In Defence of Procrastination

"Tomorrow is my day. The day. I'll get everything done then." said every student ever

“Tomorrow is my day. The day. I’ll get everything done then.” said every student ever

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]Jun Lao, Doctors’ Mess Editor, attempts to mount a defence of procrastination and offers some tips on maximising time spent on breaks.[/box]

Why do we procrastinate? A propensity for self sabotage? A thirst for failure? An Appetite for Destruction? Definitely. Especially that last one. But also because it’s fun. So much more fun than work. Studying. Being responsible. Ugh. And as with most fun things which are apparently bad for us, there come desperate attempts to justify their legitimacy.

First things first. This ‘take a 5 minute break from work every 20 minutes’ theory. Let’s not fool ourselves. That’s absolute rubbish. Whoever devised the theory I’m sure has some solid research and data to back up their assertions, but they have clearly never seen or heard of the related items sections of Youtube or Buzzfeed. They are dank, dark pits of procrastination purgatory where countless hours of potentially vital study time are lost to the apocalyptic wastelands of the internet. You think clicking on one of the links will be enough to satisfy your procrastinatory (probably not a word but hey who’s proof reading this…oh that’s right me) urges but the dastardly section resets and offers you new, more enticing links to click on. Before you know it 5 minutes has become 5 hours and it’s dinnertime. And you can’t possibly work after dinner surely? No you need to have a shower and maybe catch up on Game of Thrones before some blabbermouth ruins it for you on Facebook. Speaking of which you haven’t checked your Facebook news feed for about 15 minutes maybe something important has happened? Maybe Djokovic has admitted slipping Nadal some propofol (boom medical reference) to explain his utter annihilation in the French Open? Oh wait now it’s 2am and you’ve got to be up for 6. Hmm probably best to go to sleep. Well that escalated quickly. Some 5 minute break huh?

If you’ll allow me to embark on a poorly thought out analogy; taking a break to go onto Facebook or Buzzfeed whilst studying is like leaving the all the doors of a prison open, twiddling your thumbs and looking the other way whilst prisoners gleefully sprint to their freedom. Sure you could rely on the prisoners’ sense of morality to bring them back to prison after they’ve had their fun to dutifully serve their time. Much like the prisoner who recently walked out of prison claiming he was ‘only testing the security’. Obviously that prisoner failed to return and instead skipped off to Spain. So maybe keep the doors closed? Keep the prisoners in you know, prison? Unfortunately this is where my analogy stumbles. Because breaks whilst studying are of course necessary. But not every 20 bloody minutes. How would you ever get anything done? So how should you go about using your procrastination time wisely and avoiding being sucked into a wormhole of wasted time?

If you are serious about cracking through revision and passing your exams then consider some alternative methods of procrastination or more purposeful procrastination. After all procrastination is inevitable; an irresistible force of nature. Once you recognise the futility of resistance, acceptance swiftly follows. Why lament our innate tendency to procrastinate? Embrace the devil. It can actually be a useful tool in our constant battle against the oppression of exams and deadlines. Below are some tips on useful procrastination.

  • Do take regular breaks. Have a walk. Grab a coffee. Chat to a friend. Go to the gym. How often depends on you. But not every 20 minutes. Maybe every hour or so give yourself 5 minutes off and then every few hours take a half hour break. Personally I opt to work until I’ve absolutely burned out and begin to hate myself and everyone around me. Each to their own.
  • DO NOT GO ON BUZZFEED, YOUTUBE OR FACEBOOK. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T DO IT. I’m joking of course, but probably best to avoid those sites unless you’ve really got a lot of time to burn. Maybe save them as a reward for the end of the day or a lunch break. If you really can’t trust yourself to resist the urge then there are add-ons to your internet browsers which can block specific sites for specific amounts of time such as LeechBlock for Firefox and StayFocusd for Chrome. There’s even a program called Cold Turkey which blocks certain websites on all browsers.
  • Actually use your procrastination time productively. Start learning a language in your breaks with an app or two (Busuu, Memrise, DuoLingo etc.). Plan your holiday (if you want to plan your elective check out our features article on the subject). Answer your emails. Find some new music to listen to. Write an article for The Medical Student and send it to me. Whatever you do, as long as there is some sense of purpose, it will still beat surfing Youtube for more Screaming Goat music video remixes.
  • Make a checklist of things you need to do for the day, maybe whilst on a break. It gives you an incentive to start work, helps focus your mind and work and best of all gives you a little boost when you check it off. Yeah take that task. You just got completed.
  • Set a time limit on your procrastination. Set an alarm or a reminder to break the spell and get you back to work.

So there you have it. A vague attempt at defending the noble art of procrastination. If you’re wondering why this article is so heavy on incoherent rambling and light on useful information, the answer lies in the title and subject of this article. Don’t blame me. Blame procrastination. And my need for sleep. But hopefully you’ve had a mildly interesting few minutes distraction from your feeble attempts at studying. There’s your break. You’re welcome. Now back to work.

Quote of the week

Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more. – Nikola Tesla

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