improving your work ethic?

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improving your work ethic?

Postby redgrowth » Mon May 03, 2010 7:06 pm UTC

I have a poor work ethic, which is hurting my GPA and limiting my future options (I'm a rising senior in college). How do I go about improving my work ethic and self-discipline? Please don't say "just do it" because that's not a very useful answer. If I could "just do it" I would have done it already.

My problem is multi-faceted. I don't think I work efficiently, so on the days when I do work hard there is little positive reinforcement. I don't manage my time well even when I'm studying. I'll spend too much time on a subject and then not have enough time for my other classes. Also, I often study parts of the subject that interest me, but the teacher does not care about. For example, in organic chemistry instead of focusing on learning the reactions I would get side tracked on the nitty gritty details of various solvents.

I have ADHD, and I can't use any of the medication due to bad side effects. Because of this I get distracted easily and sometimes forget that I even have work to do. I'm also just recovering from a conditioned dislike of learning/schooling (thanks US education system), and I sometimes still get this knot in my gut when I think about schoolwork even in a class that I enjoy. I also give up too easily when things get frustrating, or alternatively I'll waste an entire day unproductively trying to solve a problem. Basically it's a lack of balance, or poor evaluation skills in that I have trouble telling if the current approach is completely wrong, or if more effort will yield a solution.

I feel that for any effective solution I'll need to change my environment, and who I am. I have some ADHD books about college so I have a starting point for changing my environment. However, I don't know where to start for changing myself. I feel like I need to change not just how I do work, but also how I think about it. I suspect I might need to see a counselor for a little bit, but I am not sure.

Does anyone have suggestions? Advice would be much appreciated.

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Re: improving your work ethic?

Postby Spencernator » Mon May 03, 2010 8:04 pm UTC

First off, I'm a college freshman, so feel free to disregard me.

I feel your pain. I have troubles concentrating when I do work in my dorm, because there are so many distractions. Usually when I'm running out of time on assignments, I have to just take what I need to the on-campus library and just work, work, work. Last Thursday I worked on my papers for four hours, when I usually only work on schoolwork for about fifteen minutes a day.

All I can think to tell you is to just find an environment that is well-suited to your needs as a student. If you get distracted in your room, go somewhere else to do your work. If that doesn't work... well, I really don't have any advice on that.

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Re: improving your work ethic?

Postby modularblues » Mon May 03, 2010 9:11 pm UTC

I had similar issues in undergrad (no ADHD though) which resulted in my grades getting screwed over, but I found a few things that are working for me now (that I should have done in retrospect...)

(1) Time yourself while studying. Set a goal beforehand: I need to read N pages or do X problems in T hours. If goal is not met, think about why - underestimated the time it took to understand a concept? Was distracted? Try to revise goal to be more doable. Reward self when goal is reached, but don't go overboard with it.

(2) Do you fidget a lot while sitting at a desk? Maybe try to shift positions once in a while - like standing up or walking around. Sitting too long at a desk is bad for anybody. I never sit more than 1 hour at a time - unless I get engrossed in making artworks (which is rare these days.)

(3) Regular sleep schedule (+/- 30 minutes) in bedtimes and wake-up times. I sometimes find this hard to do but when I have a regular schedule I feel more alert and focused in general.

(4) Some exercise when you feel your concentration wandering - even random jumping jacks help.

(5) Good nutrition helps too. I feel my brainpower increase by like 30% when I get my leafy vegetables and fish and complex carbohydrates.

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Re: improving your work ethic?

Postby rigwarl » Mon May 03, 2010 9:15 pm UTC

One of the most insightful remarks on this topic I've heard was from Steve Pavlina, who relates work ethic to a muscle. If you want to lift 250 pounds, you don't start out by lifting 250 pounds- you start with something easier and work your way up.

As an example, a poker player said that he was losing money until he started making his bed in the morning every day for the sole purpose of building self-discipline. Now he is a millionaire working only a few hours a week.

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Re: improving your work ethic?

Postby blue_eyedspacemonkey » Mon May 03, 2010 9:17 pm UTC

I invested in a diary and write to-do lists. Mostly weekly ones, but if I have lectures I'll do daily to-do lists based on when I'll be on campus thus able to be in the lab/use the library etc.
"Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes"

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Re: improving your work ethic?

Postby KestrelLowing » Tue May 04, 2010 4:43 pm UTC

If you ever have a particular day/ week where you really need to get things done, schedule like mad. Every hour should be planned, and you should plan time for relaxation, sleep, physical activity and such. That's what I do during finals.

People are much more likely to stay on task if they have a schedule (or at least I am).

Also, just spend a certain amount on studying/homework. Say that you're going to work on a certain assignment for 30 minutes, take a 10 minute break (make sure to time the breaks!) and then spend another 30 minutes on that assignment. If it's not done by then, move onto something else.

This of course requires that you don't have to get something done immediately.

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Re: improving your work ethic?

