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Here is a common kind of trouble students (and others, including still me, sometimes) have: getting behind on a thing->feeling bad that you're behind->avoiding the thing & the people involved in the thing->getting even more behind on the thing-> feeling bad etc.
I say that 1. because if you can recognize it, and know that you're not the only one who does it, it's easier to get out of and 2. because I have some suggestions for how to deal with it. Here they are:
first, if you're in this shame spiral in the first place, chances are "just do the thing" isn't the solution. I mean sure, yes, if you can just do the thing, by all means. But you might need some strategies to GET yourself to do the thing, to figure out how to do the thing.
1. identify WHY you can't do the thing. What is the problem that kept you from doing the thing/writing the paper/turning in the assignment. Are you unsure about what's expected? Just not interested? not finding/making time? worried about looking dumb? something else?
sometimes just identifying what the problem is can help you figure out the solution, or a path to the solution.
2. ASK FOR HELP. We are social creatures, and academia, much as this is obscured in all kinds of ways, is a collective enterprise. So if, for whatever reason, you are having trouble getting yourself to do the thing, find other people to help you do it. NOT do it for you, but help
- help YOU figure out how to do it, or make time for it, or etc. Ask for help understanding if that's where you're stuck, or get a buddy to just sit with you while you do the thing, or tell someone you're going to do it by X time and that you'll check in with them afterwards.
3. (these aren't necessarily in the order you should do them in, just things that have worked for me & I've seen work for others) - go meta/sideways at it. If you're stuck on a writing task, try writing ABOUT the writing task and why you're stuck, to get yourself ready to write.
if it's talking to someone, make a plan about how you'll say what you'll say. If you need to meet, maybe you COULD just drop by/sign-up but maybe it's easier to send an email asking to meet.
4. GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK/back off the thing. Even the most accomplished, competent people I know screw up sometimes, or get stuck, or etc. Maybe instead of trying to do the thing right now, what you need is to take a walk, or talk to a friend, or go to bed early.
If you're the kind of person who can get into the pattern above, you have plenty high standards for yourself, you're not a slacker (even if you feel like one right now), and you won't suddenly forget that you care about doing the thing (or need to do the thing) if you back off.
(this strategy COULD backfire of course if giving yourself a break ONLY leads to more not doing the thing, so I recommend it in combination with one of the others - like the next & last one.)
5. Make a plan - instead of thinking "I need to do the thing" think "when am I going to do the thing" and make a solid plan for when you'll do it, what steps you'll take, etc. This is kind of like going meta/sideways, just in a different way.
Any of these can & should be combined - especially the connecting with other people/asking for help thing. I'm 42 years old and I have a PhD and a surprising lot of publications and I still need to sometimes use all these tricks on myself for my academic (and other!) work.
I just the other day asked a friend if we could make a writing-partner plan for the summer, so I have a greater chance of Doing All the Things I want to do. I use Twitter and FB for public accountability sometimes for things I know I a kick in the pants to make sure I do.
(And I'm by no means a paragon of Always Doing the Things, still). The short version: If you're having trouble Doing a Thing, it's not a sign you're a failure of any sort, and the solution isn't (usually) "just make yourself do the thing."
(This thread brought to you by talking with a student who was struggling and thought they just needed to do the thing, and me trying to help them find more strategies than that. The end, I think, but I'd love to hear others' tips and strategies too!)
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