College Diaries: Being productive


Hannah O’Leary , senior, reveals personal insights about being productive and maintaining a positive work ethic.

The beginning of a new school marks a time for growth and learning. As thousands of kids march through the hallways, accompanied by mechanical pencils with their erasers still attached and sparkling white high-top Converse, there is an underlying current of stress among a certain group of students: the seniors. It should be our year, where we reign over the school and assure that this will, indeed, be the best year yet. However, everyone forgot to mention, though, that there is one small thing that most seniors must do before they can coast through their senior year: apply to college.

Oh, yeah, that one small thing. That everyone claims will predict the rest of our lives. So follow me as I navigate the world of college applications, freak out over deadlines and look to my future.

I’ve done the impossible! I have completed some of my applications before the deadline! Who would have ever thought that I, Hannah O’Leary, would be done with (some) tasks early? Don’t get too excited here, I still have two applications to complete by 1:59 p.m., Tuesday night. Last night, however, I did submit my application to the University of Wisconsin- Madison. It felt amazing!

It all started Saturday morning when my Mom said the daunting words: “I want you to work on your Madison application.” I looked at her and nodded, maybe a little frustratedly, agreeing to do so. The thing was, I had yet to start either of the essays for Madison. All this time, I had been working on the Common Application essay, and I had not even thought about the Wisconsin essays. In short: finishing the application that day was going to be a tall order.

Surprisingly I did finish it, but only through hard work. Being a high school senior, I have mastered the skill of procrastinating and cramming. Is this a healthy work ethic? No. Is it productive? Yes. I find that I work best under pressure, and I was very pressured to finish the application. The moment I pressed submit, a massive weight lifted off of my shoulders, and I knew that all of my cramming and stressing was worth it.

How did I manage to write two polished essays in one night, you ask? Well, you’re in luck! I’m here to share my knowledge with you!


  1. Do put pressure on yourself to finish: I always try to create a sense of urgency about completing my tasks. If I don’t feel pressure, then I won’t be able to focus for long amounts of time. The whole point of forcing yourself to work is to put pressure on yourself and complete tasks quickly and efficiently.
  2. Do not convince yourself that you can push off finishing all of your tasks. Sometimes people will procrastinate, and then push off those tasks by procrastinating even more. Pushing off tasks is the best way to make sure that nothing ever gets done. When I commit to completing something, I force myself to finish it. If something needs to be done, then I will do it. One of my biggest pet peeves in life is missing deadlines.
  3. Do set aside technological distractions- I always put my phone in a different room. Since I have no self-control, I know that if I have my phone next to me, I will look at it. Checking updates constantly takes away from my ability to get into a solid work groove. Also, I like the Google extension called StayFocused. It blocks different websites from opening on your computer so that you cannot waste your time by browsing the web.
  4. Do not allow yourself too many breaks while working; this goes hand in hand with setting aside distractions. Instead of taking the recommended break every 20 minutes, I instead only take breaks when I am exhausted of working. I find that if I take a break every 20 minutes, I can never get into a good work groove. I work better when I work for an hour, and then take a lengthier 20 minute break. Keep in mind that that is just what works for me, and that this work schedule will not work for everybody else.
  5. Do set clear goals and make a checklist; set clear and precise goals for yourself. Last night, when I was completing my application, I made a checklist for myself. Rather than having broad tasks to complete like “finish essay,” I wrote things like “finish introductory paragraph,” and “edit for grammar mistakes.” Having a well-laid plan helps me know what direction I am taking things in.