The 5-week Academic Habit Hack is designed to usher on super small, incremental changes in the way that you do school. By now, you've either developed or fallen into a way of being a student and those habits have become fossilized, even the ones you may desperately want to change. For these hacks, there's no turning over a new leaf, experiencing a sea change, switching a horse in mid-stream, or doing a 180! Most of these ways of thinking about change just set us up for failure and increase negative self-talk which will always put change out of reach. Our goal here is modest: tiny changes applied throughout each week in small ways to turn your habits in a new direction.
Each week focuses on a specific academic habit. You'll pick the statement you most agree with, read/view the suggested links, and then pick a habit hack you want to tackle for the week. You can also skip around and just focus on those weeks that speak to you. There's no need to commit to each week, seriously. Also, the links are there for your interest; feel free to skip 'em if you're already maxed out.
If you selected this option then procrastination is most likely a habit (or, honestly, a frenemy) you developed to avoid dealing with emotions that arise when you consider doing certain tasks. Avoiding those emotions then feels good and, whoops, your brain is caught up in a reward loop that reinforces procrastination. Next thing you know, you’re 35 and your co-workers refer to you as “deadline motivated.” Being deadline motivated isn’t necessarily bad, but if you’re in a full body sweat or powered by fear, shame, and guilt as the deadline nears then maybe there’s more to just managing to get something done.
Pick one project that you’re procrastinating and figure out the emotions that surface for you, from the monstrous to the mundane. Now figure out why you might be avoiding those feelings. Just being aware of these feelings will allow you to be realistic about what’s super powering your procrastination habits.
If you selected this option, then you’re likely trying to solve the wrong problem; you may not have a time-management issue on your hands. Procrastination is powered by short-term rewards (which your brain loves) even if it results in pain you must suffer in the future (which your brain is often less motivated by). Becoming honest about the role procrastination plays for you can help slayeth the beast.
Become aware of when you’re in a procrastination habit loop and begin to sort out triggers, behaviors, and rewards. Do this once a day. The awareness alone might lead to behavior change (bonus!). And it won’t be the kind of behavior change where you feel like you’re wrestling with your brain (double bonus!)
Pick a project you haven’t started. Now, imagine the feelings of rushing to get it done and the feelings of shame and guilt as 3:00 a.m. rolls around, your contacts are drying in your eyes, your coffee has congealed into sludge, and you’re filled only with a fervent obsession with word count. Now, imagine the feeling of finishing a project early.
Secret’s out: Your professors are empathetic human beings who like working with you. They go to BRU 64, they get winded walking up the hills on campus, some of them think (obsessively) about the falafel from Pita Gourmet. Remember, professors were once students as well (for far longer than they care to remember!) and if you ask, many of them will have stories of connecting with a professor who may have made all the difference in where they ended up.
Pick one professor from a course within your major and a professor of a course outside of your major and make an appointment to meet with them. So simple! They expect to talk to you especially if you’ve been putting out an anonymous vibe all semester. There’s a good chance you may actually start connecting with your course in a different way.
Do you anticipate certain difficulties with an assignment, certain material, or do you plan on being abducted by aliens at the beginning of May? Email one of your professors before (notice, we used italics here) something becomes a problem. In that email be concise and specific without being demanding.
If you selected this option, then we have a lot to say. First, the academic support services on-campus (which includes the Library, the Learning Center, and the Writing Center) actually enjoy meeting with you. Seriously. That’s why we applied for these jobs and endured interviews that were, for some of us, two-day long extravaganzas. Second, academic services are useful for all students; our job is to have you up your game no matter the level you’re playing at. Third, you should use services your college tuition helps pay for.
Make an appointment with the Writing Center, the Learning Center, or with the library. If we had a dime for all the times someone has said “wow, this was actually really useful,” we’d have Scrooge McDuck style money bins.
If you selected this option, you’re certainly not alone. Sometimes participating in class can feel like being on stage or it might feel like it carries a risk (like being seen eating pizza with a fork—seriously, sometimes it’s just easier!). There are times when we may not feel connected to a class or the vibe.
If speaking extemporaneously (look it up!) fills you with existential dread, then write down a thing you’d want to say in your next class session. Pick out just one good statement or question that you’re especially interested in bringing up, so that you’re a little more focused for the discussion.
Multi-tasking leads to split attention (period). This week log off or X out every single application other than what you need for the class, or turn off your phone/put it in another room (toodles phone!), or act like you’re engaged (then you might find yourself engaged since mood sometimes follows behavior).
Social anxiety or just general shyness can make interactions such as class discussions feel like an especially daunting task. Logically you know nothing truly horrifying will happen if you speak up, and yet, you find yourself freezing up whenever you try.
Challenge yourself to take just one of the following steps to better become part of the conversation: write your way into the chat (shine through writing!), or get ahead of the game by speaking up voluntarily to save you from being randomly called on and put on the spot later.
Accept that speaking in front of others will cause you anxiety and do it anyway. The goal isn’t to remove anxiety from your life (pro tip: it’s not possible); instead, don’t get tangled in giving it attention: Anxiety Won’t Kill You
If you selected this option, then perhaps you want to change the vibe in a class by getting closer to your classmates instead of viewing them as anonymous others. Perhaps you’ve grown tired of your friend group and are looking to transition to a new one (college is, after all, an opportunity for switching it up). We have a couple of ways to turn you into a chat wizard and create moments to go from 2 dimensions to 3.
This week, show some aspect of your personality. This can be something as simple as uploading a profile picture in your video platform, having something fun in view of the camera, or using a custom virtual background.
Find a way to work in information or questions that allows you to connect with others. Ask a question that could apply to anyone, for instance: “What shows are you currently bingeing?”, “What have you been doing to de-stress on the weekend?,” “What is your opinion of sloths?”
This week, strive to answer someone else’s question, or respond to something one of your classmate's said during class discussion, or give a positive shout out to at least one person in a class this week, whether through a private response to them in the chat, forum, or email.
If you selected this option then you’re looking for wizard-level chat status. You want to make the most of the tools at hand in order to better connect with your classmates. You know there are probably some features you’re missing out on… but with so much going on, you don’t have a lot of time to sit down and master every feature of every tool.
Challenge yourself to learn one new feature about the technology you’re using in your class (clicking the help tab in most programs will reveal more than you ever wanted to know). If your class has discussion forums, look for different ways you can change the text, or add links, videos, or pictures.
Try to connect with someone this week in a private chat! You can start up a private discussion really easily in any video platform. A private venue like this can be a good way to have more personal, one-on-one conversations with others in the class.
If you selected this option, you may be on autopilot--following your GPS straight into the ocean. Nothing from lecture sticks. You try to keep up with the readings, but those also aren’t really clicking for you either. Most of what you're doing isn't working...it might just be time for a new approach.
Try out a new way of taking notes during class or during your readings this week:
Try out a new note taking app. There are many free options out there which you might try. Pick one that looks interesting to you and try it out during one of your synchronous classes this week.
If you selected this option, you might be running out of zest. Maybe you're waking up and feeling leaden or like there isn't enough caffeine in the world. Maybe you find your mind drifting during the lectures, or you just can’t seem to keep your eyes on the page when reading. You need to recharge or switch. it. up.
Treat one of your classes exactly like an in-person class this week! This week, really focus on behaving as if you’re going into an in-person class: get dressed, get out of bed, and act as if you’re really walking into the classroom.
During finals week, be on the lookout for Finish Strong messages from SUNY Cortland Advisement so that you can cross that finish line as more than a shell of your former self.