Procrastination remains to be a very familiar concept to college students. After four years of experience with procrastination, I feel it my duty to start this semester off by giving a few tips about how to effectively study and avoid it. First off, my qualifications. I should begin right off the bat by mentioning that I am most likely one of the biggest procrastinators to ever attend this institution. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this column a few hours after its deadline. I am the guy who pulls all nighters every day, not particularly because of my hard work ethic (I’m an English major, not pre-med for God’s sake), but simply because I wait until the last possible minute to do things. Sometimes I wait longer, as extensions are usually a big part of my M.O. So what business do I have writing a column about how not to procrastinate? Well, that all depends. Would you rather have a sex talk with a slut or a priest? Thought so.
Disclaimer: These are all realistic tips. I’m not going to discuss things like buying a planner or how to budget your time wisely or multi-task effectively. I think the self-help section at Borders has those books. If you already have one of these, they make extraordinary beer coasters.
Rule Number One: OK, rule number one with procrastination is a rule that I like to call the buddy system. The buddy system involves bigger projects or papers. Basically, you call your organized friend who takes a class with you and ask them to “brainstorm” project ideas with you. You should do this about three to five days before the project is due. This works by pushing you to do your part so you don’t seem to be dead weight in the ‘team’ you have now formed. This works especially well if you are attracted to the person you are working with, in which case you may find yourself doing your share of the work as well as his or hers simply to make an impression.
Rule Number Two: Clean your desk. Look at your desk, it’s a mess, it looks like a bomb hit it. Remember how mom used to say all of these things? Well mom had a point. This especially applies if you live on campus and are balancing a computer, papers, books, picture frames and other knick-knacks on the pathetic 2-by-4 excuses for desks GW supplies. Chances are, if you are a born procrastinator as I am, (or if you have ADD as I do), just about anything on your desk will be more exciting than the paper you need to write or the exam you need to study for. This is usually the point when old comic books, magazines, photographs, newspaper clippings, gum wrappers, paper clips, etc. all become the most exciting things you ever encountered. If you find a pencil or some markers, you may decide that that moment is the perfect time to develop any artistic skills. Clean the desk and get those distractions out of the way.
Rule Number Three: Don’t let your computer take over your night. First off, I’ll deal with the Internet. While Kazaa has slowed down GW’s T1 lines almost down to 38.8 modem technology, there’s something wonderful about not having to dial up. Surfing the Web, bidding on Ebay and checking e-mail are all things you can easily spend a few hours (not to mention a lot of money) doing. Ignore the Internet, don’t give in to the temptation to surf on the Web.
Then there is AIM. So you sit down to work and type a witty away message simply stating that you are working. To people reading this, it only translates to one thing – “I am sitting in front of my computer right now and will see any message you send.” So rather than doing work, you end up having a serious talk with an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend or catching up with someone you haven’t seen since kindergarten. These conversations can last hours and as you talk, more messages pour in. SIGN OFF!
Finally there are computer games. You are having a tough time starting your paper so you decide to take a break and play one level of Diablo, just to clear your mind. Next thing you know, you’ve been playing for six straight hours because all you need are seven more magic points and 700 more gold pieces to get the “staff of chain lightning.” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s a good thing, but the same rules apply to Snood. Disconnect your computer from the Internet if you have to. Hide the Diablo, Sim City or any other computer game CD’s and sign off AIM. Do it now!
All of these rules go for anything else distracting in your room. The Game Cube, television, DVDs, your roommate’s problems – figure out a way to shut out all of these distractions, and if it’s impossible, go to Gelman (the library … the big building on the corner of 22nd and H). If the library is not your cup of chai, then find a friend’s room, an empty classroom or someplace where you can shut out as any of the distractions as possible.
Work out a timetable with your roommate indicating quiet study times. So stop playing Super Smash Brothers or GTA Vice City, stop talking on the phone (shut the ringer off as a matter of fact), stop downloading music or movies off Kazaa (actually delete it, it’s no good for your computer anyway. Download Kazaa Lite or Limewire instead … BUT NOT RIGHT NOW).
Get up off your butt and write your paper, study for that test, or (in my case at least) finish your senior thesis.