By Hannah Thiessen 3rd Year, Con Ed (History/English) student
I must admit that, even as I’m writing this, I am in the midst of procrastinating. With my due date looming tonight, I am reaching the frenzied state of productivity that only occurs in these times. Procrastinating ignites in me heightened levels of productivity, but the collateral damages that result are heightened anxiousness and loss of precious sleep, as well as a general morale slump.
Although in the aftermath of these frenzies of procrastination-induced productivity I recognize that these patterns of behaviour are not sustainable, time and again I revert to them as an invariable strategy of completing the various tasks that academia assigns me. I am working on it though. As I find myself well into my third year of university, I am slowly learning and developing strategies to fight the seductive but destructive habits of procrastination. These strategies are not infallible, and will likely not all work for you, but hopefully at least a few of these strategies will help you join the fight against procrastination too!
In no apparent order, here is how I combat procrastination:
- Optimism: I know that this is slightly frivolous and not quantitative, but I think that it’s vital to approach upcoming assignments with optimism. Right out of the gate at the beginning of the year I mark all of the assignments of my semester in my schedule using my syllabi. This allows me to see them coming well in advance, and be confident with the time I have for them. I can prepare for them in large and small ways as they draw near, sometimes even just through googling my topic and getting that little bit more of background info. A foundation laid like this is more easily built upon toward the completion of my tasks than jumping into tasks at the last minute.
- Time Management 101: Okay, disclaimer, I am far from excellent at time management, but as I recognize that my primary time wasters include social media and Netflix, I have downloaded an extension on my laptop to block these websites for specific periods of time. It works effectively on multiple levels; I am reminded to focus each time I attempt to access the sites, and I can also see how much time is left before I can allow myself a break, as the extension has a ‘sleep timer.’
- Friends and Studying: I love booking study rooms with my friends as a way to fight procrastination. The friends that participate in these study rooms are commonly from different faculties, so we all do independent work, yet we can motivate each other and keep each other accountable to stay on task. Alternatively, we also distract one another at times, so it’s important to choose friends that are good at balancing the productive and distracted times. Friends that bring tea kettles are a bonus!
- Breaks: Taking breaks is surely something you’ve been told about before, and ‘know’ about, but allow me to elaborate on my reflections. Breaks are best for fighting procrastination when they are earned. Rather than setting timed goals that result in half-baked focus until the timer goes of, I set quantitative goals such as pages read or words written. This results in realized goals rather than unintentional time wasted.
- Time to Communicate: Something that greatly motivates me to avoid procrastination is my desire to improve my work by communicating with my professors or TA’s, or even going to The Writing Centre when necessary. I know that taking time to hear the feedback of the person marking my work will vastly improve said work, and that in many cases they point me in a new and better direction. Opportunities to go to office hours do not happen the night before though, so I strive to give myself at least a week before the due date to reach out to my prof or TA. Even if, as in most cases, my work is incomplete, I know that I will come out of my time with them having gained valuable help. As well, especially in my first year, I fought the intimidation of physically seeing my marker by simply emailing them. I find that faculty members are consistently fast at replying to my queries via email, and while their responses aren’t necessarily as helpful as a live encounter, they are certainly helpful nonetheless.
So there you have it. I use these strategies as I try my best to not procrastinate. It really is worth it, and when I am successful I find myself being more relaxed, rested, and available for hanging out with friends and having fun, an equally important aspect of university life. Ultimately, fighting procrastination is all about your attitude towards your work, so give school (and fun!) your best, and do yourself a favour by not leaving your work to the last minute. We can do this!