I believe I am over the peak of my crisis, which, at it’s highest point just after the Easter break had me thinking that intercalation might be my only option. Despite being granted extensions, I was late with one piece and failed to hand in another. The others that I did get on time were a result of pulling all-nighters. I even completely messed up dates for two pieces of coursework which resulted in me handing in a grossly substandard piece of work on the date the other piece was due in (which, I calculated, if I get full marks for what I’ve completed, would still only amount to 12% – an obvious fail!). Once again, the support from my department has been exceptional and when I’m at my wit’s end worrying that I have done irreparable damage to this year, I am shown that it’s not over. Thankfully, I’ve been averaging B’s and if I nail the revision and get acceptable results in the exams then I’ll have made it through the first year in one piece!
This is clearly not a sustainable approach to studying, but it’s a valuable lesson. I’ve been guilty of pinning my hopes on getting a clinical diagnosis and subsequent help from the available services, but I’m still on the waiting list and help will only come in time for the second year. It’s hard to take effective measures when you only understand how your brain derails you. I have started to regard my brain as a separate entity since there is conflict between what I want and what I do. For example, I’m acutely conscious of my procrastination. No matter how much I want to do my coursework, revision or general reading around the subject in hand, I end up doing everything but. I have no self-control which bemuses me greatly since I have a stubborn streak a mile wide and can be quite bloody-minded at times. It’s almost a compulsion to avoid what I should be doing and I suffer great amounts of guilt as a result, especially when I consider the amount of support I’ve been given and the faith others have in my ability to achieve.
So I have declared war on my unruly brain.
I now pay monthly for a program that allows me to schedule blocks on various websites. Between 9am and 9pm Monday to Friday, I cannot access social media and entertainment sites such as Netflix. This has broken the cycle of continually refreshing websites, binging on box-sets and playing Candy Crush (although I can’t block it, I have been able to delete the app and the amount of effort it would take to find the website and download it would afford me the time to think better of it). I have noticed that I do tend to search for other distractions online, but I get bored quickly when I can’t find anything that grabs me (there is a finite amount of time that you can watch Youtube clips of people revving bikes before it becomes tedious) and I invariably return to that report I was writing. I also set a timer on my phone to go off after 25 minutes. This seems to be the length of my attention span. I take a break, then reset it and crack on. I can do this for hours and hours and it becomes fun because I really do enjoy the subjects I am studying. At the end of each 25 minute session, I colour in a brick on a piece of A5 paper. I now have a new unit of time which is less intimidating than hours or minutes and there’s a certain satisfaction in seeing that colour spread across the page. I am prone, however, to forgetting to colour in the odd brick! I have taken to studying with the radio on in a bid to learn to detune myself from ambient noise. It doesn’t always work and fails mostly when I become frustrated with something – something I have to learn to cope with when I am in a workshop or practical. Trying to overcome being easily distracted is a ridiculously hard challenge. My own thoughts can distract me. One of my ‘talents’ is being able to read a whole chapter in a book only to realise that I have been simultaneously thinking about something completely unrelated and haven’t taken in anything I’ve read. I have been fooled many a time thinking I’ve been reading around my topic based on how many pages I’ve got through. Finally, I have given up trying to engage in self-directed study on campus. It’s too noisy. There are no quiet spaces, although I can occasionally get work done in the quad, but it’s outside so that is weather dependant.
Maybe procrastination has now taken the form of lengthy blog posts. If you happen to notice me engaging in daily updates, please feel free to tell me to have a word with myself!