Welcome to the Procrastination Station
The fourth post in our series, High School Survival Guide, serves up real strategies for getting over habits of procrastination. The post looks at Academic Procrastination and Open-ended Procrastination, which can derail and even ruin lives, our blogger writes. Read on for what to do when life’s many distractions undercut academic opportunity and greatness.
Since puberty, my mind has felt like an endless maze of hidden tunnels and blind corners for me to explore. Fun, right? Shortly after beginning high school, I found a nice little nook that I soon labeled the Procrastination Station. It may sound like a fourth grader’s play area, but it can actually become a deep hole that I occasionally fall into instead of doing anything that needs to be done. Personally, mine is decorated with journals, good books, and movies (particularly Moana). Everyone’s Procrastination Station is different, which makes it hard to find one way to destroy it for good. Many people never completely get rid of theirs. But is there a way to avoid the Procrastination Station? Probably not. But in this post, I will do my best to help you wiggle out of its clutches when you’ve been sucked in.
There are two main types of procrastination that show up in high school: academic and open-ended. I will explain to you how each of those types works and how to overcome them in your daily life. Buckle up, kids, and get ready for the ride.
This one is fairly self-explanatory. It’s like a cute little mouse that wanders onto the train, grabs the conductor’s attention, and keeps him from paying attention to what he’s doing. This can end in going down wrong paths, slowing to painfully slow speeds, or hitting wrong buttons and levers on the train, which might mess up the entire system. The same thing works with people. Procrastination sneaks in when you’re trying to do your math homework or trying to write an essay and you just can’t concentrate. Then it grows and grows and fills your consciousness until it’s 4 hours later and all you’ve done is watch cat videos. Or written a few sentences. Or done 20 math problems wrong.
Two Types of Academic Procrastination and How to Deal With Them
How procrastination shows up changes how you deal with it. For me, it comes in the form of social media, Netflix, and doodling. I doodle: some of my notes are almost unreadable.
- Social Media and Netflix. I recommend a website called KeepMeOut.com. In this website, you create a bookmark of the site that you’re trying to avoid and set an amount of time that needs to pass before you can enter that site again. It stops you from going there too often and gives you the focus you need to study and get stuff done.
If that doesn’t work, use the same idea, but rely on your own iron will. Set a timer for, say, half an hour. Study for that period of time and don’t go off doing anything else. When the timer goes off, give yourself 5 or 10 minutes to be distracted and go on social media or whatever else, and then repeat.Make sure that you enforce the work time, but also enforce the breaks. You’ll be a lot less likely to get distracted if you take periodic breaks.
- Doodling. I recently discovered that doodling helps me focus, but also can easily pull my attention away. I know that’s a little bit confusing, so let me explain:If I’m just sitting and listening or reading, then my brain goes crazy and can’t stay still. If I’m doodling, it gives me an outlet so my brain can stay in one place. However, sometimes my doodles can get too elaborate, and my brain decides to focus on that instead. It’s a fine line, but worth it if I can find a good balance. For this one, just make sure to keep your doodles simple enough that you can do them without taking too much effort. Lines, shapes, and shading are really good for this. Pictures, people, and animals, for example, can often take too much concentration and won’t let you study or listen.
The Beautiful Thing About Academic Procrastination Is That There Are Deadlines
No matter how many wrong paths the train conductor takes, they still need to get to the train station on time. In the same way, you may spend an entire day off-task, but no matter what, you need to get the assignment turned in on time. The drawback to this whole deadline thing is that the work may be done sloppily or half-heartedly, especially if you’re trying to do it fast. Leaving your work until the eleventh hour is not an effective use of your time, and it won’t let you do your task to your fullest capability.
Despite that little voice of distraction in the back of your head, doing your best work is important! If you stick with it–even through the boring, basic classes–eventually you’ll find your THING. That thing that drives you and gets you excited every time you think about it. That’s why you may want to try these and other techniques to tone down procrastination’s impacts.
