Getting things done as a student

I know this was probably been many times and I have actually asked the very same question at least once. I have an essay deadline today or rather I have an extension but it should have been today. I wanted to start the essay weeks before but I started late and I realised that I’ve been unknowingly ignoring the course and need to learn the appropriate concepts first. I’ve spent the whole week either on the essay or procrastinating. I felt down even thinking about it and in addition I’ve started a new medication on Monday which I had to stop because I was tired all the time. I felt motivated on friday and but really disorganised and I completely exhausted myself and I stayed exhausted until know. My timer says the total time spent on the 1200 w essay is 26 hours, but I the only thing I have mostly completed is the research, I don’t have anything close to a draft and the longer I stare at the screen, the more helpless and guilty I feel, not mentioning the time when I procrastinate. In the past I finished some assignments by reading and writting at the same time for 20 hours non-stop, but now I don’t feel any sense of urgency. I know that with this approach, I can get really depressed and avoidant and stay like that for months. I also know I probably have the intellectual capacity to write that stupid essay in a night and still passed if my brain is wired towards that goal but I am paralysed. Right now I am here, complaining about myself on an online support forum instead of writting the essay and I feel like this complete “irresponsibility” is going to completely undermine my sense of self worth.

What do I do now and how do I prevent this from happening in the future? I am in my 3rd year of Philosophy and Psychology undergraduate degree at the University of Aberdeen and I love both my subjects. I feel lucky and to some extend proud for being here and I do want to graduate and find a meaningful job and I feel positive about it. I am not going to spiral down again and let my past trauma, insecurities and ADD determine my fate.


And I forgot to add that I do not even work and I’m fortunate enough to afford this :upside_down_face:
I do even have a partial answer here, but. . .

  • Procrastination is always STRESS
    • Steps - Are you procrastinating because you don’t have the right first step?
    • Thinking = negative thinking - Do you start thinking about how you’re gonna fail, etc. when you are about to start the assignment?
    • Research - Is there ANY ambiguity about what you are going to do? Any ambiguity tends to paralyze you when you have ADD
    • Emotion/Trauma - It’s not just the task itself, but all the tasks like this that are bothering you when you have a trauma. You have a negative emotion tight to ‘studying’ that drains you of your dopamine and energy levels super fast
      • Do something that boosts your energy and dopamine while you’re doing the task
      • Seek therapy if you can
    • Sensory Issues - Do you have overdeveloped senses and your environment irritates you? (noise, smell, touch, …)
    • Self-Care - Is there a type of self-care that you need before doing the task? (Social stimulation, exercise, food, etc.)
      • Set a timer for 15 minutes and try a type of selfcare - see how your dopamine is - if it’s ok, start the task, if it’s not - try another type of selfcare
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Your STRESS acronym is great… a practical tool I use as a homeschooling mother of five, fulltime wife and caretaker of our elderly relatives is this: Always have a procrastination project.

Having projects that I procrastinate between it hugely helpful to me.


Thank you Mabd!

I’m wondering if that would work for me when I cannot focus even on a single project, I often end up just staring in it or I’m daydreaming or I get depressed. . . but I will try it out! It’s definitely a question of discipline sometimes and then this strategy should help. And by the way you have my admiration just knowing you manage all these things somehow :slight_smile:

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Not wanting to reinvent the wheel here . . . what follows is taken from a previous post of mine! And while it doesn’t give you any answers, or probably help at all . . . you’re not alone! :sunglasses:

For almost every single paper I ever wrote, both undergrad and graduate school, I enjoyed doing the research. It was like a scavenger hunt, I would find one piece that led me to another and then to another., etc. It was exciting. Then I would have all the material scattered about the floor in my room and typically wait about 12 to 18 hours before the paper was due to begin putting it together. That I did not find exciting but nerve-racking. But it seemed I needed to wait for that sense of urgency to get my ass in gear. I went to a conference on a ADHD were one of the speakers said: “people with ADD know only two types of time . . . It’s now or it’s not now”. So if the paper was due two days from now it wasn’t the “now” when the paper was due. Then the night before I would think about it and say “oh shit paper is due tomorrow” . . . “NOW” . . .


We know that ADHD is an interest-based condition.

The examples that @Mabd and @Brooklyn have given point to this fact:

Engaging in an interest gives a dopamine boost.

You’ve shared that you’ve got the interest in the subject matter of your studies:

So, maybe you’re like Barry (and me), in that the research is what excites your brain.

I love learning about many sorts of things…diverse interests help me with divergent thinking. But I also struggle when writing essays, because that requires convergent thinking (pulling ideas together to tell write something cohesive).

I know that I can be effective at verbalizing what I know about a topic, with supporting ideas and information, in a conversation with people. It’s sitting down to write it when I’m on my own that I have difficulty. (And I want to be a writer/blogger/author, so I definitely want to get over a similar hurdle.)

