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I’m Procrastinating: It Must be Monday

hiya all- Meredith here.

Well I don’t know about the rest of you, but I had a lovely weekend. For one thing, the weather was PERFECT! I rented a car and took an overnight trip out of town to visit my mother. It was a nice break.

This morning (while I still had the car), I did errands-requiring-wheels: namely, I drove out to strip-mall-land to swap my Nova Scotia driver’s license for an Ontario one (I know, I know – I should have done it ages ago!).

Now I’m settled in at an air-conditioned, wifi-equipped coffee shop where I’m going to attempt to get a little work done. The atmosphere is great in here today. For one thing, I know about half the people in here at the moment – and we’re all hunched over our computers doing our best impressions of Looking Productive.

In a bid to procrastinate, I just spent a couple of minutes looking up tricks to beat procrastination (sigh). If you’re wondering if you are, in fact, procrastinating (though I can’t say for sure that I know any graduate students who don’t), this list should help you out. I got it here). I will confess that I am most definitely guilty of some of this stuff:

  • Filling your day with low priority tasks from your To Do List.
  • Reading e-mails several times without starting work on them or deciding what you’re going to do with them.
  • Sitting down to start a high-priority task, and almost immediately going off to make a cup of coffee.
  • Leaving an item on your To Do list for a long time, even though you know it’s important.
  • Regularly saying “Yes” to unimportant tasks that others ask you to do, and filling your time with these instead of getting on with the important tasks already on your list.
  • Waiting for the “right mood” or the “right time” to tackle the important task at hand.

So yeah, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can absolutely identify some of my own habits in this list.

The same site lists a bunch of strategies for preventing procrastination. It suggests you reward yourself for getting stuff done (the author suggests tasty snacks at motivation, though that doesn’t seem like it would totally do the trick for me), or get your peers to check up on you as a way to compel you to get down to work.

It has different suggests for getting work done, depending on what is holding you back. For example, if you aren’t getting down to work because you’re disorganized, the site suggests things like this:

  • Keep a To-Do list so that you can’t “conveniently” forget about unpleasant or overwhelming tasks.
  • Use an Urgent/Important Matrix to help prioritize your to-do list so that you can’t try to kid yourself that it would be acceptable to put off doing something on the grounds that it’s unimportant, or that you have many urgent things which ought to be done first when, in reality, you’re procrastinating.
  • Become a master of scheduling and project planning, so that you know when to start those all-important projects.
  • Set yourself time-bound goals: that way, you’ll have no time for procrastination!
  • Focus on one task at a time.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’ll need different tricks. The author suggests breaking the project into smaller, more manageable tasks, and getting going with a couple of small tasks — because even if they don’t accomplish much in the long run, you’ll trick yourself into feeling productive (and we all know that productivity begets productivity, right?).

Finally, the site suggests that if you’re procrastinating because you find a task unpleasant, you should be sure to reward yourself in some way once you’ve accomplished it (ie. allow yourself to read a bit, take some time off to prepare a nice lunch/dinner, or go for a walk).

And with that, I’ve got to get on with it! My to-do list is groaning… Happy work-weeks to you all!

Posted in SGS Blog 2010-2011, Student Perspective

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