There are many other ways that people procrastinate from school, so identify what your problem is and experiment with different ways to address it. One thing that works for almost everyone is taking breaks, as I mentioned before. These breaks can be physical exercise (which is SUPER good for your brain), social activities, snack breaks, or even just sitting and staring at a wall. Find what works for you, and if something’s not working, feel free to get a little creative!
Open-Ended Procrastination: How to Not Ruin Your Life
This type is my least favorite since I can see it easily ruin lives. Victims get off track and never come back to their task, putting off something that could make their life so much better. This is the type that seems, again, just like a train. It continues on its track, working for periods of time and stopping for breaks. The problem is, there are no specific times for the train to be at any station. It can go as slow as it wants and take whatever breaks it wants because it has no deadline. The same thing happens with people. They’re doing fine and following the schedule that they’re used to until they realize that there’s no deadline. Then there’s no incentive to get the task done in a timely fashion, or sometimes, to get it done at all.
This one seems to show up in things without a deadline, like looking for a job, doing yard work, or reading a certain book, or with really extended deadlines like turning in a resume for a job, application for college or a program, or a year-long project. For me, a perfect example is writing my first blog post for Pretty Brainy. My boss, Heidi Olinger, and I hadn’t formally discussed when the first draft was due, so in my mind, it was whenever I got around to it. I kept setting aside time to work on one, but I would always get pulled away, or get bored, or find something better to do. I didn’t write my first blog post until months after Heidi brought the idea to me. I finally got it done when I realized that this is the path I wanted to take. Writing blogs for you lovely people out there as been awesome and fun and I’m so happy I took this path. If I had realized this is how I would be feeling months earlier, I would have started this path to greatness that much sooner!
Two Ways to Deal With Open-Ended Procrastination
The following information about deadlines is perfect for showing the best (in my opinion) anecdote for open-ended procrastination. This may not work for everyone, so remember to experiment to find what helps you!
- Deadlines. I would have avoided the problem in the example above and had the opportunity to write for Pretty Brainy a lot sooner had I created a deadline for myself. To do this, you need to sit down and look at the amount of work you have to do in relation to how much you have to do outside of this task. By seeing this, you can easily find how much time you will have to work on the task and give yourself a reasonable time limit to finish it. The hardest part of this is holding yourself to it. You may be tempted to keep giving yourself extensions and letting it slide, but in reality, you need to hold yourself accountable.
- Deadlines Part 2. Another thing that may work is having a trusted person or loved one give you a deadline. Sit down with them and explain to them what you have to do and how long it should take, and have them hold you accountable. It’s the same idea as mentioned before, but with a little more pressure coming from an outside source.
You made the deadline for your own good, and if you miss it, you will be holding yourself back from greatness. Great things will come with your hard work, so get on it!
With either of these deadline methods, you can keep using the strategies mentioned in the first type of procrastination, Academic Procrastination. Once you have a reason to be focused, these will help you stay focused.
Procrastination easily can get out of hand if it’s not dealt with STAT. The key is knowing yourself and knowing your type of procrastination, which you can work off of to find your fix! I wish I could give you an easy antidote, but sadly, it doesn’t exist. But, I hope this post has helped! You now have the chance to become an expert at dealing with procrastination!
Let me know if you have experienced any additional types of procrastination and if you have favorite techniques for avoiding them! If you have questions, comments, or requests for future posts, feel free to leave me a comment in the “Leave a Reply Section” below. I can’t wait to hear from you! Good luck!
More About This Series
High school is a scary, brand new experience, so be sure to check back for the rest of my series, which includes, but is not limited to —
- What to expect in your first few weeks of high school,
- The realism of 13 Reasons Why, and,
- What to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed
Kyra is a junior at Fort Collins High School. She loves her friends and the dynamic at her school and is excited to look more into pursuing journalism in high school and beyond. She takes part in Student Council, Amnesty International, and the swim team, as well as choir and orchestra. Martial arts are a big part of her life, especially since she spent 10 years getting two black belts! Here at Pretty Brainy, she is the media intern, including managing social media and writing a blog. Currently, she is working on her High School Survival Guide and has more series in the works. Feel free to suggest topics or ask questions! She’d love to connect with you!