Here are some observations I’ve made that I think help me with my writing (at least getting started):

  • Writing an initial draft with pencil and paper, and trying not to “edit as I go” (which is a tendency of mine that stifles idea generation).
  • Role-playing: Having a real or imagined conversation, in which I speak about the topic (of the essay) with the enthusiasm that I often have in conversations with friends and peers. – Tip: have some sort of cue to keep on the subject, or be able to return to it, if you go off on a tangent (AKA “rabbit trail”).
  • Remember that “perfection is the enemy of good”. (This is advice I was given by a mentor, about 10 years ago.) It’s better to have something to turn in and get a grade on the assignment, than to try too hard to make the essay “perfect” and wind up with an incomplete work . That tendency to “strive for perfection”, because we know that we have the capacity, often makes the “Wall of Awful” even bigger and more imposing.

I think that perfection-seeking also contributes to “imposter-syndrome”. Keep in mind that an essay is a great opportunity to show a bit of yourself in a very authentic way, and in my mind authenticity is the antidote to imposter-syndrome.

  • (Hey, I think I’ve just found my next topic to write about: “authenticity as the antidote for imposter-syndrome”)


NOW or NOW :sunglasses:


Well, I guess I should start with research, to be more sure than I’m onto something with this.


I’d do that too . . .

Gotta love the “hunt” (i.e. “scavenger”)!



Thank you! I know this feeling but rarely experience that. I need to be really interested and usually can’t have an obligation to do it as that creates anxiety. And even when I’m interested I usually just read the abstracts! :grin:


Thank you @j_d_aengus!

Thank you. I love the research if it’s something interesting and if I am not paralysed. I also love getting lost in my own thought which sometimes helps with unstructured philosophy essays.

. . .if I am not paralysed and do not spiral into and awful spiral of negative thoughts and feelings. I can get really anxious and depressed and my response is avoidance.

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Any research can turn into a very deep rabbit hole. A great way to avoid what you have to do! And the more you beat yourself up for not making progress, the more guilty you feel, the more stressed and anxious you feel, that much more you will find a distraction to escape the anxiety and avoid doing what you have to. And while you are enjoying the distraction of research in the now, you will completely forget about the not now of a looming deadline!

Recently I watched a Google talk by the author of The Willpower Instinct and it occured to me that a lot of what she is talking about applies to us brains as well! It may be we experience these “willpower failures” much more but I don’t think it even matters what you call them. The tiny interventions she talks about can certainly be of use to us as well. So here are the links:

If you want a transcript, here it is: Kelly McGonigal on The Willpower Instinct - Talks at Google (Full Transcript) – The Singju Post

If you want just the audio:

See what you think. Try out a few of these strategies and see if they work for you.



I recently decided to become a patreon of “Rick wants to know” and the last two webinars have been on exactly this sort of thing the process is called “3 Vital Questions”. [living up to my high school nickname of “the nomad”]

Disclaimer: I have not read to the end of this thread I hope I don’t offend anyone I thought I might clarify my thoughts here rather than burying them into my diary for them to never see the light of day again. (OK now I have scanned it)

I won’t go into it here in detail, but the first question is “What are you focussing on? Are you focussing on the problem or the outcome?” If like me you’re prone to waiting till the last minute to a. get started, b. ask for help c. clarify what a sufficiently adequate outcome is etc.

there might also be something to “precrastination” Adam Grant: The surprising habits of original thinkers | TED Talk, and if you have ADHD like mine all your thinking is going to feel original.

there are two more Q’s but I will leave it here as I have

  1. coding job that is months overdue
  2. an academic interview to prepare for on tuesday that requires a 3 slide presentation
  3. an academic role to apply for by 11 pm on sunday night (lower priority for various reasons)
  4. marking to finish for someone else’s course (at least I’m more than half way through this one)

(not bragging here, I’m just F***ing reminding myself that I have a day job - at least until december)

Luckily I’m well rested, fed, running on two dexamphetamine tablets and a coffee for now.

I’ll see if there’s a topic/thread I could condense some of my recent findings into at some point.


I still haven’t finished this essay and the new deadline is Today midnight :see_no_evil:

  1. is still overdue.
  2. I have a dot point list and a template ppt - eh I have till tuesday
  3. recycle reuse the last four job applications, I hope there are not too many copy paste based errors, due 11:30 pm, finished (wabi-sabi) 11:15 pm.
  4. did that the night I was complaining.

Midnight now. I best be to bed.

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You shall submit, or develop a skill for pleading for your plight. Either way best of luck.

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Hi Matej,

I have some possible tips .

Do exercise.

To increase your focus , research career options that you could do when you graduate, it should increase your motivation.