Procrastination can be productive when done right

By Emily Mias

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Chelsey Powell/Collegian File Photo

It’s that time of year again, when articles in college newspapers all over the country are starting with, “it’s that time of year again.” The homestretch is approaching and may even already be here for some students. As the weather gets warmer, it’s easy to find yourself avoiding thoughts like, “I’m going to get started on that final paper early,” or, “If I take super detailed notes in my classes, studying for finals will be easier!”

The library is the last place you want to hang out when it’s 70 degrees outside. You may even find yourself looking for other distractions and reasons not to finish your chemistry homework. You can’t finish coding when your roommate is finally catching up on “Lost,” can you? You have no choice but to join in on the marathon.

However, there are some less detrimental ways to procrastinate that won’t leave you feeling as wasteful of that precious nectar we call time. In fact, procrastinating in certain ways can actually increase your productivity. So the next time you find yourself going to Candystand.com to play online miniature golf, try one of the following activities instead.

Did you know the Recreation Center is a stone’s throw from the W.E.B. DuBois Library? If you find yourself in the library not reading, writing, or even, well, thinking, it might be best to take a break and get some exercise. Go to a brain-boosting yoga class or catch up on all your skipped readings on a bike.

Robert Pozen, author of the book “Extreme Productivity,” stated in the Huffington Post that there is compelling evidence that “a regular exercise routine can make you happier, smarter, and more energetic.” And when you’re all of those things, it’s easier to bust open the laptop and dive right into that PowerPoint presentation.

If you want to take advantage of the distractingly nice weather, why not indulge your desire to be outside and take a run around campus? The construction might not make it easy, but there are still some parts of campus that are left untouched. Try running along Massachusetts or Commonwealth Ave., or, if you dare, around the dauntingly hilly areas surrounding Orchard Hill and Central.
Another way to avoid that assignment for a wee bit longer would be to tidy up some part of your surroundings that may need some organization. It could be as simple as cleaning out all of the pointless syllabi and worksheets (who needs those, anyway?) from your overflowing notebook, or as grand of a task as cleaning the shower in the bathroom. Cleaning not only makes you feel refreshed, but it clears the space you’re working in from all of those distractions that surrounded you before.

A wise man once said, “a cluttered email folder is a cluttered mind,” so why not sort out your email and unsubscribe from all those annoying email lists? Merely getting PETA to stop emailing you (you’re not even a vegetarian and those videos just make you depressed, anyway) may make you feel more calm.

The idea is that once you take that run or clean your room, you’ll be left feeling like you accomplished something instead of feeling like you’ve wasted half an hour. That feeling of productivity has a snowball effect and can kick start you into completing your homework or studying for a test when you sit back down to try and tackle it again.

It is easy, however, to fall into the habit of doing these tasks multiple times, or even trying to do them all in a row. It’s important to ration your time and reward yourself when you complete a certain amount of questions or write X amount of words.

This last tactic might be the most difficult, but is in reality the most effective: when you’re feeling fried, switch subjects. If you’re working on biology, try tackling an assignment for your theater GenEd or even try writing a short story. Give your brain some relief from Shakespeare and help your roommate study for her history exam. Interrupting the flow of your usual subject can rejuvenate your focus. Breaking the stream of unproductive procrastination with accomplishment in a different field of study might launch you into a productive state. Yay optimism!

As the last month goes by, keep yourself from falling into a rut by jumping into a routine full of productivity, organization and treadmills. Procrastination isn’t the worst thing for your academic success if you use it wisely.

Emily Mias is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]