How to retain your sanity

Yes, in your first semester’s you’ll encounter a tremendous work load. Social life and study life will blend and become inseparable - your studies are your social life. You’ll submerge into a swirling miasma of perpetual toil and exigent deadlines in your onerous endeavour to fathom the most turgid and scintillating conjectures of cogni… Wait! Cognitive Science may seem to threaten you with contagious madness, but a few simple rules of mental hygiene will keep you from becoming an burned out lunatic.

Mentoring Programme

The Institute of Cognitive Science offers a mentoring programme to all students. The programme is coordinated by four student mentors who are also your first port of call for any questions regarding

  • the study and exam regulations ("Studien- und Prüfungsordnung", e.g. how to accredit courses done at other Universities, which courses count towards which module, ...)
  • your personal study plans (when should I take certain courses, what's the best way to go to get all the "Wahlpflicht"-courses for your modules as soon as possible)
  • any unforeseen circumstances that complicate your studies (long periods of illness, work etc)
  • and so on.

Every student should see the student mentors at least once during their first semester in Osnabrück. As you advance in your studies and focus your interests towards certain subjects, the student mentor will arrange for you to join the mentoring group of one of the professors, who will then be your mentor until the end of your studies in Osnabrück. Although all "technical" questions regarding the study regulations and so on should still be addressed to the student mentors, your professorial mentor will guide you as you deepen your knowledge and interest in your subjects of choice.

The student mentors will introduce themselves during the fresher's week and explain the mentoring scheme in detail. Also, you can contact them any time at


Spam, spam, wonderful spam!

Before you start sketching out a huge Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all your courses: wait. We got that covered. This is what the Study Planning Machine (affectionally abbreviated as SPAM (because SPMA would be hard to pronounce)) is for: it let’s you enter all the courses you’ve done so far (read: actually done, not just registered in Stud.IP to access the course material), neatly organises it into modules, projects grades and tells you which courses are still missing. And it even writes a transcript for you (wip)!

How to get stuff done

You will typically have four or five assignments at the same time, plus recapitulating previous lectures, plus other tedious burdens such as a long-distance relationship or your neglected level 52 WoW dwarfish berserk. Fortunately, there is a simple two step recipe to help you manage your duties.

Step two is: do one thing at a time.

Switching from one task to another produces mental and physical switching cost, i.e. lost productivity. If you are, like me, like most of us, essentially lazy, use this to your advantage: make sure the switching cost to some procrastinating activity is just so high that it’ll be too much of an effort to stop doing what you’r currently doing. Install a browser plugin that restricts your Facebook usage to times where you are unproductive anyway (before your first class in the morning or after lunch). Or just use a single function device for learning (e.g. Paper…). But more importantly, make sure you follow step one.

Step one: care.

Care a damn lot. Before you start anything, care for what you do! Think of whatever gets you going: how you proudly present your solution to the rest of your homework group. The aesthetic beauty of a well written argument of your essay. The satisfaction of each successfully compiling program. What ever it is: make it important! Even if nobody else cares, make it important for you!

There are a lot of different productivity techniques out there (e.g. “Getting Things Done” or the Pomodoro technique), and a myriad of different tools that implement these techniques for the better or worse (from distraction-less writing environments to highly customizable angry masturbation break timers). Give them a try, but always remember that they are no remedy for a lack of motivation. Therefore, care.