Age quod agis — do what you are doing

academics study skills

While teaching during and after the pandemic, I noticed my students and I started developing dangerous behaviors: 

  • If they were completing a research assignment, my students opened up other tabs. 
  • If I was commuting on the bus, my headphones were in and my head was down. 
  • If we were relaxing during a break, we were also trying to check in on upcoming deadlines. 

 Sound familiar? 

The Latin phrase “Age quod agis” translates roughly to “Do what you are doing.” Put simply, focus on one task at a time and engage in it 100%. 

That means: 

  • Research when you are researching. 
  • Commute when you are commuting. 
  • Relax when you are relaxing. 

 

Doing what we are doing–doing it fully–allows us to spark joy and gratitude during previously mundane or frustrating tasks. Of course, it also allows us to be more productive and learn more as students. 

But HOW do you do what you are doing, especially when school feels daunting? Here are a few tips that have worked for me and my students: 

(1) Set short, small goals 

Set a goal to work for even just 5 minutes. Big project coming up? Pick one related research article to read or a 5-minute video. That’s it. If you finish and feel up for another short, small goal, then go for it!  

(2) Utilize timers 

 Encourage the use a clock or a free time tracking solution (like Toggl.com) to set those goals and stick to them. Are you engaged 100%? Bring an awareness to distractions by reflecting honestly when the timer goes off. How many times did your mind drift? Or, are you ready to work for longer? Awesome work! 

(3) Avoid shame at all costs 

Did you zone out during that research article? Did you pick up their phone before the timer was done? Amazing! Reward yourself for being aware of those behaviors. It’s natural to feel or express shame but when we shame ourselves or others, all we do is crush motivation and impede progress. 

(4) Celebrate successes, especially the small ones 

This is absolutely the most important tip to follow. When that 5-minute video ends or timer goes off, clap for yourself, jump up and down, tell a friend or family member all about it. Teach yourself that when you do what you are doing, there is so much to celebrate. 

Angela graduated from Georgetown University with a BSBA in finance and economics in 2015 and is currently pursuing an MD at NYU Grossman Long Island School of Medicine with plans to practice pediatrics.

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