We’ve all been there. You’ve got a paper due in three days, and you just keep on getting distracted by your cozy blankets, that new Netflix show, or other less important work. Next thing you know, you have to crank out a 10-page paper in six hours. We get it, you basically major in procrastination.
While procrastination might not seem like a big deal now, it is a bad habit that should be squashed. If you have plenty of time to do your work, you should use at least some of that time effectively, rather than goofing around. Luckily for all of you, three writers are here to explain their individual anti-procrastination methods.
Huber: Technological lockout
The first step of anti-procrastination is figuring out your greatest distraction. For me, as it probably is for many of you, my computer and phone are the most distracting. Whether it’s checking emails, texting friends, checking columbia buy sell meme, or playing Flappy Bird (yes, I still own and play that game), I just can’t help myself.
That’s why I use anti-procrastination apps and extensions to help me focus. The best way to get yourself to do something is by limiting your distractions, so this is the surefire way to make yourself do the work.
I personally use Cold Turkey, which blocks certain websites for however long you like, and Forest, which grows a virtual tree every time you ignore your phone for a certain amount of time. (Btw, Cold Turkey is free, while Forest is free on desktop and $1.99 on your phone. I was very desperate.) What I like most about these apps is that there’s really no way around it—you’re locked out of technology until the time period ends.
- You have no choice: Since you voluntarily give up use of technology, you’re basically forcing yourself to get everything done. Since you can’t go on any distracting websites or apps anyway, you might as well do all of your work before it gets too late.
- Rewards: If you block out distracting websites for 30 minutes and use that time effectively, you’ll be rewarding yourself later with some guiltless internet surfing. If you use Forest, the little tree will act as your reward, and you’ll get to see how much you’ve gained. Studies show (like, legit ones) that rewards motivate students to get stuff done—not only will you wanna do as much as you can now, but you’ll be more willing to do more work in the future.
- Blacklisting: Since only websites on your blacklist will be blocked, you don’t worry about being blocked from helpful websites and resources. That also means you’re gonna have to do actual work (which can be a pro and a con I guess?).
- Total lockdown: If there’s an emergency and you just have to go on Facebook, you’re gonna be out of luck. Since there’s no way to get around the extensions, you’re gonna have to wait everything out, and actually do your work. Tragic.
- Non-techy distractions: Obviously, your non-technology-based distractions will still be lying around. Make sure not to have those in sight, or these apps might be completely useless in curing your procrastination.
Victoria: Frontloading to maximize free time
My lifelong philosophy is due tomorrow, do tomorrow. Due dates motivate me, which is kind of the opposite of anti-procrastination. But paradoxically, I’m also proponent of the idea of “frontloading” (this was very popular slang in my high school, okay?).
Basically, frontloading is doing things in advance to free up time in the future. This means that if you have free time, instead of being like “whee no more homework!” you’re supposed to do some work (trust me, future you will thank you).
This form of anti-procrastination means you need to be pretty organized and know what you need to and when it needs to be done (this relies a lot on task management).
- You're in control: You can space out your assignments the way you want to and set your own study schedule, so that you (hopefully) never have to pull an all-nighter. This means if you know that you’re going to be busy around some time, you can make sure you have less work then.
- No dead time: Sometimes you have free time where you have nothing to do, but then when you actually have plans you have piles of work. By frontloading, the free time you have is time that you’re spending wisely.
- You're on top of things: You’re getting your work done. In advance. Go you.
- Don't outsmart yourself: When you’re doing things in advance, there’s always a part of you that knows that you don’t really have to be doing it so far in advance. Then your inclination is to just push it off to the regular deadline. You might also think that you can reward yourself by slacking off later. Don’t do it.
- Saving the sucky stuff: Sometimes I’ll do a lot of things in advance, but they’re not the important things that I actually need to get done. It’s good to save some easy stuff to intersperse with your more difficult tasks.
Sophia: Let's get physical
I know I’m not going to study in my room. My room is really fun. I have one of those pillows that turns your bed into a sofa. I also have a kazoo. I need to leave my armchair-bed and kazoo in order to get anything done, but my method is more than “going to the library” or “finding a café in which to waste away.”
Use a desktop computer in a public place. You want people to see your screen and thus make you feel self-conscious about goofing off. Besides, a communal computer won’t have apps and files that often distract you like the Sims 2: Super Collection I bought last summer. My go-to workstations are the secret computer lab next to the Lerner TIC office or the Barnard computer lab on 3/F Diana. Lerner has Macs; Diana has PCs if that makes a difference to you.
Studies (I didn’t come as prepared as Huber, so I can’t link) show that the main causes of workstation desertion are hunger and/or thirst (no not that kind, you dirty bean). To counter this, bring food and drinks. No excuses now, eh bub?
Once anchored to your desk with sustenance, you’ll soon figure out it’s more of an inconvenience to leave your workstation than it is to actually work. You brought all this food; you logged into a communal computer; you accessed Google Drive, iCloud, or whatever for your notes … Stopping work now to return to your room is now more effort than working.
- Exploit your laziness: You can bust through work in a whole day because if you’re there already, why not stay until the whole batch of labour is done? By being too lazy to pack up and go, you’re compelled to work instead.
- ~*Positive vibes*~: There’s something to be said for doing work in public and out of pajamas. Being shafted in a 620 single next to St. A’s, I get that glorious combination of hearing parties I wasn’t invited to and being completely cut off from any element of the great outdoors or human interaction. Removing myself from my sad, lonely dwelling into a place with windows (!) and other people gives me a lil productivity boost.
- You'll want to leave: Your eagerness to go back to your cozy bed will propel you to work more rapidly. Since you’re less predisposed to distractions and more eager to get back to your room, you’ll blaze through work more quickly than if you stayed in your room, dilly-dallying from task to musical interlude to nap to task.
- Accessibility: I keep all my work organized on iCloud. Maybe you use Google Drive. In order for you to have access to your work at your fingertips, you need to be organized enough to have files accessible from the internet, otherwise, you’ll just be emailing yourself a bajillion files and getting confused over which ones are updated and which ones are old.
- Availability: At peak exam seasons, it can be hard to find study spaces besides your room. People may throw hissy fits at you for taking up the desktop computers when they need them for printing. If they do, send those nerds to this site. They can print from their own laptops and get out of your face.
- People -_-: If you hit up certain places like the Diana or Lerner computer labs, it may get loud. Also, if you bump into people you know, they’ll want to talk to you. Ugh.
While midterms may be over for some, there are still tons of exams, essays, and homework that need your attention. Hopefully one (or all) of these suggestions can help you stop procrastinating before it’s too late.
Huber Gonzalez is a Columbia College sophomore and Spectrum’s deputy editor. He really can’t keep his hand off of his phone. It’s a big issue he constantly gets reminded of by his mom. Reach him at email@example.com
Victoria Yang is a SEAS first-year and Spectrum staff writer. Frontloading is why she always has her articles written weirdly in advance. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sophia Hotung is not really a staff writer at Spectrum, but was its previous editor and misses writing so comes back every now and then in an unofficial capacity. Reach her at email@example.com.