Postby skselby » Tue May 04, 2010 10:30 pm UTC

Here's a couple things that worked for me:

1. Find a space to study and only study. If you are not studying leave this space and only return when you are ready to study. Once you build this habit, being in the space will help your focus.
2. Reward yourself while studying. I use beer, coffee, or chocolate. Sometimes all three together if I'm desperate. If you use all three together, choose your beer carefully.
3. Use noise canceling headphones and find music that helps you concentrate, i.e., fades into the background of your conscious mind. This amuses the part of my brain that tries to keep me from studying. Also, this part of my brain likes weird music but YMMV.

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Re: improving your work ethic?

Postby Splendiferous » Wed May 05, 2010 6:02 am UTC

Considering how bad my work ethic is and since I'm just entering the fall semester at my chosen institute of higher learning I have found a few tips that really help when it gets down to crunch time and you find yourself up against a rock and a hard place.

1.) Find your personal way to destress-ify (This will be a word now.) yourself may i suggest reading a good ol' fashion book or a certain web comic filled with copious(god is this word over used in todays vocabulary) amounts of humor or in any manner you see fit.

2.) Now that your emotionally capable crack open your books and get ready. Memorize key, and I stress the word key, information. Remember dates names and events. These will always help build strong essays and simplify those pesky multiple choices etc. Also it keeps it moderately simple and therefore you do not cram WAY too much into your already over loaded brain.

3.) Do not study the night before the test study the night before the night before (confusing...) that way your brain can absorb this information like a sponge. If you really need to finish up try not to leave it till the later hours and get it in first thing when you wake up (literally or after coffee which ever works).

Now that you know a thing or two about studying lets move onto assignments/classwork

1.) If your assignment is a long term thing, do small portions each day but make progress each and every time you sit down (or stand) to get working. It is important to always keep your brain working so if you say assign 30min per day to an assignment due in two weeks. Make sure if you are not writing things done meant for your final copy you are reading something relevant to the topic or just typing random gibberish. It works trust me.

2.) Assignments due within a few days or so. Do not bother doing them that night. Your brain will still remember the information learned that day and therefore completing this assignment has a reduced intellectual value and should be ignored for more productive things such as xbox or sports. (Unless your slammed with homework in that case...put down your controller and get working using a modified strategy of the above long term assignment) Instead leave it until the second day where in your brain will have forgotten a few things and therefore reviewing the information and subsequently writing it down will improve your retention and you may not have to study as much for the next test.

3.) assignments due tommorow (yikes). Rest for a bit after classes and grab a snack chill with friends until your relaxed enough to power through the assignment efficiently and correctly (bad grammer...)

All these methods I have used so far, many friends have used and i have learned from teachers, parents etc. They work for me and most people i teach them too so i hope they work for anyone who bothers to wade through my horrible grammar and syntax. I am no english major or anything or the sort.

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Re: improving your work ethic?

Postby Chopperman » Sat May 29, 2010 6:19 am UTC

When I need to do homework on the computer and am surrounded by distractions, I use this:

It's 10 minutes of rain sound, sans music. When I put on heavy-duty headphones and turn the volume up, the world outside my work just goes away. Unlike music, you don't get stuck being distracted by the lyrics or anything. It has been one of my favorite bookmarks since I got into college.

Also, figure out what you want to do. I want my grades to be high because I want future generations to read of my yet-to-be-accomplished accomplishments and notice that I was an exceptional student. "Graduated without distinction" sounds lame, so I don't want that phrase used in any future biographies of me. What I'm trying to say is that you should set goals for yourself, and constantly ask yourself if skiving off or getting distracted will keep you from being who you want to be. Notice how the short-term distractions can add up until you find that you can't pursue the dreams that you had hoped for, and you end up settling. Think about how you risk looking back on your life and feeling regret. It would be the small, avoidable things that you would regret the most.

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Re: improving your work ethic?

Postby Vieto » Sat May 29, 2010 1:52 pm UTC

I approve of the rain music, and I think I will be using it from now on. :D

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Re: improving your work ethic?

Postby Yreval » Sun May 30, 2010 3:29 am UTC has a high-quality, 30-minute loop of rain sound that loops automatically, so you don't have to replay it as you might a youtube video. On the downside, there is no volume control on the website, which can be problematic if you're listening to it alongside music (it's an interesting touch—believe me!) Luckily, that shouldn't be a problem if you just need white noise and don't want music distracting you from your work.

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Re: improving your work ethic?

Postby ^_^ » Sun Jun 06, 2010 12:20 pm UTC

I completely agree with the whole lack of work ethic thing. It's terrible. Finals in less than a week, and I'm just sitting around watching DVDs and playing video games. Sure, I've got over a hundred lectures to catch up on, but what the hell, that would require effort =P
No study techniques seem to work for me either, attention span = minimal :roll:

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Re: improving your work ethic?

Postby Abiruth » Thu Jun 24, 2010 1:24 am UTC

Yeah, I agree with you. Maybe the starting point is to visit a councelor, but sincerely, I feel for you.

I also think you shouldnt put too much emphasis on ADHD, try to take this out of your mind. Try to achieve, high or aim high inspite of your limitations. I know this souds cruel, but men that changed the world had one form of disability or another.

