The Procrastination Problem

KBB_snail_on_sidewalkAaah, November. I remember back in the day when I was a student, I’d spend the majority of the month acting like a crazy person. I’d skip classes in order to study and took power naps at weird times of the day so I could get up early and start studying some more.

One particular night stands out above all others- I had two essays due the next morning, and I pulled an all-nighter trying to finish them. I will always remember this night fondly because I got both essays done on time and received a pretty good grade on both. However, this was also the night I discovered my body’s caffeine-limit- two pots of coffee and four Red Bulls in a 24-hour period left me puking in the bathroom at 6 in the morning, editing my essays in between retching.

The stuff we do for that piece of paper, right?

The thing is, I probably could have avoided that night altogether had I not procrastinated. Trust me- everyone will do this at some point in time, so you’re not alone. (Even supposedly ultra-organized people like myself.) I have never heard of anyone not procrastinating on a particularly tricky or dull assignment at some point or another, so if you have heard of someone who hasn’t procrastinated ever, this person is probably a) a robot, which means they aren’t human and it doesn’t count, or b) this person has a horrible disease in which they think they are a robot. in which case they should probably seek medical attention.

For all those out there procrastinating right now, take comfort. A professor once told me that procrastination is a good thing. She often encouraged us to embrace the urge to procrastinate rather than to fight it, as studies have often showed studying (or writing essays) in short spurts is actually more productive than hitting the books for ten hours straight at the library. Your brain is sharper and retains more information that way. If you feel the urge to procrastinate, it may be your brain’s (or your body’s) way of telling you that you aren’t mentally prepared to complete the task at hand, therefore creating a sub-par result like a bad grade, or a blog post essay that makes no sense.

Of course, procrastination isn’t always good. For example, if you have one hour until your exam starts, it’s probably not a good idea to start studying right now. The adrenaline coursing through your body is not going to allow your brain to mentally focus on the task at hand until you’re actually sitting there in the exam center, pen at the ready.

But there’s no reason you still can’t take my professor’s advice. Instead, be kinder to yourself and realize that you’re not a machine- you’re a person who needs study breaks and sleep and proper food (eating an entire bag of Sour Patch Kids does not constitute as a meal, and neither is a cup of coffee). Here are some ways I’ve found that you can turn procrastinating into something productive.

1) Make a snack. And make it something healthy, please! Instead of limiting yourself to eating at the computer, which can cause you to overeat, take five minutes and make yourself a snack that has protein to help with the sleep deprivation from which you are suffering, no doubt, and a carb that will take your body longer to process so you are energized longer, such as a piece of fruit.

2) Play around. Give yourself a few minutes to mosey on over to It’s totally addictive, it makes you think, and it helps donate grains of rice to those in need. See how many grains of rice you can stockpile before you answer too many questions wrong, post your results to Facebook, then get back to work!

3) Clean your bathroom. Or your dorm room. Or your kitchen. Or whatever. You get to burn some of those calories you’ve been retaining since you’ve been stationary for so long, and you get to do something productive. I always find I do a better cleaning job when I’m using it as a way to procrastinate. Something about the thought of churning out another homework assignment makes me realize how much I care about the cleanliness of the grout in between my bathroom tiles- of which there are many.

4) Grab a coffee. Agree to meet up a similarly swamped friend and go to the coffee shop down the street. Stand in line. Bitch about all the work you’ve had to do and how little sleep you’ve gotten. Discuss the merits of the different coffee roasts and which one is more caffeinated. Tip your barista (she’s probably in the middle of midterms too!) then walk back to the library, or wherever it is you’re studying. If you’re at home, make yourself another pot of coffee and give yourself five minutes for it to brew. Pause. Enjoy your first sip. There now. Doesn’t it taste that much better?

5) Take a walk. It’s by far the best way to procrastinate. You get exercise and you blow off any steam that’s been building after working through a frustrating calculus problem. There’s something about the fresh air that seems so invigorating, especially at this time of year. Take your hot chocolate, take a friend, take your iPod- whatever works! Allow yourself at least ten minutes and enjoy the crunch of the leaves and that last little bit of fall sunshine. Some say that exercise of any kind can get the blood flowing back to your brain, which allows you to focus and study much more effectively.

Use all of these tactics, or none- whichever works for you. After awhile, you’ll figure out what works for you, your body and your lifestyle. And if all else fails, you can always revert back to my favorite procrastination technique- the crazy, late-night dance party. Stick on some J-Lo and shake it!

Or not. After all, you could always do it later!


Need more excuses to procrastinate? Visit my books page or my baking page to see what I’ve been doing with all of the time that I’ve been wasting. Although let’s be honest with ourselves- can we really call baking a waste of time?!?

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