Advice for students: get out of the vicious cycle – get started!

Advice for students: get out of the vicious cycle - get started!

The writing project, the fearmonger of many students. At the end of each semester, homework, project work and all kinds of assignments take their toll: tears, anger, despair. Not infrequently, this ends with giving up instead of handing in.

But why do students often fail to get going – and fall into the same vicious circle of waiting, procrastinating and pushing things aside?? Until panic sets in and prere acts as the only motivator?

Answers to these questions and advice on how to break the cycle were recently provided at the "Night Shift" at the TU University Library. It was the first information and support evening on the topic of writing projects. Motto: "Get into the groove."

It's about efficient tools for successful completion. Helping students to help themselves – but also to show them: You are not alone.

The paralyzing fear of the blank sheet of paper is something experts, instructors and coordinators try to take away. Staff from the Institute for German Studies gave writing tips, library staff advised on research techniques – and the Gauss IT Center provided information about open source programs and good media presentation. The sports center also brings important strategies.

Stefanie, an eleventh-semester civil engineering student, also wants to get off the ground. In her luggage: her project work – she wants to start on it today.

But that's exactly her problem, says the 24-year-old: "Getting started is the hardest part, especially at times when there's a lot to do both inside and outside the university."Additional seminars, part-time jobs, household chores, maintaining social contacts: Time for writing projects is not infrequently in short supply for students.

Often people don't even start with the beginning. Then the panic – a vicious circle. For Stefanie, the lecture from the Institute for Educational Psychology comes just at the right time. Topic: "Procrastination", the chronic postponement of personal and important tasks.

Why so many students fall prey to this? Psychologist Selina Ebersold knows the answer: "Putting off unloved tasks for a short time leads to a feeling of short-term relief – often with long-term, negative consequences." To make sure it doesn't come to that, it gives a behind-the-scenes look at the upper room.

Understanding one's own action process is, according to Ebersold, "the first step toward improvement."

Analyze, recognize, start, change – only through introspection can efficient breakout strategies be developed. Problem areas and behavioral patterns – all of which are, of course, very individually shaped. Finding the right strategy is a matter of self-discovery and trial and error. The university can and wants to help, too, such as study program coordinators and the TU's psychotherapeutic counseling center.

But even if there is no panacea for writer's block, there are some practical tips: Create a work plan, realistic time management, start on time. Consistency!

A helpful technique, she says, is also a kind of contract with oneself. Literally. In writing, with date and signature. This is how real commitment is created.

Successful work has many factors: the right place, choosing the right times, getting yourself in the right mood – and here again: trial and error!

Also very helpful: set small goals instead of big ones.

Tip: Work calmly for 20 minutes, don't plow through an hour at a time. Then increase, slowly but steadily. The hurdle to start is much lower this way.

Again and again: pause, get an overview and question your own intention: What am I doing this for?? What do I get out of it? Why getting things done is important?

Only those who find something positive about the task can get rid of their inhibitions. Hardly surprising: It's all a question of the right attitude.

Another tip: never forget to indulge yourself. Rewards and self-praise act like lubricants in the productivity machinery. Found a new book on the subject today? Reward. After all, we did something for two hours instead of the planned full day? Reward.

That's perfectly fine, because even joy at achieving small interim goals is a proven way of tricking the mind, bypassing negative preconceptions and reprogramming one's body to feel good. To turn on a light at the end of the tunnel every working day – that's one way to put it.

Emotions play an important role in the work process. If negative, they inhibit, if positive, it goes by itself. So-called negative emotions can be reversed with techniques – such as visualization. You imagine the great feeling when you hand it in – that can drive you immensely. The philosophy: At some point it will all come to an end, it's just a question of time.

And: After all, everyone has to go through it. Those who never waver and always follow through are far from being in the majority. To be truly convinced of this – this is not easy and requires repeated training.

What is most helpful is the exchange with others: Fellow students, friends, family. Those who isolate themselves have a much harder time of it.

It works for the budding civil engineer Stefanie. She consults with her fellow students, exchanges experience reports – and gets started. "I learned a lot, especially that you can achieve much more with small goals than with big ones," she says. This is how things must now continue. The bachelor's thesis is due next semester.

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