point when you feel as though you’re academically force-feeding yourself, when your heart (and planner) says, “Get it done!” and your brain retorts, “No.”
You stare at a text and can’t imbibe a single word, no matter how hard you glare at the page. The Google Doc on your screen remains blank as you sit and wonder how you could possibly start that paper despite the fact you haven’t missed a single lecture. Your Canvas calendar is filled to the brim with pressing due dates, but, try as you might, you just can’t seem to muster the energy to tackle them.
You, dear reader, may be suffering from what I like to call acute academic overindulgence.
Different from burnout, academic overindulgence is sudden, unexpected, and just plain aggravating. It’s like writer’s block that can affect any major on any assignment at any time. It could be from a bad night’s sleep, a particularly busy week, or just plain stress. You can wake up feeling ready to tackle your lengthy to-do list and two hours later find yourself unable to start anything.
Having found myself faced with this predicament at various points throughout the semester, I’d be lying if I said I weren’t sometimes tempted to ditch it all and live out the rest of my days as a wandering poet in Milburn Orchards, living on discarded apple cores and the flavorless ice leftover from the apple cider slushies (still thinking about that Honors trip I guess…).
While it may be tempting to bury your face in this trail mix of frustrations (say, are those M&M’s?), there are ways you can overcome academic overindulgence. Over time, I’ve picked up ways to get your gears turning when you feel as though you can’t type, analyze, or solve a single word, graph, or equation more.
- Listen to a motivational song
What’s a song that makes you feel like you can conquer anything? That makes you happy no matter the circumstances? That makes you feel as though you’re a hero majestically walking through a biopic about your epic life?
Taking a few minutes to listen to that tune can temporarily distract you from whatever stress you’re currently feeling and can boost your mood, inspiring you to effectively get back to work.
Turn it on. Loudly. I’m sure your neighbors will thank you too.
- Hydrate n’ snack
You might just be hungry or need a sip of water. Go ahead and grab a bite to eat, be it a quick snack or a full meal. However, try to stick with healthy foods (this, of course, coming from the person who savored doughnuts at the last 186 South College blog meeting).
Fruits, veggies, and nuts are especially great study snacks. Tea is also a tasty go-to beverage of mine and great for periodic sipping, but if it’s late, try to avoid caffeine — no coffee before bedtime!
- Ask yourself: “Why am I doing this?”
It’s a simple question, and, yes, perhaps this recommendation comes off as a bit cheesy, but asking yourself this and even writing out your answer(s) can help put things in perspective and unearth some motivation you didn’t even realize you had.
You took that class for a reason. You had a rationale for choosing this major and this university. You likely have some sort of plan for once you graduate. Tying in these circumstances to the present moment can work wonders in helping you overcome the dilemma of academic overindulgence.
Go ahead and write out a list so you can look back on it every now and then, and consider hanging it somewhere near your study or work space.
- Try a different assignment
Sometimes diverting your focus to a different, simpler task, even if it has a later due date, will help refresh your brain. Personally, I find it incredibly helpful to get the “smaller” things out of the way even if they aren’t as pressing. That way, when I’m working on a larger assignment, I’m not tempted to stress about all the other tasks I have to get done. Additionally, you’ll still be staying productive this way.
- Take a break. Like, a real one.
It may seem counterintuitive when trying to do work to, well, not do work, but think of it this way: 1 hour of fun and an ensuing 2 hours of groundbreaking productivity are certainly better than 3 hours of “meh” or “blah” work, or worse — no work at all.
Your friends miss you! The Hen Zone misses you! The Crew giving away free stuff on Friday’s misses you! Your hard work deserves to be rewarded, and the mood boost associated with spending time doing something you love will put you in a better place to ace an assignment.
- Have fun with it!
Everyone has a goofy side, and desperate times call for desperate, objectively-embarrassing-but-honestly-hilarious measures.
Read your assigned text out loud with gusto or practice your presentation as if you were presenting the world’s most inspiring TED Talk (and don’t forget to make your roommate sit through it). Find fancy synonyms for words like “interesting” and “said” to spice up your paper or seek out super obscure but absolutely fascinating facts about the topic at hand.
You may feel ridiculous (and your roommate may briefly question their decision to live with you), but allowing yourself a little laugh will lift your spirits, help you get back on track, and may even make for more solid learning depending on how all-out you go.
- Talk to your professor
If none of these methods work for you, or you’re simply at a loss as to how to tackle a given task, it’s best to discuss the matter with your professor. That’s what office hours are for, after all.
Explaining any challenges you may be having with your work will put both of you in a position where you can work things out. As your professor designed and teaches the course, they should be able to offer the best advice for approaching an assignment, from annotating tips to reading recommendations. Believe it or not, your professors truly want to see you succeed and are here not only as educators, but as resources.