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.
How I Write and Learn
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.
“I have a hard time motivating myself to write.” “I struggle to find the motivation to sit down and study.” As an academic coach, I hear these comments countless times from students. If I had the one infallible solution for how to motivate students to write and learn, I’m sure I would be a much sought after speaker, could go on a world-wide tour, and eventually would retire among the rich and famous! Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s quite how it is going to work.
My brain already feels fried, and this is only my third paper of the semester. For my other writing assignments, I’ve always made an outline before I started writing. Outlines don’t always feel helpful, at least not for me. In any case, I’ve been trying to find a new method to jumpstart my writing. Imagine how surprised I was when I realized that PowerPoint–yes, PowerPoint–could be used for more than presentations. Dare I say, I’ve turned PowerPoint into a writing tool.
The Word and Phrase Tool is a resource that I use to answer questions about my language use. How is this word usually used in a sentence? Does this sound right? Is this formal enough? All of these come to mind as I write. While a dictionary or a thesaurus can help me research these questions, I sometimes want a collection of real examples of the way language is used in real sentences. That language resource exists: it’s called a corpus.