It happens to every student: Your eyes start to hurt because you've been staring at the computer screen for too long without blinking. Your forehead is practically resting on the screen since your body has been inching closer to it. Your back hurts because of the leaning, your eyes just want to close, and best of all, you have homework to finish.
Yes, taking a power nap sounds appealing. Yes, watching a 30-minute TV show would give your brain a break. However, if you're like most of us, a power nap turns into not getting out of bed and that 30-minute TV show transforms into two hours of channel surfing. Fight the desire to tackle the assignment later when you're "better rested," because you and I both know that you can conquer this homework assignment now; you just don't want to.
Here's the solution: Trick yourself into getting the energy to complete it. In four minutes, you can persuade your mind that now is the perfect time to devour that low-hanging fruit.
Minutes 1 and 2: Stand up. Walk away from your computer. Shake out your arms and legs. Roll your shoulders backwards then forwards. Kick out your feet. Roll your wrists. Walk up and down stairs if you have them. I even encourage you to do a few jumping jacks. Whatever you do, just keep moving.
Why it works: The body and mind have a dependent relationship on each other. If you're couch-potatoing it, your brain is going to get sleepy. However, if your body is moving, your brain knows that it has to be ready for anything.
Minute 3: Get a pen and paper—don't go back to your homework yet!—and write down all the reasons why you're getting your degree. Don't worry about full sentences, this won't be graded. You can put short phrases such as "children," "get a job," "promotion," "exceed expectations," whatever you like. Write as many reasons as you can, and when you run out of reasons, simply write, "I can succeed. I will succeed" until you hit minute 4.
Why it works: Now that your brain is more alert thanks to the physical activity, it can focus on the bigger picture and not the lonely TV remote. What you're writing on paper is persuading your brain to think beyond just tonight and how this assignment is a step toward long-term success. Your brain will believe what you tell it to believe, so put the right motivators out there.
Minute 4: Bribery and Trickery. For the last minute I want you to do two things. First, think about what you can do tomorrow, if you finish your homework tonight. Don't write them down; just let them fill your thoughts. Think, "If I finish this assignment tonight... I won't have to worry about it tomorrow; I can watch that baseball game without multitasking; I can have homework-free time with my kids." Envision it and imagine what tomorrow will be without this homework lurking. Second, smile a big show-off-your-teeth grin. Yes, it'll feel weird just smiling randomly, but do it.
Why it works: Because bribery and trickery work. Our brains are programmed for tit-for-tat. There has to be a reward for everything. Tell yourself what the reward is now, so you have something to work toward. As for smiling, a smile can trick your body into thinking that you should be happy right now. A frown can persuade your brain otherwise. Remember, you control what your brain thinks. Make it positive.
Now, you re-energized student, be inspired and go tackle that assignment!
For more tips on how to succeed at school, read our College Life blog.