At the beginning of the semester, it can be difficult to re-adapt from “summer mode” to “academic mode.” We all know that it can be difficult working up the motivation to write, particularly if it’s mandatory writing. Whether your distraction is brainwashing reality television shows, the start of college football season, or that new package of Halloween Oreos that you promised yourself you wouldn’t eat in one sitting, distractions happen.
Usually, I’m pretty good at motivating myself to write. However, sometimes I’m just not in the mood. What can you do? Well, there are any number of helpful things you can do, but the main thing is to do something enjoyable that doesn’t take a lot of time. I have three defaults:
1. Playing MarioKart: Yes, I know. MarioKart isn’t nearly as cool as it was 10 years ago, but it is an activity that I can do for a short period of time. Working on a tough paper can be intellectually taxing, and taking short breaks can be rejuvenating. However, if you take a break from writing a paper about macroeconomics to read a book about the military strategies of France in 1880, you’re not really letting your mind take a break. Doing something that doesn’t take much effort and can be completed quickly is a nice way to take a break.
2. Baking: I love to bake. The more difficult my writing assignment is, the crazier I get with my baking. Writing a 1-page response paper? Cookies. Writing a 20-page research paper? Cheesecake. Regardless of whether you like baking or not, the same principles apply. Doing something that you love, that you think is super fun, can help supplement a day where you know you need to do a lot of work. When you reflect back on your day, you can be proud that you did something fun but were still able to get something accomplished.
3. Cleaning: All right, I admit that this is one is kind of cheating. I don’t necessarily like cleaning, but I do like the way my apartment looks when it’s clean. Also, doing something like cleaning is productive. After I clean, I feel accomplished and am more ready to accomplish something else that is productive.
With any of these activities, spending a short period time concentrating on one thing (playing 20 minutes of a video game or cleaning out the refrigerator) is way more beneficial than tackling another huge project. Doing something enjoyable prior to writing or taking small breaks while writing can definitely help to aid the writing process, especially during those first few transitional weeks of the semester.
For an additional perspective on beating procrastination and getting motivated, check out this handout created by the University of North Carolina: "Procrastination." It's a great source for identifying your reasons for procrastinating and overcoming those temptations.