In high school, you were often given time in class to do your assignments. Even if you didn’t get an assignment done, the consequences weren’t that great. In college, you will rarely have the opportunity to redo the assignments and the consequences of not doing the assignments can be great (often at least a letter grade).
One of the challenges that many students face is the development of the discipline to get their assignments done. Outlined below are some strategies you can use to develop this discipline.
- Do your assignments between classes. – On a typical class day, you will be in class (or labs) for at most 4 hours. If you are up and ready to work at 8 AM and you don’t return to your room until 5 PM, you will generally have at least 4 hours to do your work. Think of school as an 8 – 5 job. If you do your work during the day, you should have most of your evenings free (at least for the first year.)
- Develop a study buddy. – Often when you study with another person, you can motivate each other to get the work done. Doing your assignments can become a social activity as much as it is a work activity.
- A study buddy or study group is very important. Sometimes assignments in college are very tough and hard to do on your own. When you have a study buddy or a study group, you are more likely to get through the assignment and less likely to get frustrated and give up.
- Develop a study group. – This is simply an extension of the study buddy. Often study groups will split up the assignments. You then teach your group mates the part of the assignment you did. Often you will learn even more when you teach others.
- Develop a check list for each day. Each day make a list of things that need to be completed for that day. See Planning Your Day – 1 and Planning Your Day – 2 for more guidance on this. In college some days will be harder than others: one day you may have more classes than usual and some days you may have more homework than usual. It is important that you are aware of what classes you have each day and what homework you need to complete each day. With a checklist you won’t forget about when homework assignments are due or labs you have that day and you can simply check them off the list once you are done. At the end of the day, after you completed everything on your checklist, you get a good feeling that you did everything you set out to do.
- Start different streaks. – Two important streaks that a student should start at college to develop discipline is one for number of days you went without missing a class and another for consecutive days that you have completed your homework on time. See the topic Starting a Streak for more information.
- Use the one up rule. – This is a system used to make sure you keep attending classes. See the topic Using the One Up Rule for more guidance.
- Stop at the right moment. – When you need to take a break or stop doing your assignments for a while, stop at a point where it will be easy to get started again. As strange as it seems. This may be in the middle of a problem you are doing. What you want to do is to create a sense that you want to get back to finish what you started.
- Study where there is nothing else to do. – One of the challenges of doing homework is to overcome the distractions that surround you on a college campus. You can find places to study where there are no distractions. These may be empty classrooms, stair wells, any place where there is little traffic, an administrative office building, library stacks, etc. If you spend 1 – 2 hours in one of these locations, you will be able to do twice as much in a given amount of time when compared with doing homework in a place where there are distractions.
- Eliminate electronic distractions. – You live in a world where almost anyone can distract you at anytime with electronic communication. If you want to cut down the time you spend studying, place your electronic devices some place where they won’t distract you. Also turn off instant messaging when you are working on your computer.
- Take periodic breaks. – The simple act of getting away from your work for five minutes can often renew your mind and help you continue. Set your cell phone to go off in five minutes so that you don’t overextend your break.
- Take a short nap. – When you feel like you can’t go on, take a 15 minute nap. One way to ensure that you wake up after the 15 minutes is to set a kitchen timer and place it next to your head as you nap. In the span of 15 minutes, you will be able to clear your head and have the energy to keep working.
- Develop good friends. – Find some friends that can help you get through things when you need help doing something.
- Make friends with the people around you (dorm floor, classes, study labs, etc.). These friends will help you in need and you will most likely help them too. The friends in your classes and in your major are the most valuable because you will have a lot of the same work and assignments which means you have someone to work with and help you out.
- Set goals to be reached when doing a long term assignment such as a research paper, essay, etc. – Make a checklist before you begin the assignment to ensure you accomplish everything you would like to and check them off as you finish them.
Most upper class students will adopt a mix of 2-4 of these strategies to develop the assignment discipline they need. Which of these, do you think will work best for you?.