Help me make myself do my work
October 22, 2009 7:18 AM Subscribe
I am in graduate school after taking a few years off, and in those few years it seems I have lost the ability to pay attention to anything. Please help me focus.
posted by millipede to education (10 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I just started my graduate program (for City and Regional Planning) in September. I mostly love it. I am not bored by the subject matter, for the most part, and after having flailed about for a few years after college, I finally know that this is what I want to do.
However, I am suffering. I have never been a very good listener in classes. I'm a big doodler of silly faces and writer of my name in fancy fonts. I pay attention somewhat, but tend to zone out when presented with mainly auditory information and when I am not being directly engaged. This has been the case for most of my life--and no, I was never diagnosed with ADD or anything--but it was never that big of a problem, because I did well in school anyway by virtue of being able to concentrate well on the reading and perform well on papers and exams. It used to be that if I were actively doing something, I could focus very well, but if I were a passive listener, I'd zone out.
Things have changed, though. I'm not sure if it's because I took a few years off and I no longer remember how to be a student, or if it's because I have aged beyond some mythical ideal-student-age-window and my brain is duller than it used to be (I am not that old. I am 28), but now, I can barely even make myself focus on my copious amounts of reading. When I had a paper due as an undergrad, I used to be able to sit there with all my research and just write it in one fell swoop. Yesterday, I tried to do that, and I couldn't get beyond four pages and I kept losing my point.
I guess I just don't understand why I used to be able to concentrate on my schoolwork and now I have a very hard time doing so. This is especially panic-inducing because I'm paying for this myself.
Things I have tried:
-lots of coffee (coffee helps at first)
-working away from my apartment (but new environments seem to make my mind wander more--in the library, every tiny sound distracts me, whereas in my apartment, I can concentrate a little better)
-working in my apartment and turning the internet off (this helps for a little while, but eventually I will go clip my toenails or decide to clean the bathroom)
-having a study babysitter (I often do work in the company of my sir, who is in the same program. Sometimes this helps--mostly with reading-based work that we are both doing--and sometimes it distracts further).
-small increments of study time (nothing gets done and I count down until there is a break)
-large increments of study time (daunting--more gets done, but it is hard to start).
I'm worried that, because I spent four years essentially goofing off mentally, having a job that did not require any critical thinking, I have forgotten how to be smart.
So far I am doing well in school, insofar as one can do well halfway into a semester. I've gotten good grades on the small assignments we've had. But I look at my google calendar with all my upcoming work on it, and I panic and think that I'm never going to be able to make myself do it all and I'm going to fail and I never should have gone back to school in the first place. It's the spiral of doom.