Tick tock, tick tock
Auntie Matter on hurried homework and last-minute liaisons
If you have questions for Auntie Matter, please submit them at tinyurl.com/AskAuntieMatter. Questions have been edited for length, clarity, and content.
I keep finishing my psets up until the last hour. It's almost like whenever I attempt to start a pset early, I do a small portion of it and convince myself that I started early, only to complete the bulk of it the night or the hours before. I can't break this habit, and it keeps frustrating me. Any advice on how to break the chain?
— Procrastinator, Started Early Though
What are you doing when not doing your psets? Are you simply so busy with other activities that you find it hard to schedule time for your psets? Or do you find yourself frittering away a lot of time between the start of the pset and the due date?
If you’re swamped, consider whether you want to drop any of your activities. The stress of too much work could be making all your work suffer — procrastination is just a symptom. Which classes or activities are least important to you? Drop those, if possible. If you absolutely must remain in all your activities, try scheduling your time more rigorously. Set aside specific hours on specific days of the week to do each pset, and follow through on this schedule.
If you find yourself with plenty of time, but you just can’t seem to use it for psetting, you should think about why you’re procrastinating.
Procrastination can often mean anxiety — you feel intimidated by the amount or difficulty of the work you have to do, and so you put it off as a form of self-sabotage. If this sounds like you, never fear! There is help, and there are study strategies.
Create a space and a routine for psetting. Auntie finds that physical cues help her concentrate — for example, decide that the desk in your room will only be used for studying and never for playing games on your phone. Avoid studying in places you primarily socialize, such as your floor’s lounge or your club’s office. Weekly routines also help. If you set a habit of working on your 18.600 pset on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, you’ll find finishing it much less painless.
If it’s general malaise or cloudiness of mind that’s keeping you from your psets, you should first make sure you are sleeping, eating, and exercising enough. Auntie finds that lack of any of these things easily produces sadness and unproductivity. Then, if you still feel down, consider making an appointment at MIT Mental Health. Another thing that could interfere with your mood could be issues in your personal life. If you are facing stress from friends, family, or loved ones, you should be kind to yourself. Sometimes if the issues in our personal lives are severe enough (the death of a loved one, for example), we are in an era of our lives when school performance just isn’t that important. Obviously, if you can resolve stress in your personal life, you should. However, if you are going through a hard time, you need not worry too much about late psets. And remember to contact S^3 for support.
Likely, after reading all this advice, you probably will still procrastinate. But once you’ve started procrastinating, don’t feel as though you must keep procrastinating. You are not simply either a procrastinating fool or a productivity fiend. Just because you procrastinated for one day doesn’t mean you can’t be productive the rest of the week.
I am a second-semester senior, and there’s a girl in my major I have recently developed a crush on. We have been in many of the same classes together over the years, and we’ve become good friends. I feel like we really connect when we talk. She’s clever and caring and great. I’m not sure, but I think she might be interested in me, too. However, I know we’ve both accepted jobs on opposite sides of the country. Should I confess my feelings to her?
— Running Out of Time
Dear Out of Time,
Auntie normally tries to offer a broad range of solutions to those who seek her advice, but in this case, she believes there is only one right answer: go for it. Despite the fact that add date has already passed, Auntie believes you can add a new date.
You seem to think this relationship will likely end upon graduation. It is important to keep in mind that we can never know whether any new relationship will last. If you would not ask anyone out unless you were sure the relationship would last, you would never ask anyone out.
Auntie’s philosophy on relationships for young people is this: focus on the short term and the long term, and forget the medium term. What does that mean? In the present, you should enjoy your relationship. It should bring light and support into your life. In the long term, you should be learning and growing from your relationship. The skills and self-knowledge a serious attempt at love can bring you will stay with you, even if your lover does not. We cannot control the medium term; we do not always know if our lovers will be with us in a year or even a few months. However, by focusing on the short and long terms, we can make the most of what we can have some control over. Auntie has no doubt that attempting to date this woman would give you both joy and self-knowledge. It might be painful, but many of the best things also bring pain.
Finally, Auntie notes that you don’t even have the normal excuse: “But it would ruin the friendship!” You’re moving to opposite ends of the country, regardless. Kiss the girl.