Procrastination: 7 Positive Ways To Put Things Off
Procrastination is considered a four-letter word in the realms of education. It’s often tied to late nights of working on a research paper the night before it’s due (because you didn’t start it until then) or saving all your study time for the five-minute cram session before the bell. While it can certainly hinder your educational performance, procrastination doesn’t have to be completely bad as long as you know how to make it work for you. We’ve put together the following tips to help you get more done, even when you’re trying to not do what you’re supposed to. Our suggestions:
* Redirect your procrastination to something that allows you to work without working.
Whenever we’ve got a seemingly insurmountable day ahead of us, it’s almost impossible to find the drive to start. The urge to make another pot of coffee or watch one more episode of Arrow is too strong to ignore. Or so we think. What we’re really overwhelmed by isn’t how great our distractions are, but how badly we don’t want to do what we should be doing. It’s in times like these that we give ourselves permission to procrastinate a little longer by doing something that helps us plan for the challenges ahead. It’s at this point that we like to pull open a favorite productivity app and plan for the tasks ahead. We’ve mentioned 30/30 and Wunderlist before but they deserve repeating. By playing in a colorful app that we love and respect for just a little bit longer (instead of working), we lay the groundwork for the challenges ahead and shift mental gears to prepare for the follow-through. It’s still procrastination, but it’s productive procrastination.
* Give yourself permission to shop for something that will help you to not procrastinate.
Another popular way of putting off what you need to be doing is to go shopping. While that shopping generally takes the form of clothes or shoes or books, music, and movies, it doesn’t have to be so worthless to the cause. There are a lot of items that can spur productivity, and the prices are all over the map. From the expensiveness of a tablet or laptop computer to the cheapness o a new notebook and some quality pens, shopping while procrastinating can actually get you in the right mental state to go home or to your local library, and get busy.
* Hone in on your goals.
This option for dealing with procrastination is an extension of number one but deserves its own place because there is the idea of planning and then the general nuts and bolts of it. Here, we talk nuts and bolts.
When planning effectively, one does not simply list the subjects he has to study for the day. Don’t just say Math, Social Studies, and English, in other words. Break it down. Write that you’ll be spending 25 minutes on quadratic equations, followed by a five-minute break. Next, write that you’ll be spending another 25 minutes on identifying central ideas in written compositions. Build out your whole day by individual task, length of time allotted, and subsequent break time. By doing so, you’re indulging your desire to procrastinate while gearing your mind to get things accomplished.
* Cut off interruptions before they occur.
Become aware of your environment — not just in the present but also the immediate future. If your spouse or roommates are going to return home in the middle of your study session and disrupt everything, then think about changing your environment by heading to a library or coffee shop. Not only will this action eliminate foreseeable distractions, but it will also allow you to use a little bit more procrastination time, directing it towards your tasks instead of away from them.
* Don’t bore yourself with hours of the same subject.
This goes back to the suggestion wherein you “procrastinate” by honing in on your goals and what it is you hope to accomplish. While you may feel an all-day study session on science is necessary, it’s way too easy to get bogged down in the subject to the point that your study time becomes ineffectual. So while you’re procrasti-planning, make sure that you jump around from subject to subject. It will keep your mind fresh and ensure you don’t get sick of the material and start to tune it out. If you’re still simply planning to “study science … All day,” then no wonder you keep putting it off. It’s hard to get motivated without goals and objectives, and “study science” isn’t motivational at all.
* Give yourself permission to procrastinate just a little longer.
Hopefully by now you’re starting to see a pattern emerge. Like the old mantra of “fight fire with fire,” you can more effectively fight procrastination through procrastination. But in each of the examples, there is a charge for how you should procrastinate: by acknowledging what is happening and then taking steps to transform the harmful activity into a positive. So when we tell you, in this example, to give yourself permission to procrastinate a little longer, it’s with this directive: 1) Acknowledge you are procrastinating and not doing anything useful. 2) Attack the problem by telling yourself the activity is destructive and needs to “go off” like a stick of dynamite. 3) Light a short fuse on that stick of dynamite with the commitment that, when it explodes, it will do so in a blast of motivation and creativity. 4) Do whatever you want in those next 10 to 15 minutes of pure procrastination time. Play a game, read a book, meditate. Do it all with the knowledge that when your dynamite goes off, it’s time to work — no if’s, and’s, or but’s (unless you’re studying conjunctions, of course).
* Power nap.
Last but not least, one of the best things you can do to make your procrastination time work for you, is to take a 20- to 30-minute power nap. We prefer setting an alarm to make sure there is no oversleeping, and to nap sitting up in a chair. This stops your subconscious mind from thinking its 5 a.m., and all you have to do is hit the Snooze button and sleep longer. If you really want to get secure, you might also resort to placing the alarm source in a place that will require you to stand up and walk a short distance in order to shut it off. Short naps can de-clog our minds and get us back to a stage of alertness without getting sluggish and lazy.
Procrastination doesn’t have to be a dirty word. By being aware of what it is and how it manifests itself in your study habits, you can start to break the hold that it has over productivity by making it work for you instead of against. The seven tips we’ve shared here may only be a starting point. You may have your own tips and tricks for dealing with this study issue. If so, we’d love to hear about them in the comments section below. Regardless, keep a watch on the behavior, best of luck as you get ready for that next big exam, and make sure you’re making procrastination work for you instead of the other way around.
[Image via Flickr Creative Commons]