Tag Archives: Procrastination

Getting Back On Track: Tips For Student Writers

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by Jason Martinez, Writing Consultant

Now that we’re about the midpoint of the semester, take a moment and reflect on how often the urge to stop what you are doing has overtaken you. And think of how much progress you lost because of various factors, some within your control and some outside of your control. It is perfectly natural to take breaks and stop working, and it is inevitable for most of us. Let us examine that problem a little closer to see what can be done to remedy procrastination and surrounding anxieties.

All too often, without intention to set myself back, I will stop what I am working on and lose nearly all momentum on the project. Being away from this blog for so long is an example of me feeling overwhelmed at writing, which is ironic considering my role as a Writing Consultant. But when I tell students that they are not alone in their procrastination and associated anxieties and concerns, this should serve as both confession and proof that most of us struggle to keep on top of workloads.

So, moving forward, let us take a look at some ways to regroup and get back on track when we are surrounded by that overwhelming need to stop what we are doing, letting the project get away from us.

First, it is important to remember that we are only human; we are going to get distracted and that is okay, and sometimes necessary to maintain a sense of balance.  This is a natural inclination that most of us have. However, what is not okay, and is more harmful than good is using the distraction as an excuse for not doing the work. Trust me when I say that starting and stopping is not uncommon. But if possible, do not make indulging in distractions a consistent practice.

For many of us, laziness of some variety may play a role in procrastination (spoilers: I am guilty of this), but there are also other factors like anxiety playing a role in what we often label as laziness. Anxiety that is often linked to behavior considered laziness shows that more often we are truly lazy in the sense that we do not make that first move to get started, or more importantly, to get back to work in a timely manner.

Another reason for not working effectively is perfectionism.  Perfectionism is a good excuse to be unproductive and can give a false sense of entitlement to rationalize bad habits.  So, without realizing it, these bad habits have created this delay and procrastination, further adding to a sense of fear related directly to starting or continuing work on a project.

The need to “be perfect” can allow us to nitpick every element, further setting us back and ultimately overwhelming us to the point of keeping us away from the project for too long. What should be a stopping point to reflect over the progress becomes an extended hiatus, which only re-convenes when time has run down to the point of making life harder for us. We now have to go into high gear, a gear that is usually not nearly as productive at the eleventh hour. This is when mistakes are made, details not ironed out or double-checked, and the work is substandard.

With this being stated, we now have a starting point of understanding some of the root issues with procrastination. And more importantly, there is some context as to why these behaviors can occur. What can be done to improve the situation? Here are a few ways to consider making your life and workflow process easier to handle:

  • Break the process down into smaller, digestible chunks that are not overwhelming, but will still yield positive and constructive results. This means that you might need to agree to only working at smaller increments, promising yourself to work for 10-30 minutes at a time without break. Something manageable and as free of distractions as possible.
  • After your first work sequence is complete, get up and away from your work area. Pack up your things and take a walk around campus, grab a bite to eat, call your parents or friends, go workout, or just rest. But get away from the work for at least a few minutes.
  • If you are working in such small increments of 10-30 minutes, a simple stretch and a snack will usually do the trick. If you are doing an hour or more at one time, definitely move around and get some exercise to be sure not to risk being too sedentary and the resulting health issues.
  • Come back to the work. Always come back to the work as soon as possible so that all your hard work is not lost to sluggish progress and procrastination. Staying away too long will set you back and hurt you in the end.

Being effective as a student writer means being honest about yourself and your daily habits. Be free and vulnerable to say that you are lazy at times, or are a perfectionist. But do not judge yourself. Everyone works in different ways. Embrace the imperfections that make you special. Then use those imperfections to your advantage and move forward; find positives out of perceived negatives. Being an effective student, let alone a student writer, means that you are willing to make a plan, assess that plan and its outcomes, and then execute that plan based on all that you know. Commitment to completing the project is also a requirement. The goal is to be reasonable about your outcomes and to realize that tackling a writing project is a process, not an outcome.

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In the Moment Monday -September 26, 2016 : Procrastination Station

In this week’s post, a reintroduction and testimony about dodging difficulty and productivity.