Try to create a relaxed environment for yourself, also since u easily get distracted, try removing everything from site, save your work book, the very moment you determine to study. Surround yourself with the right people, friends that will always encourage to to push on

Wishing you all the best

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Re: improving your work ethic?

Postby supermario » Thu Jun 24, 2010 4:51 am UTC

I definitely second the to do lists. Almost every night before I go to bed, I go through what I want the next day to look like and list out each thing in terms of priority. I even make lists of my long term goals for a certain period of time (summer goals, year goals, etc.). Whenever I have a task like studying a large amount of material, I tend to break the larger task up into steps (ex.: Clean room > clean closet, dust, vacuum, organize papers > get binder, put dividers in binder, label, put papers in binder.... etc.). This helps me remember to do things and hopefully will help you stay focused if you get distracted.

As for time management, I second the timer idea as well. I don't time my studying, but I empathize with getting sidetracked because of things you find interesting. My love of reading often distracts me from studying class material. Self-discipline can be hard, but try to indulge both what you need to study and want to study. Prioritize the needs (test materials, homework, etc.) and reward yourself with the wants. Try to motivate yourself by remembering that in college your education isn't free (maybe it is in your case, IDK) and thinking about what you're there for.

The counseling idea is a good one. You might want to check and see if your university has any resources for people with ADHD; some do these days.

Good luck to you. Keep us updated with whether any of the things posted here are successful or not -- I think lots of people want to improve their work ethic. :)

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Re: improving your work ethic?

Postby Alx_xlA » Thu Jun 24, 2010 5:53 am UTC

The best advice I'd offer is to, as soon as you get an assignment, break it up into chunks that you can finish within the limits of your attention span. If you can't focus well on it for more than ten minutes, finish a ten-minute chunk, do something else, and go back to it and do another.
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Re: improving your work ethic?

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Sep 09, 2014 2:43 pm UTC

redgrowth wrote:I have a poor work ethic, which is hurting my GPA and limiting my future options (I'm a rising senior in college). How do I go about improving my work ethic and self-discipline? Please don't say "just do it" because that's not a very useful answer. If I could "just do it" I would have done it already.

My problem is multi-faceted. I don't think I work efficiently, so on the days when I do work hard there is little positive reinforcement. I don't manage my time well even when I'm studying. I'll spend too much time on a subject and then not have enough time for my other classes. Also, I often study parts of the subject that interest me, but the teacher does not care about. For example, in organic chemistry instead of focusing on learning the reactions I would get side tracked on the nitty gritty details of various solvents.

I have ADHD, and I can't use any of the medication due to bad side effects.

As someone who is also diagnosed, I guessed this before even getting to this part. It's a very common thing.

First off, caffiene helps. It ain't like actually taking medication, but it's better than nothing. I hated the side effects, and eventually adapted to not taking any...but this requires behavioral changes and honestly, caffiene is a big help.

Secondly, talk to professionals. You may not always need it, but chatting with advisors about help with classes can help you find additional resources. Chatting with councilors can get you feedback on behavioral adaptations to cope.

Thirdly, have a set "homework mode". This may be physically picking your books up and going somewhere else, in which you ONLY study. This helps avoid the "oh, I have to do this, and this, and this" chain of distractions.

Fourthly, nothing focuses the mind so much as avoiding something else you really, really don't want to do. Use this. If you really don't want to do assignment x, assignment y can serve as a distraction. You're still checking things off the list, and you still have to do X at some point...but sometimes killing the fun/easy things on the list first is mentally easier.

Fifthly, sleep well. This can be rough, but crappy sleep saps willpower, motivation, etc. When these are precious resources, there's little point wasting them.

Sixthly, follow your interests sometimes in studying. Randomly learning everything may not be an efficient way to pass the class on a time spent basis, but the random learning will probably help down the road. If you've got time, and something is fascinating, why not?

Seventhly, don't spend a bunch of time beating yourself up over past errors. Wallowing in guilt is fairly terrible at fixing problems, and tends to make folks feel like giving up. You blew off a class, forgot about an assignment, and lost a bunch of points? Meh. Make a note of what not to do in the future, but try not to endlessly replay it over and over. Work on something else instead. Failure is not the end, it's just part of life.

I'm told lists, journals, etc are great, but in practice, I always got distracted before filling them out, or forgot about them, or so forth. Catch 22. YMMV. I genuinely think that ADHD is...not a disability in the way people think of them. It's simply a different way of thinking. It's got advantages and disadvantages. For instance, there's a strange ability to focus and shut basically everything out when something is really fascinating. You've probably noticed this with things you enjoy, and it's almost invariably something where you're constantly finding little nuggets of stuff you're excited about. This can be used, but normal class structure is probably not organized with this in mind. Consider, early in the class(or even before it starts), just wandering around in the subject matter and exploring it yourself. If wikipedia works for you, bounce around in that, follow links, whatever. You won't pick up *everything* you need in class, but developing that base by chasing interests helps make future bits connect to stuff you know easier, and thus, reduces the willpower needed at that time.

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