Piya's study desk.

Procrastinating During Reading Week? We got you

While the weather can make me feel extra lazy during Winter semester, the December break also plays a significant role in why I tend to experience a slump from January onwards. The 20–25 days of pure rest and relaxation were needed, but this also led me to not follow any schedule or balance. People use the word "procrastination" to describe putting away a task that needs immediate attention because of lack of focus or motivation, for instance. However, I realized that the more I rely on giving external factors control over what *I* need to do, the more I will be stuck in the procrastination loop.

So here's what I've figured out around getting out of this same slump every semester, PLUS how I've used Reading Week as a chance to get back on track with my academics as well as my health.

1) Start small... like, cleaning my room.

Have a chair full of laundry that's needed to be washed since your midterms, or a sink full of dishes that need to be cleaned? When I just don't want to study, I try to finish these tasks. Small milestones help me feel motivated to take on other milestones. If these cleaning tasks feel too mundane, I listen to a podcast while doing it! Personally, I love self-help ones by Mel Robbins or storytelling ones by Stephanie Soo.

Also, research has shown that working in a clean environment results in improved focus!

2) Tackle tasks by judging their urgency.

Picture this scenario: You have an essay due after Reading Week, but you have a lab report due tomorrow, right before Reading Week. Personally, I find it easier to write an essay, so I would, perhaps out of habit, want to do that task first even though there is plenty of time for that. In these situations, I try to think about the repercussions. Engineering tends not to give extensions for assignments (or very rarely) — hence why I push myself to begin the report first, realizing the potentially negative impacts in the long term. I have to evaluate the urgency of tasks and tackle the more immediate ones.

3) Make to-do lists.

It is easy to make a to-do list and never complete it, so I make sure I set up a detailed explanation of the task, the deadline of the task, whether it is in progress, etc., to make sure tasks actually get done.

Here is an example to-do list that I made for the upcoming Reading Week using a Notion calendar. I have given myself a fair amount of time for tasks, as well as rest days in between so that I don't get overwhelmed. A deadline countdown also helps me visualize how much time I have left to do something. I also have the Notion app on my phone and I set up reminders in the date section, which prompts notifications to show up on my phone screen (while I am procrastinating on TikTok) for tasks that are due soon. So, there is no excuse for me forgetting what I had to do that day.

Screenshot of a planning app with events and dates

4) Adapt different study methods.

For some people, using the Pomodoro Technique of 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off may be an excellent way to break tasks down into time chunks and take frequent, short breaks from their screen to avoid straining their eyes. For me, on the other hand, I realized through trial and error that even a short break disrupts my focus, and I tend to perform better over longer periods of focus.

5) Diet and exercise can make all the difference.

If I have a breakfast consisting of protein and fibre, I tend to feel satiated for longer. A breakfast of pancakes does not always work for me since I tend to feel sleepy after too much sugar. My friend, on the other hand, thrives on a carbohydrate-heavy breakfast since she tends to work out first thing in the morning. So, I've found it's important to ignore what social media influencers may say and trust what makes *me* feel best.

Photo of a green smoothie, grilled cheese sandwich and a laptop

Check out this Academic Success resource for managing procrastination and finding motivation for helpful tips.

– Piya

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