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Sometimes it can feel as if we have become bogged down in our work; things seem to be taking too long, and progress is discouragingly slow. We may be working hard, but not achieving much. This may be a sign that we are not working efficiently, and it may help to review our working practices to see where this might be occurring.


If you are becoming bogged down in reading and note-taking...

It may be that you are not being selective enough. This could mean that you are reading too much and in too much detail rather than skimming for relevant information, and that you are taking too many notes, possibly even copying out large chunks of text.

This may be due to perfectionism, if you feel that you are afraid of missing something vital, that you haven't read enough or are not reading or taking notes 'properly'. At undergraduate level, your reading is not meant to be exhaustive, and you may be setting your standards too high, perhaps at the level of a PhD student. Reading a text thoroughly is not necessarily the 'proper' way to read; academic reading is functional, and skimming and making brief keyword notes might be the most appropriate way to read for your purpose of gaining an overview or locating relevant information. You could look at the sections on Reading or Perfectionism for more guidance.

It may also be due to passive reading strategies, forgetting what it is that you are looking for in a text, and getting carried away on tangents. Your note-taking may also have become passive, highlighting or copying large chunks of text for which you have no defined purpose, rather than thinking in each case what use you might have for the material, whether you will quote it or paraphrase it, and taking shortcuts in your note-making strategies. This may have come about because your reading was not planned sufficiently, or because you have been working too long without a break and have become tired. You could look at the sections on ConcentrationReading and Note-taking for more guidance.

If you are getting bogged down in writing...

it may be that you are trying to do too many things at once. Many people jump straight into writing, omitting the planning stage, reading as they write, and not leaving time for editing, as they feel it saves time. However, if you are simultaneously trying to develop and structure your ideas, read around the topic, think about how to express your ideas and review your writing for style and clarity, each one of these things will take longer as you are unable to focus on any one stage efficiently. if this is happening to you, you could look at other relevant sections in this resource for guidance on how to break the process down and separate out the stages of essay writing, allowing you to address each in turn effectively. Many students put off starting a piece of work until the last moment, as it seems so much effort, at which point they have little choice but to do everything at once, which reinforces the idea that it is an effort. You could look at the guidance in the section on Procrastination if this is happening to you.