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The Invisible Procrastinators’ League

Man hiding behind laptop

Life as an external student seems, on the face of it, to be an easier path: no set timetables, lectures are recorded and can be watched or listened to at leisure, and I can read the textbook when the kids are in bed. The only problem is that procrastination is much easier when you’re an external student.

Many are the hours that I have contemplated whether to grit my teeth and take the plunge. The coffee is flowing, the assignments are waiting. The IRAC method, the case law, the legislation, AGLC compliance, formation, tone and authority of my argument. Is there a new case my lecturer is unaware of? It’s decided! I’ll take the plunge. I’ll take control and press on to start the battle. Control is in my hands… Okay, it’s an Xbox controller but it’s still in my hands and it’s been four levels and three hours since I said I was going to start my assignment.

This all too common, and it’s the bane of every law student, both on-campus and external. We all do it. It may be Xbox, Facebook, friends or even the excuse of ‘I’m just not in the studying mood right now’. But as an internal you have study pals, discussions after class about what the lecturer said, and what other cases you’ve read. These discussions serve as motivation and provide inspiration.

The feel of being an external student is akin to being a wallflower at a party. You’ve been invited to the party; find a quiet dark corner and watch the party unfold while not interacting with its events. The tutorial or lecture finishes and it’s done. Flick the switch; no discussions, no case law deliberations, no motivation or inspirations. Only the questions without answers and thinking, “Okay, I’ll listen to it again later and hope my understanding is correct.”

Most of us off-campus students feel a bit like we’re living dual lives. Law, law, law, kids’ lunch… Hey! How did that get into my assignment? Lucky it’s an assignment, because if it had been in court it would have been hysterically incorrect:

Your honour my client has a good record with only three minor offences of note being applicable to the school lunch order of the 7th…. Ummmm!? Sorry court order of the 19th…

Life’s distractions are closer when you’re a distance student. Even as I write this article I have been interrupted by a crisis of missing homework and a temper tantrum (okay, it was my own tantrum, but the point is still valid).

But I’ve found that there is one way to succeed in beating procrastination as an external student. Treat study like it’s a second job. Arrange a room that has only the requirements for study. Switch the phone off, put a lock on the door and a clock on the wall. Treat it like a job: clock in and study until knock off time… and make sure the boss doesn’t see you slacking off.

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