I’ve been there, you’ve been there, we’ve all been there. The clock ticking, your palms sweaty, knees weak, heart palpitations ensuing after too much caffeine (see, I’m no Eminem) — all the while a looming deadline hanging over you like a Floridian storm cluster.
Procrastination might as well be the most common affliction, causing us to put off essays, projects, studying for tests, or trips to the DMV (it’ll only get worse as you get older, kids).
There’s something about the thrill of a deadline, or maybe it’s our own egos that often put us in situations of extreme time crunches.
If you’re one of the lucky ones on a traditional summer break without online classes or responsibilities, consider this your wake-up call: you have less than a month left.
If you’re also one of the lucky ones that has a summer book project or reading assignment due when school starts again, you may be thinking you have all the time in the world — so you might as well watch the thirty-ninth episode of Netflix or stare at the ceiling, ’cause gosh darn it, you can.
However, whatever your situation, I’m here to tell you that productivity isn’t a scary thing. It can be done, and your grades (and blood pressure) will thank you for it. Here are five tips to combat procrastination.
1. Break yourself off a piece of that…
No, I’m sorry, I wasn’t going to say Kit Kat bar. Maybe later (see tip #5). Breaking up large tasks into smaller sections is a great way to get things done without feeling overwhelmed.
Let’s say you have a 10-page research paper due on the history of the fork.
First of all, my condolences.
If you attack the paper one page at a time, it will seem much more manageable. One page a day is much more friendly than 10 pages at 2 a.m. before the deadline. If you’ve gotten yourself into more of a time constraint, try to do two pages a day or even a page an hour with breaks in between (see tip #2).
If you have a project with multiple parts or tasks, break them up into mini projects for yourself and check them off as you go. Just take it one thing at a time.
2. Take a mental “staycation”
What on earth do I mean by this? Well, one of the best methods of planning for myself is mental planning, especially if I’ve reached a stopping point in a project and don’t know where to go next.
Going for a long walk outside (yes, Vitamin D is important) or doing a few sets at the gym while sorting through ideas or main points in your head is a lot less stressful than sitting there staring blankly at the computer screen.
Even going for a drive can help fuel some inspiration that sitting in your room may be stifling.
Jotting down key points in a note app on your phone while you’re away from your desk (because let’s be real, it’s definitely in your hand or chilling in your pocket like a kangaroo offspring) can help you stay organized when you return.
3. Use the Rocky method
He may not have been a champion in the classroom or at stand-up comedy, but he got the job done. Please don’t eat any raw eggs, though.
Making sure you’re completely prepared before you buckle down to work on an assignment can greatly benefit you in the long run.
Eat balanced meals to stay sharp throughout the day, and take a snack break or two. The more wholesome the foods you’re eating are, the better you’ll feel and the better you’ll be able to work. Groundbreaking, I know. Try to mix in a sensible combo of protein, fruit and veggies, healthy fats, and whole grains whenever possible.
Practice breathing. Keep a cup of your favorite beverage by your side, and please (not to go all Mom on you), drink some water, too. Your brain will thank you.
Rocky is also known for his great soundtrack. Creating a playlist of motivating songs such as some hardcore rap, classical, country, EDM or whatever YOU like and having it play in the background can help keep your momentum going. Chair dancing is all the rage, too.
4. Think about the bigger picture
Usually, the hardest part of any project or assignment is simply starting it. Whenever you find yourself thinking “I’m soo bored,” maybe open up that rubric or that novel and knock out some work.
Working on a project for 20 minutes a day may not seem like a lot, but in the long run, it’ll quickly build up. Especially if you start, like, right now.
The sooner you start that project or assignment looming over your head, the more peace of mind you can have later. Plus, the quality will undoubtedly be better, because you’ll leave more time to review your work and avoid sloppy mistakes.
You’re right, it may be one dumb project. You may never need the information you’re mindlessly regurgitating ever again. It may temporarily occupy brain space and energy you’d rather be devoting to catching Kardashians or keeping up with the Pokemon — or something like that.
But the sooner you commit yourself to exerting effort and focusing on quality, the breezier the rest of your school years will be; trust me.
5. “Treat Yo Self”
I’m all about the reward system, because it works. It worked training my puppy 10 years ago (where does the time go?) and it works for training myself, too.
Rewarding yourself with breaks as you progress on your project keeps you from getting burnt out, and it helps with maintaining energy levels. Let your brain relax with one episode on Netflix (emphasis on one) every few hours, grab a smoothie, or whatever you choose.
You can also make a promise to yourself to cash in on something once your project or assignment is complete. There’s honestly no better feeling — to me at least — than hitting that submit button or sending in an assignment. Maybe your reward is something as small as your favorite meal out, or, if it’s a bigger project, a weekend away at the beach with your friends to unwind. Or, even better, go for that Kit Kat bar. You’ve earned it.