Getting it done: Tips on going from a blank page to a finished project for students.

by Jake Slosser

Whether it is polishing a cover letter for a job application or writing the term paper that is due in a few days, getting from the blank page to a finished product can be the paragon of student stress. Just getting started is one thing, but seeing it through can be all the more difficult.

How many times have you sat, prone, staring at a blank screen, pages of highlights on innumerable overpriced printouts of what now seem dubious articles that it looks like a graveyard of hot pink and yellow Mark Rothko paintings, thinking: what am I doing?

Or you don’t even think it. It’s apparent from the hair-pulling and the “I’ll just check Facebook one more time” mantra you pretend to believe as you reason with yourself to just get a little bit of work done. As if you need to know right at that moment, what your high school ex thinks about vaccines, Taylor Swift, and what festival they went to.

The remedies are abound on the internet. Time management, proper note taking and distraction free study apps are among the popular searches. And you check them out. Apply them. You hope you have now made the proper mixture of online wisdom to propel yourself into the world beyond student life. But now you must transition and are still left with: Seriously, what am I doing?

It’s about creating a space for yourself that is present and purposeful.

So here’s what we say. It’s about creating a space for yourself that is present and purposeful. Here are five non-writing, practical tips for going from a blank page to a cover letter, a term paper, or the next job application.

  1. Create a Space:

Having a personalized space has been shown to greatly improve work efficiency.  When you walk into that space, your body and mind learn that it is time for work. You might cover it in plants to create a natural and soothing environment. You might put up pictures of friends to give it a warm feel. Whatever you do MAKE IT YOURS. You know that when you are there it is time to work. See more tips here.

  1. Find Meaning

Knowing why you are doing something is quite a different thing than knowing that you must do something. Getting started and finishing a project has more to do with knowing how it relates to your goals and your sense of self. Finding that purpose is no easy task, in fact the definition itself can be daunting.

We suggest the best way to do this is to remember that you are not alone. Finding a coach to help you get yourself there is one of the best steps you can take.

  1. Take Breaks

I know you think you can multi-task. You can’t.

So you recognize this and say, “I am just going to stick this project out and work on the other stuff later,” Only to find that your brain isn’t cooperating. The remedy? Take breaks.

If your mind is jumping to other things, take ten minutes reward yourself for your hard work and nip the nagging tasks in the bud and get back to work. A clear mind is much easier to deal with than a mind that thinks it has a thousand things to do.

  1. Stay Present

If there is one piece of advice that seems to trump all others it is staying present. Your mind needs training just like an athelete and trying to run a marathon without any training is bound to wind up with cramps and injuries. The same goes for the working and writing mind. Mindfulness practice is a great resource for training your mind to stay present and practice non-judgment.

  1. Work isn’t just about the writing.

Writing and perseverance isn’t born from a vacuum. Those ideas need time to marinate. I know, you have probably procrastinated, but an all-nighter wont help you. Try making a plan where even if you aren’t writing just yet you dedicate a little time at night right before you go to bed to let the ideas concretize themselves in your head. The next morning, you’ll find a little more motivation to pop down some ideas that you can then organize and move forward with.

Stay tuned for more tips on writing, student life, and resources.