If You’re Going to Procrastinate, You Better Do It Right

A little unorthodox advice from a fellow student–our eNotes intern.

There’s winter, spring, summer, and fall…

And then there’s midterm season.

For us quarter-system kids, the time is now. (For you semester kids, don’t pity us—they’re coming for you.)

If you’re in college, you know this is one of the worst times of the year.

It feels like you’re being pummeled by hail until you’re curled up in the fetal position and simultaneously being burned by blaring sunlight shining through holes in the ozone. And  then maybe being stung by a jellyfish.

Somehow, we prevail, though, and keep on chugging through until the next exam season rolls around. We’re really awesome when it comes to making it out alive. What we aren’t good at is studying “efficiently.”

If you are not a procrastinator, congratulations. You’re awesome. I respect you. I literally don’t know how you do it, and I don’t think I ever will. But I want to give you some props. So, here. ::gives props::

Most of us though… we’re world class procrastinators.

Spoiler alert: I’m not going to write about ways to change procrastination behaviors. For us tried and true procrastinators, changing the habit is not a process that can occur over night (like cramming)- it’s going to take a lot of work. MTV Intervention style work. And since you’re likely already amidst the test season, there’s no turning back now to try and fix your situation, because you’ve already dug yourself a nice, fat hole.

So for the 95% of the population that falls prey to this habit, I thought I’d talk about some ways to really get the most out of your procrastinating. If you’re going to procrastinate, you might as well do it well and with style.

These tips will make you the talk of the library.

  1. Television. You could catch up on all those sitcoms you watch. But if you want to up your game, you should really start watching a new show entirely. For maximum exploitation of this procrastination period, I would recommend shows that have at least 3 seasons, can be watched on Netflix or HBOgo and even Hulu (if you don’t mind the obnoxious advertisements about car insurance). If you don’t have subscriptions to these sites, the person next to you probably does. Make new friends…and then exploit them for their subscriptions.
  2. Go through your list of New Years Resolutions and try to bring them all to fruition in an expedited fashion. Need to be healthier? Why not spend 7 hours at the gym taking every class they offer that day, or maybe hang out in the produce section of the grocery store, carefully selecting the fruits and vegetables you need to create the healthy feast you’re about to cook (which will take another 3 hours). Want to travel more? Get on a bus and just, you know, get off at a random stop. Then find your way home (This can also help with a “get to know the city you live in” resolution).
  3. StumbleUpon. Get an account. Waste an entire afternoon. Excellent.
  4. YouTube. Don’t stop. We all get caught up in the recommended videos in that darned sidebar. Why fight it? Watch all of them. Especially the tutorial and challenge ones, which you must obviously watch and also perform yourself. Oh! And read the troll comments. You have to read the troll comments.
  5. N64. You don’t even need to get off your couch for this one.
  6. Those hobbies you dropped back in the day because, I don’t know, band became “un-cool” and your art teacher scared you—pick them up again, and do them until you are just as good as you were back in the day. Clarinets are going to be making such a huge comeback.
  7. Sleep
  8. Read for pleasure. Les Miserables is over 1000 pages, and then there’s always encyclopedias and the dictionary.
  9. Buy the entire contents of your nearest grocery or convenience store, and eat each item in succession. No one can eat and study at the same time. It’s scientific fact. You can even do this one with friends.
  10. Remember all those things you had to do that you kept putting off that don’t have to do with school? They’re lookin’ pretty good right now. Who doesn’t love laundry?

And then you just cram. Cram like the wind. Do anything you can to stay awake and absorb every bit of that information you didn’t even take in when it was first presented to you in lecture (because you were sleeping). Caffeine is your friend, water (thrown at face) is your friend, uncomfortable chairs are your friends, eNotes is your friend (shameless plug). Your bed is your enemy, pillows are your enemy, thoughts about things that aren’t your exam are your enemy. You know the drill. You’ve got it down pat.

Really, though… you should try not to procrastinate. You won’t learn as much.

… But if you do procrastinate, I mean… just do it right.

In life, you really should always give your all. You don’t want to be the kind of person who only gives 50%. It’s time to step it up and reach your true potential. You came to college for a reason, right? Procrastinate like it’s what you were born to do.

I have to go watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, now (it’s the extended edition), so I’ll leave you with this one line to rule them all:

I have faith in you.


One of These Days, None of These Days: Why We Procrastinate

The Science of Procrastination and How to Manage It

Sorry everyone, I meant to post this last week…

Sound familiar? If you’re a human being (and I’m betting you are) you’ll have procrastinated at some point in your life. More likely, you’ll have procrastinated a lot in your life.

But why is that? What is there in our genetic makeup that causes all of us to struggle with procrastination?

The duo behind AsapSCIENCE answers that very question. Thankfully, they do so in the form of a YouTube video, which means you can procrastinate your procrastination by watching a video on how not to procrastinate… Ah, the delicious irony.

Though the psychological causes are still debated, there’s a human tendency to over or underestimate the value of a reward based on its temporal proximity. This is often referred to as “temporal discounting.”

Basically, temporal discounting is a fancy explanation behind why you’d rather watch that cute video of a Costa Rican sloth orphanage NOW and write that important research paper LATER.

And it gets worse the further away your deadline is. Have a deadline at the end of the term, or even the school year? As it turns out, your weirdly-wired brain currently considers that exam or project of less important for being due further into the future.

Human motivation is highly influenced by how imminent a reward is perceived to be, meaning the further away a reward is, the more you discount its value. This is often referred to as “present bias” or “hyperbolic discounting.”

This is why students cram; you don’t realize the value of a high grade until you come close enough to the time that grade will be evaluated. And more often than not, procrastinators will have acted too late to achieve the grade they really want.

So there’s the science of why. Now, how to keep your procrastination in check…

1. How can you counteract present bias? Well, if the root of procrastination lies in the distance you are from your eventual deadline, why not bring that deadline closer? Setting smaller deadlines for yourself that line the way to your ultimate deadline is a good method to avoid last minute scrambling.

2. Immediate reward vs. future reward–so, a reward that’s far off in time doesn’t hold the same weight as some immediate satisfaction.  The best way to prevent the immediate reward being satisfied by Facebook or YouTube is to grant yourself another kind of reward. This could be a snack, a study break, or 15 minutes of browsing time. The important thing is that it has to be immediate. Telling yourself you’ll enjoy sweetmeats and other luxuries after you receive the grade you want is nice, but it won’t stop you from procrastinating before then.

3. Related to the above, you might want to try the Pomodoro technique. This involves the use of a kitchen timer, set at 25 minutes, to improve your stamina for studying over time. You spend a little bit of time on, a little off, and in the process you gain the ability to judge the amount of time and effort you’ll have to put into each assigned task, thus allowing you to manage your future time more effectively.

4. And if all of that still can’t peel you away from distractions, well just uninstall the internet. Seriously. Working writers do this all the time. There are even downloadable programs for it, like Concentrate and StayFocused (both for Chrome) and Leechblock (for Firefox). If you need the Internet to study, don’t panic; you can use these programs to temporarily block yourself from the sites most offensive to your study time (because there’s no way you’re using Facebook and Pinterest to study).

Furthermore, if you can practice the art of avoiding procrast… Oh hey, look, another cat video!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 804 other followers