A Note on Procrastination
We’re heading into the last few weeks of Term 1 now, and for most students, we all know what that means: essay deadlines. Yet as the clock is ticking and the dreaded dates draw ever closer, procrastination becomes a much more attractive way to spend one’s time than frowning at a laptop screen trying to make words appear magically on the page.
We all do it. You do it, your housemates do it, your lecturer does it. As it happens, I’m procrastinating right now. While writing this it’s at the back of my mind that the next two weeks present two deadlines. However, writing this post is something that I consider to be in the realms of ‘useful procrastination’, something that is extremely helpful to have in your student arsenal.
‘Useful procrastination’ is, by my definition, the act of putting off a task (such as essay writing, or completing an assignment) by doing something that, although less pressing, is still of general benefit to you. This might be cleaning your room, doing exercise, or even doing work unrelated to that dreaded task you have to hand in.
A lot of my reading week seemed to pass in this way. When I was supposed to be writing an object study for my Hellenistic World module, I found myself working ahead on my Latin translations, helping out around the house, and doing anything that I could remotely pass off as beneficial. Oops.
However, as I’ve mentioned, this kind of procrastination isn’t all that bad. When you’ve got something due it can put real pressure on you, and sometimes taking a break from it to focus on something else, even if just for half an hour, can alleviate this a little and allow you to come back to it with a fresh perspective. You might stop part way through a tricky paragraph only to go for a walk and to realize where you’re going wrong, or be confused by a certain aspect of research and suddenly have a ‘eureka’ moment whilst sorting out your sock drawer.
The key to making sure your procrastination is useful is to ask yourself ‘What is this doing for me?’. It’s all very well to take a break from your studies, but if you find yourself scrolling aimlessly through your phone for ten minutes after every second word you’ve written, chances are you’re not procrastinating usefully. Instead of reaching for your phone, try reaching for a book (whether related to your course or not), or perhaps watch an interesting documentary. If you’re sick of staring at a screen, try to gently go over that vocab or equation you’ve forgotten about, draw something, or write a short story.
Procrastination isn’t always about wasting time, it can be a chance to take a break, improve your working environment, or catch up on all the small tasks you’ve been neglecting. Just remember, if it’s benefitting you, then it’s useful procrastination. If it’s benefitting a celebrity’s social media presence by adding to their millions of likes, then maybe you should try something else. They don’t need your help, you do.
But now I really should get back to my essay!