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How I Write and Learn

How I Fought Against Procrastination and Succeeded in my Asynchronous Class

By Selma, a Learning Center Peer Tutor

After almost a year of remote learning, I finally felt ready to tackle my online classes when the spring semester started. But while I was getting things done in synchronous classes, I was ignoring one of them altogether: Biological Chemistry. Since the course was asynchronous and didn’t have any early deadlines, I prioritized doing assignments for my other classes, while Biological Chemistry went on the back burner.

After a week, I started realizing on the class GroupMe that I was really behind. I had not watched the lectures and was not doing the assignments. By the end of the second week, I knew my attitude needed to change if I wanted to do well on my upcoming exam. Desperate to find motivation, I made an appointment with an amazing academic coach who helped me not only strengthen my study plans for that week but also gave me some amazing tips to overcome my procrastination. With some trial and error, I implemented a variety of strategies that helped me to catch up in my asynchronous class and succeed on my exam.

Matching My Studying to My Energy

The first tip, and the one that I have been applying to my everyday life since that meeting, is to match my studying to my energy. In the session, I shared that I felt really productive in the morning and that I could do anything if I started it early. I also mentioned that I usually get up an hour before class most days regardless of whether I have something to do or not. So, we decided that I would wake up early and plan to study during that hour when I felt the most energized.

A view of trees through the author's window. There are books and a mug on the windowsill.
A view from my window in the morning, which makes me want to get up and be productive!

Eating the Frog First

The second tip I applied was “eating the frog first.” This comes from a saying that states, “If you have to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.” Essentially, I tried to do my hardest, most important tasks before all others. Like I mentioned before, I had been pushing off my Biological Chemistry lectures for a long time, and my exam was right around the corner. It was clear that watching those lectures was my priority and also what I was most likely to procrastinate on, so I combined this “eating the frog first” tip with matching my studying to my energy by starting with Biological Chemistry in the mornings.

Author's desk is arranged neatly with a laptop, water bottle, glasses, and pencil case.
My study space as I get ready to tackle my frog of the day.

Coupling Studying with Something Positive

That was already a great plan on its own, but my academic coach also gave me some ideas for making it more enjoyable. The academic coach suggested that incorporating something small like a cup of coffee before or while studying could help improve my mood and motivation. Since I strictly drink water, that did not exactly apply to me, but we brainstormed ideas of small treats that would help me build a positive association with my studying. I love listening to music, so I decided I could jam out to some of my favorite songs before studying. Some other ideas I have tried include having a nice little snack while studying or even going for a walk before diving into the material.

Screenshot of "Hot Country" playlist on Spotify.
The country playlist I listen to in the morning.

This whole plan worked beautifully. The day after our session, I woke up early in the morning, listened to music while going through my morning routine, and then sat down to watch my lectures. In the afternoons, finishing lectures or completing assignments felt easier because part of the work was already done. I did that for every day of that week and even into the weekend. I was able to watch all of my lectures, do all of my assignments and some practice problems, and, in the end, do very well on the exam.

Since then, I have been applying the tips listed above to all of my mornings. I wake up early, listen to some music, and then work on my biggest task of the day. While I do sometimes feel the urge to ignore my “frog,” I try to remind myself that I take the most away from my classes when I am not trying to cram it all into one or two weeks. To hold myself more accountable to spread out my studying, I’ve been making study events on my Calendar app and writing my daily goals on the whiteboard I have over my desk.

Whiteboard with goals color-coded by class. To do items are on the left, and the author's schedule is on the right.
My whiteboard with the goals for a random day.

While I by no means intend to ignore my lectures for this long ever again, it was nice seeing that getting behind didn’t have to be an excuse to give up in the class. If anything, it only proved to me how much I can accomplish with some time and determination!

This blog showcases the perspectives of UNC Chapel Hill community members learning and writing online. If you want to talk to a Writing and Learning Center coach about implementing strategies described in the blog, make an appointment with a writing coach, a peer tutor, or an academic coach today. Have an idea for a blog post about how you are learning and writing remotely? Contact us here.

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