Positively Productive Procrastination

Ha! Caught you. Shouldn’t you be studying? And here you are, reading a magazine.

“But wait,” you say, “I am actually enhancing my studies by reading The Voice Magazine. Look at all this valuable information: writing and studying tips, news on AU, and views on music, literature, life.”

Okay, you win. You may be procrastinating from something, but you are doing it productively.

Students often beat themselves up (figuratively, of course) over procrastination. They know they should be studying but get lured away by, well, anything else. The problem isn’t necessarily that they are attracted to distractions. It may be they’re taking a break because they need a break.

A student may feel that, having set aside one or two or three hours, they need to sit there for those hours and apply themselves diligently. However, seldom do they work the entire time. The mind wanders, loses focus, and thinks about other things. All of which invite some diversion.

Your mind doesn’t always lose focus and wander due to lack of self-control. It sometimes wanders because it needs a break. By allowing your mind to rest for a few minutes, you can return to your studies more alert and focused. By paying attention, you can gauge how long you usually go before your mind wanders off. If it’s consistently after 40 (or 20 or 60) minutes of studying, then plan a short break around those intervals. If it varies, learn to notice the signs that your mind needs a break and take one.

Not only will your studying be more productive after a refreshing break, but you can actually get something else worthwhile done. There are many positive activities you can indulge in for a 5-minute break; here are a few you can feel good about:

– read The Voice Magazine (you knew that one already)
– stretch, meditate, or do some deep-breathing exercises
– plan your calendar for next week
– go outside
– de-clutter your desk
– get rid of something on your to-do list
– listen to music

Resist time-wasters. If you’re refreshing your e-mail, checking Facebook yet again, or aimlessly surfing the web, you’re just procrastinating. The point of taking a break is to recharge your brain, not numb it out. You’ll feel better if you engage in a positive, productive activity.

Get away from your desk and set a timer to limit your break to 5 minutes. You can achieve a lot in that amount of time. When you return to your studies, you’ll feel refreshed and, more importantly, you’ll feel good about how you spent your time. If you need some extra willpower to stick to your studies, set the timer for your study period, too. Knowing that time is limited can force an amazing level of concentration.

At the end of your study period, reward yourself. Indulge in some mindless web-surfing, watch TV, nap, or whatever you want to do to congratulate yourself. Not only did you study well, but you fit in a few extras too.

So, build a little productive procrastination into your study schedule. Put your studies on “pause” and find something to take your mind away for a few minutes. Then you can return to your studies focused and ready to learn.

Now, get back to work!

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario

%d bloggers like this: