Nov 3, 2008
The Bad Week, or How To Lose Sleep and Alienate People
Posted in: Life & Culture
Here at MIT, and - let's be honest, since this is more of a lifetime advice blog (written by someone who went to all her Tuesday classes with her shirt inside out), in life as well - one will experience very bad weeks. I find that it really comes and goes in cycles, and this year it seems to taking in far more frequent, two-length cycles. In the last two weeks I will have spent a few trillion hours taking three midterms (two of which were back-to-back), writing about 30 pages on subjects ranging from plasmid formation to the accessory optic system to gender roles in the modern corporate environment of Japan, and sending two hundred and four mostly incoherent emails. I will have been in several meetings, broken a board with my foot, and minced up a baby mouse brain for papain digestion. I will have spent less than half of this time sleeping, and almost all of this time eating. I will have confused those last two actions a handful of times and woken up gnawing on my pillow.
So, because this is a lifetime advice plus health and wellness blog, I will now share with you a thing or two I've picked up on how to deal with these weeks. One might call them "a bad patch", "times of difficulty", or "oh dear, I've forgotten to change my pants during this short time period". One might even call them "heck weeks", especially if one is a wholesome student looking to be employed in the future. (And is a fully hardworking, productive, and really nice member of society who never says inappropriate things. Unless you are talking about the definition of inappropriate as described by the Glasgow Coma Scale, in which I make no such promises. I have definitely hit a GCS of 3 once or twice in these last few days.)
Here is how to survive a "heck week": rarely. To experience a bad patch at MIT is the essence of being a student here, and that's something we can all agree on. To experience several bad patches week after week is a surefire way to burn out, and is probably a sign that you have been poorly managing your time since the beginning of the semester. (Note to future self.) You don't have to be on your game at all times, but it's a good idea to know what's coming up at least two weeks in advance, and if it's a major project, a month at least. Maybe this is something you were lucky enough to pick up in high school, but for the rest of us who stared out the windows dreaming of schools where they didn't have to worry about getting wedgie-d, this is something we'll have to develop now. (Girls in my high school were mean.)
Figure out when you work best. I'm a morning person and have been ever since a very young age. I was the nerd at the sleepover who fell asleep at nine. So when I have a lot of work to do and don't feel particularly productive, I go to bed early and wake up at five or six, because I'm the most efficient at that time. (It also helps that no one is updating their blogs and people are not sending me YouTube videos at five or six in the morning, so that increases my productivity drastically.)
Find someone to study with, and set times to study with them. This is oh so very important at MIT, because here we're all about collaboration. (On problem sets. Exams, not so much.) And it happens so frequently, I'll often leave my room to get a drink and trip over freshmen psetting together in my hallways. Collaboration is the staple of success at MIT. Depending on the person, it can either force you to be much more productive, or much less productive. I find if it's someone who you feel slightly awkward around, you are much less likely to screw around while working. If you are in a class of a bunch of people you know and like really well, you will unfortunately have to bring up lots of awkward topics, like that one time you thought your study partner was actually the professor because he was wearing a really bad sweater. Or which of your dads would win in your fight. (This is an awkward topic for me personally because my dad would beat all of your dads in a fight together. All of them.)
Along with that - ASK FOR HELP. There will always, ALWAYS be someone smarter, faster, and more good-looking than you. They will probably be an upperclassman who's taken the class you're taking (lest you forget we all take the same General Institute Requirements). They may also be an underclassman. Or a professor or a GRT (Graduate Resident Tutor) or a housemaster. Or your parents! Remember them?
Take study breaks. Often. Not that often. Stop. Go back to work. What- is that a video of puppies? With Natalie Portman??
Above all, stop updating your blog. Just stop it. For a month. No, just don't do it while you are in the middle of writing a lab report. It is a bad idea because you will probably be up much later than you expected to be, and not get as much done. This is the only piece of advice I don't know too much about - I heard from a friend, so I don't know have too much personal experience with it. But hey, I also hear soon they'll be accepting blog entries fully explaining why you were unable to finish the assignment in lieu of the actual assignment, so I think I'm in the clear.
NOT. Do your work. Yeah, you!