The Same Day Rule

In my opinion, procrastination is probably one of the most widespread problems college students face when it comes to their studies.  In high school, if one procrastinated until the last day it was often still reasonably doable to get the work done in a proficient manner.  Once one reaches college this becomes much more difficult for many reasons.  First, instead of a test every week like in high school, college is split into a few big tests or assignments.  This means there is a great deal more material to cover before a big test than there was in high school.  In addition, since the majority of the work is done outside of class just being in class alone will not be enough for someone to absorb the material.  Lastly, the material in college is more difficult and therefore requires time to sink in to develop a deep understanding.  Memorizing everything the night before doesn’t cut it because college exams test understanding, not just facts.

Procrastination is such a widespread occurrence in college that allnighters have become a mainstay in many college students’ lives.  There is always time to study or do more beforehand so a student doesn’t have to stay up all night.  However, it is so easy to push of the painful task of truly getting to work when a deadline seems far off in the distance.  If you push things off they will jump up on you and you will be forced to cram stuff in during a sleepless night.  In addition, this type of crammed studying probably has a great deal to do with the abuse of Adderal and other prescription “study drugs.”

Cal Newport offers a strategy to help combat procrastination in his article “Monday Master Class: Conquer Cramming with the Same Day Rule” which can be found at http://calnewport.com/blog/2008/07/28/monday-master-class-conquer-cramming-with-the-same-day-rule/

By making oneself start an assignment the day it is assigned, Newport believes that students can take advantage of the fact that often starting initially can be one of the hardest things to make oneself do.  Obviously “starting” will involve more of a planning phase than actually doing work but it is still making the overall task much more approachable as you get over that hump.  The idea that you start the day of is beneficial because it makes it less of a choice and more automatic.  Making decisions is taxing and studies have shown the more decisions one makes, the harder further decisions can become.  By making starting automatic, it is not a decision that is considered constantly until you actually start but something you just do.

A key thing to note is that although starting will give you that initial momentum it is crucial that you stay the course.  There is no good in starting the day of then never touching the assignment again until the night before the project is due.  For this reason, it is especially crucial you have a plan and stick to it.  By breaking the project down into smaller parts it becomes more manageable and less stressful.  However, there will always be the desire to push off that particularly tricky section until the next day, then they day after that, etc.  For this reason we as students must not seek to “defeat” procrastination but be conscious of this natural human tendency that stands in the way of our academic success.

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