Everyone does it, and I know for a fact that you, as a student, do it all the time. You procrastinate!
The first step to combating procrastination is to admit that you’re guilty of doing it, and also to realize that succumbing to it is inevitable. The second step is to find a solution. Easier said than done, right? For years, I tried to stave off my bad habits with remedies that I’ve found online, in magazines, self-help books, and of course, the customary lessons from my teachers and parents.
I started putting post-it notes all over my room, I tried keeping an agenda of all of my activities and I took breaks often when I was working and rewarded myself when I did well. I even deactivated Facebook (albeit briefly). But to be frank, most of these “solutions” felt much like putting a band-aid on a broken leg. Yes, they were all terrific habits to develop, but none of them were providing a real solution to the fact that I simply didn’t want to do the things that I didn’t want to do. Procrastination is not about forgetting to do things; it’s about replacing the seemingly boring tasks with ones that we find more enjoyable. This was my problem.
Eventually, I stopped looking at procrastination as the enemy, and embraced it as a natural habit that most fun-loving members of society take part in, no matter how bad it is for us. So I played with this idea of welcoming procrastination, and instead of trying to cut it out of my life, I tried to find ways to fit it in. I took notes of my habits while I did things that I didn’t necessarily enjoy doing, and what I quickly found out was that it wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to do something, but that I didn’t enjoy doing singular tasks for very long periods of time.
This should have come as no surprise to me, for two reasons. I’m a member of the many Y-genners who think a YouTube video longer than three minutes is too much of a commitment. And two, as I’d later discover, the average human being begins to absorb less information after a period of focus longer than 45 minutes to an hour. No wonder my five hour late night crams weren’t working out.
But then the problem became exacerbated when I was still having trouble focusing on one task for even an hour at a time. I could no longer blame the shortcomings of the human brain. Even after fifteen or twenty minutes, I’d find ways to procrastinate. I needed a solution to my solution.
So, I began making lists of things I had to do in order of priority and separated them between lengthy, more demanding tasks — class readings, assignments, etc. — and shorter, easier ones — responding to emails, exercising, making dinner, paying rent. All things that I needed to do, but all requiring varied levels of effort, focus and time.
What I’d then do was start at the top of the list with a high priority item and start working on it. If after 20 minutes, I found myself drifting, I’d stop what I was doing and move down the list, taking on a shorter, less intense task, and then once I was finished I’d get back to what I was doing before. What I soon discovered was that employing this tactic, not only would I no longer get frustrated with myself for failing to concentrate, but I was also able to work consistently for longer periods of time, and I was truly being more productive. By mixing activities up in a more natural way instead of say, studying for three hours and then running personal errands for another two hours, I was able to keep myself occupied and not get bored doing any one thing for too long.
The trick was to procrastinate by doing other things that I needed to do, and ultimately, get more done! I’d conquered procrastination with procrastination. It’s important to note though, that catching up on the latest episode of How I Met Your Mother or checking your Facebook status is not something that you need to do!
Of course, like every piece of advice, this is a bit autobiographical, and what works for me, may not necessarily work for you. But who knows, we may be more alike than you think.
In any case, here’s a fun video about procrastination to distract you from doing something else that you probably should be doing. Enjoy!
Until next time,