Normally, the papers I write for class don’t require exhaustive research, so I can get by just keeping everything in my all-purpose Word document (or, as my roommate calls it, the “portal of chaos”). This spring, though, I was assigned a final paper that required me to sift through a lot of primary sources, and I was getting tired of scrolling. So, to keep everything organized, I turned to a program that I’d purchased a few years ago: Scrivener.
How I Write and Learn
I love the feeling of sitting back after a long day and having a sense of accomplishment and progress. In this new normal of working and learning from home, this feeling can be very difficult to achieve. I often find myself feeling burned out, distracted, and generally unproductive. The first hour or two of studying often goes pretty smoothly. However, soon after that first hour I begin to really lose steam.
Tackling Online Classes By a Learning Center Peer Tutor To say the least, the transition to remote learning this past spring was anything but ideal for me. Amidst the strange times, focus went right out the window, and I did … Continued
Even in the Before Times, I struggled to hold myself accountable for getting work done. Big term paper for a class? No problem. I’d write it the night before. Final project with classmates? My motivation to contribute to the group kept me going. I found that even my master’s thesis could be knocked out with a few weeks of intense effort, as long as the pressure of an impending, high-stakes deadline was there. But unfortunately for me, the same strategy isn’t exactly feasible for a 100-plus-page dissertation where I’m fully responsible for motivating myself for years at a time. As I progressed in graduate school, I eventually realized that something had to change.
Have you ever felt the desire to do anything but study, especially when you have an exam coming up? I can relate. That was me this week. Anything seemed better than sitting down and being productive. I had to somehow get out of my procrastination zone and into the study zone. To do that, I decided to try the Optimizing Attention worksheets from the Learning Center–I was amazed by how effective they were. I was able to re-think my study conditions and make a study plan that helped me thrive.
When I came back from Iraq in July 2010, I was eager to enter college. It wasn’t that I desired to learn all that I could but that I felt behind. Most of my high school classmates were starting their second year of college when the 747 that delivered me from Iraq to America landed in Gulfport, Mississippi. I wanted to get my college education started because part of me felt that, if I didn’t start soon, I would never go.
For me, staying focused at school is always difficult. Even after adjusting to remote learning, I still struggle to stay on task while sitting at my desk for hours at a time. One particular weakness of mine: Buzzfeed Quizzes. Should I finish my Econ 410 problem set or find out which Disney villain I am? The choice is obvious, I think. In all seriousness, prioritizing school work is significantly more of a challenge for me now, and the challenge has only increased with the complete loss of my daily routine.
Over the years, I’ve developed a strong sense of myself as a writer and learner. When I compose information, I do so with my audience in mind, so the last step in my writing process is hearing my own work. Because I live alone—even though I do have my wonderful dog-daughter, Sam, she’s not the best reader—I love to have my computer read my work back to me. So, hearing how my work sounds, especially with my audience in mind, enables me to clarify and strengthen my ideas.
By applying these strategies to my writing process, I now think of my own writing as a puzzle. The techniques that I’d use during my puzzle night are also useful for making progress on writing, especially when the project’s structure won’t become clear until closer to the end. To illustrate how this works for me, let’s look at an example of a lecture series about Marx that I recently wrote.
Over the summer, two apps have helped me find the time to read for pleasure. I’ve always loved to read, but, sometime in my sophomore year of college, I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I read something I picked. Finding time to read anything for fun has been a challenge for me. Because I’ve been reading so much for school, I found myself not wanting to pick reading as my relaxation of choice. I really missed reading, though.