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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Sheldrake

What does washing the dishes have to do with working on an assignment?

Updated: Jan 26, 2021

What does washing the dishes, or for that matter folding clothes, walking the dog, doing the grocery shopping, dropping the kids off at sport or friends, even taking a nap, have to do with working on an assignment?

In my experience – EVERTHING - as how we are with all aspects of our life determines how we will feel when we come to sit at our desk to work on an assignment or project AND how we will feel when we’ve completed it.

Let yourself consider that working on your assignment, or what you might refer to as study time, in truth begins long before you sit down at the desk. That your study is simply an equal part of your life, no less or more important than any other of the myriad of people, jobs and demands in your life.

Who can relate to setting aside time to study or work on an assignment but when you get to that point in the week you find you just can’t concentrate, no ideas or words are flowing or you’re just simply tired from the day/week. Yet this was the only space or chunk of time you could find when you planned your week or indeed your semester. As you sit there you start to feel the squeeze of the inevitable time pressure as the submission date looms.

One of two things happens, the anxiousness and tension builds in your body and it becomes even more challenging to do any work, if not impossible, and no work gets done; or the nervous energy and adrenalin in response to the looming submission date becomes the fuel to complete what is needed. Either way, the body is left stressed and exhausted, impacting on other areas of your life.

What if there is a way to approach study that doesn’t lead to compromising the body, which supports an ease and flow with study and within your body?

I had a call one Sunday morning from a stressed client who worked full-time, studied part-time, and two hours into her allotted day of study had written two lines on her assignment. She shared about the very intense week she’d had at work and I asked her what she truly felt her body needed at that moment. Her response – “I need to sleep”. I touched base with her later in the day to find out she had slept for a while, was now working on her assignment and feeling much more equipped to do so.

I recall another client who similarly was struggling on her allotted study day where both of her children were out of the house. Despite the space, she realized as we talked that she couldn’t settle until she had done the grocery shopping given there was no food in the house. She allowed herself the space to get the grocery shopping done and her study then flowed.

When we allow ourselves space to listen to our body, to feel what is truly needed in any given moment, the tension and stress eases and we find ourselves in a natural flow with the different aspects of our life.

It is of course your responsibility to discern if you are procrastinating over study or if there is a call to complete or attend to something else. If you notice the tension and anxiety as you sit at your desk, if nothing is flowing, I have found the best approach is to stop, get up and walk around, let yourself feel your body and what it is communicating. At the very least, change you posture in the chair, stretch and wiggle, look out the window and then feel if you are procrastinating or there is something else that needs completing before returning to study. I’ve noticed that procrastination brings a tension to the body as we’re trying to avoid something and at the same time looking for something else to do. In contrast, if we honor what is truly needed in that moment there is a sense of ease and completeness. So, the clues are always there in our body.

Consider examining any pictures you have around ‘when’ you can study or work on the assignment or what ‘working’ on your assignment/project looks like. Is it only at the weekend, or a day when there is no one else at home? Is it only when you can dedicate a half or full day to it? Is it only when you’re actually putting words on paper and the background reading doesn’t count? These ideas or pictures limit us and lead to the feeling of compression and anxiety when we do come to work on an assignment as life, of which study is a part of, rarely fits into our neatly constructed pictures or plans.

What do you then do if you get an idea in the car driving home or to work, or indeed while washing the dishes – save it for the allotted time of study which is possibly in 4 days or could you take a few minutes to jot down the idea? You might find that some evenings after washing the dishes you feel to work on your assignment or project, even if it’s only for 20 minutes to do a bit of background reading, write down a few ideas, or proofread the final copy of an assignment.

Your every day is as much a part of every word you write in an assignment given the study you have chosen to do is a part of your life for now. The key is not to compromise yourself by separating study from the rest of your life or making it more or less important than other areas of life.

It’s worth appreciating all the moments that go into making an assignment or project complete, and this includes the obvious: attending the lecture, re-reading lecture notes, finding relevant literature, background reading, the ideas and planning stage, writing the first draft, refining and proofreading BUT also your day at work, dinner with your family or friends, mowing the lawns, attending school or work functions, exercise, rest, even washing the dishes…

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