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The Art of Procrastination

the art of procrastination

BY Ashley kawakami

Over my years of schooling I have become very well acquainted with procrastination, from the very beginning of my education career in elementary school all the way up until today, I’ve struggled to combat procrastination. It’s slowly gotten better over time, but it’s something that I probably won’t ever get rid of entirely. Procrastination is a term that to some degree or another can describe any of us, and most of us think of it as our worst quality. However, I would argue that procrastination, done right, might not be the worst thing. By no means am I saying that we should all put off all our responsibilities until the last minute, but with the right amount of balance procrastination can bring out the best in our work and ourselves. 

1. becoming hyper focused

When a deadline is looming you are more focused and because of that you tend to complete a task much more efficiently. This doesn’t mean leaving the whole project until the day before it’s due, but leaving a week or an entire weekend can give you more dedicated focus. Working under a tight deadline allows you to channel your extreme efficiency into completing any last minute changes.

However, it’s important that you find your “sweet spot” in knowing whether you can leave important projects within a week or a weekend until your deadline. Some of us work well under the pressure of a deadline and can crank out a noteworthy research paper in a few hours and others of us will need more time. Knowing your personality and the way you respond to stress can help you plan our your time and what you can leave to the last minute and what you can’t.

2. getting other things done

It’s imperative to complete other work when you’re pushing off a particular project. The only time that our trash gets taken out or when the floor gets swept is when I or one of my roommates is putting off working on something we should be doing. Dr. John Perry from Stanford University realized that while he puts off grading papers he’s not doing nothing. He sharpens pencils or works in his garden; he takes things off of his “to-do” list and slowly lets his thing of actual importance slowly rise to the top.

Putting off a task for a short while is completely okay as long as you’re doing something productive. However, when procrastination comes in the form of playing mindlessly on your phone or scrolling through your social media feeds then it becomes dangerous. Short menial tasks have a definite end to them, which means when they’re finished you start working, but the danger of social media is that your feed never stops.

3. taking short breaks

It’s okay to give yourself a short break while you work, but the key word here is short. Allow yourself a set amount of time to complete a puzzle, read a news article, or take a walk around the block. What you shouldn’t do is open up Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, which have the tendency to suck you in.

When you decide to give yourself a break, don’t let the reason be because you’re not feeling up to writing another paragraph. Set goals for yourself.  Decide you are going to go write three pages and then grab a snack and come back. Short breaks shouldn’t be a cop from doing work, but rather a chance to rest your mind and give it a recharge.

4. make your mind a factory

Dr. Alice Boyes recommends using the system of batch processing when you find yourself procrastinating. This method of working is used in factories, where one machine takes care of one specific task and another machine works on another specific task. This is proven to be the most efficient way to work. Extending this idea to the way that you work allows for you to increase your own efficiency and gives you the feeling of moving forward.

For example, when writing a paper, printing all of your sources at once takes the time out of the task later; this also lets you have all of your sources when you need them so you don’t have to go searching for them. Dr. Boyes finds that, “if you batch-process something when you're procrastinating on a higher priority task, this often provides the type of cognitive boost you get from feeling that you've gotten a lot done.”

5. going off topic can spark ideas

Sometimes good ideas come to us out of the blue and generally not at times when we need them. Usually our great idea is sparked by something completely random, which is why taking short breaks and doing something off topic can be beneficial for your work. Taking your mind off of a project and letting your brain catch up on processing information, can allow more room to come up with other ideas. Many times a short break is the breakthrough that you need.

When you stare at a paper too long or try too hard to pick something apart, making progress seems impossible; but taking a step back can actually let your brain work through the problem and the solution can become very clear. A personal suggestion that works for me is doing a crossword puzzle. This is when my most creative ideas come to me. Looking at the random clues and answers help me think outside of what I was concentrated on and, at times, lead to breakthroughs when I hit a wall.

So while procrastination continues to be seen as a force of evil, we need to remember that when procrastination is done right, it can turn your work into a fruitful experience. 

Want to swap stories or just network? Tweet me at @AshleyKawakami and while you’re there, check out @cencom and more opportunities on their Facebook page.