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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Merrimack chapter.

Finals are coming up fast, and I have once again left myself a giant pile of work to get done at the end of this semester. Please take this guide as it was written: as a collection of tips I’ve picked up from years of struggling to get anything done. My qualifications to write this guide come from lessons learned over many years spent staring at an open laptop and a blank screen, or doing fun college things while deadlines get scarier and scarier. I am not type A. I have to make a conscious effort to be on time for things and organize my schedule, calendar, and routine. I’m not a person with an amazing planner or assignments completed weeks in advance. For people like me, I recommend several things. One: everything (and I mean everything) with a time and place has to go on a calendar. Two: put gas in your car as soon as the gauge drops anywhere close to a quarter tank. Three: accept yourself as you are, and then plan for that. I have spent a lot of time trying to be better, more organized, and planning for things as if I’m someone who understands time. I’m not, so I just have to make sure, especially where others are concerned, that I’m planning for everything to take twice as long as I think it will, and then maybe I’ll be early. I’ve learned when I’ll be able to get anything done and when I’m just wasting time. I have a limited but very powerful focus, and for anyone like me, it’s about learning how and when to use that focus.

Don’t Pretend

No one actually studies well in a big group of friends unless you’ve all sworn a vow of silence. You only have so many hours in the day, and if you’re like me, all of that time spent pretending to be productive takes away brain power and focus time from when you’re actually putting yourself in a position to succeed. I can’t do my homework in a loud area. I have friends who hate the silence. Try to do what works for you, and when you want to go study with your friends, find a very low-focus assignment to work on so you accomplish something!

Change Locations

I often am most productive when I’ve made a little bit of a production out of my to-do list. Walk or drive to a local coffee shop. Local public libraries are magical places full of learning and books and other people being productive to model yourself after. Or, you can find a quiet bar in the afternoon (for those 21+) and be the mysterious person in the corner. Restaurants don’t care if you hang out during slow hours (3-5ish, usually) as long as you leave a tip. I know most of these things cost money, but libraries don’t, and the cheapest thing at most coffee shops is usually a $2 tea, so there are workarounds.

The ten-minute rule

Challenge yourself to apply yourself to your work for ten minutes (or fifteen). If after that you still really, really dont want to do it, you can close your laptop and try again later or even the next day. It’s okay. For me, the kiss of death is when my laptop is open and my phone and TV are on too. Then, my laptop becomes a really expensive paperweight or bed ornament. I either give in to the TV or I can shut it off and start my work, and the TV always wins unless I use this method. I know it seems stupid, but procrastination for me often comes when I know an assignment will take an annoyingly long time, or if I don’t know where or how to start. Simply beginning it with the promise to myself that I can stop usually puts a big enough dent in it that I can keep going. Even if I stop, I’ve still done 10 to 15 minutes of work.

Study Techniques

Have you ever heard of the Pomodoro method? Yeah, I had to. It felt like one of those magic study solutions that would work for type-A people and leave me angry and discouraged. Actually, it’s magic. It scratches whatever it is in my brain that needs the adrenaline to get anything done. It’s a timer, usually 25 or 50 minutes, depending on how long you can sustain focus, and then another timer for 5 or 10 minutes that’s a break time. Try to get as much done in that time as you can, and then take a break and go back. It helps you to stop before you get stuck, and maintain focus for an amount of time that’s reasonable. For me and my ADHD, 25-minute blocks of focus with 5-10-minute blocks of rest help to reset the part of me that gets stuck and abandons things. YouTube has tons of them, but a good old-fashioned timer works as well. Just don’t use your phone to set the timer, since for me that often leads to 25-minute blocks of scrolling and 5-minute blocks of working.

If you procrastinate as much as I do, learning to work within that is a life-changer. I’m not claiming to be perfect. I’m as much a sucker for a sunny day or a spontaneous plan as anyone. But I know that when it comes down to it, I have a few strategies to keep everything on track. Or, at least my version of on track.

susanna langan

Merrimack '25

Finance major at Merrimack College in Massachusetts