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by Jason Martinez

So, yes, the motivational column previously known as “Motivational Mondays” is back. This time the column will be known as “In the Moment Monday.” “Why the name change?” you may ask. Well, in the time that I have been away, I have learned the importance of truly living in a moment. It is a micro focus on ideas rather than the macro of general “motivation” that I previously wrote about. Yes, there will be motivational material, but instead of exploring the dark corners of only my psyche, we will explore ways to not only live in the moment, but to overcome any obstacles in a productive way.

For this first post back, let’s take a look at how procrastination can set a person back with goals, specifically when it involves someone doing something that the don’t want to do. What is a common subject of avoidance? Schoolwork. Or, even work-work. Anything that has to do with responsibility I would say is fair game to be avoided with menial, time-killing behaviors.

For me, I have a weakness for digital media, specifically in the form of Netflix and other streaming services. I’m sure that it is because there is a certain type of hypnotic quality of watching or observing passively, where our brains can voluntarily take a backseat and defer doing more work. However, that may be just a brain like mine, one that is prone to cycles of productivity and creative bursts and is not a workhorse.

I do know many who have the aforementioned workhorse brain that allows them to find activities like writing or reading after a long day of work as relaxing. For me, creativity is a rewarding but tiring endeavor. When I have a full day of consulting, I feel that my brain is firing on all cylinders for as long as possible. Sometimes not all day, depending on how many appointments I have, but there is an extended period of engagement that my brain will eventually register and feel the drain at the end of the day. But that end of the day drain is so rewarding.

But if there is a reward to that behavior, then why do I negate the benefits of the drain? I think that in my case, and maybe with others, we are so pre-programmed from years of actual media programming options that we don’t know how to live in the moment and relax. There is a constant party of voices and noise that seems to fill my head, usually filler noises, half-completed song verses, movie or television quotes, all of which can derail me at any given moment for an undetermined amount of time during the day.

I’m practicing ways to stop what I’m doing and take a few minutes to recap what has happened, what is happening, and what is planned to happen. But the emphasis is on what is happening. The other two are mere bookends that just provide context and really should not be fixated upon, lest you fall into the trap of compare and despair of your past and future. Sitting in a relatively quiet space, a living room, a library, or even the car sitting idle without the engine on can all provide good spaces to just focus on the now.

As difficult as it may be to drown out the noises of the day’s events, friends, drama, classes, work, or just anything that you allow to take up valuable real estate in your brain, rest assured that you can do it. It takes practice and repetition to at least feel a moment of relaxation and focus that is not drenched in the day’s concerns.

 

The Illusion of the Infinite Tomorrow

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This week’s post focuses on fighting procrastination and the trap of the “tomorrows” that usually never materialize.

by Jason Martinez

 The passed few weeks have been somewhat trying, in terms of maintaining a routine of productivity. I previously wrote of my struggles to maintain discipline with my fitness goals, and now I face difficulties maintaining discipline with my writing and production goals. Case in point: I am writing this blog post on the day that it should have already been published to the blog. I’d like to be able to play off my laziness as “Oh, well, this post going up late is an example of how to deal with procrastination and how it can still all come together at the last minute.” No. I am late because I have fallen prey to the trap of “I’ll always have time tomorrow.”

I’ve used the excuse of “there’ll always be tomorrow…” to do a task or set of tasks, and for the most part that has always proven true, there was always a tomorrow to work with. But now that I’m older and more tasks fall to me for completion, more expectations are placed upon me, and the time available that was once so ample has now dissipated into a single, precious parcel of time to be divided sparingly. This concept of dwindling availability of time has also presented itself in the form of seeing family and friends go into personal crisis. Seeing a loved one struggle and suffer within a crisis situation, and the ultimate feeling of helplessness towards that person is one of the most gut-wrenching feelings one will ever have to encounter.

My thirty-seven years has also taught me that when someone is suffering on his or her own, that person’s suffering is not a time to recoil in fear and sit back to do nothing. When someone is in suffering, that is the time to become active. That moment is the moment to offer whatever help is possible; that moment is a time to steep yourself in producing results of any kind – personal or professional. When time plays tricks on us, our senses makes us believe in the infinite tomorrows that do not exist; this is the wake up call given by life, showing us that time with loved ones is not infinite either. Those oft-planned but rarely executed “tomorrows” begin to dwindle right before our eyes when we see loved ones in crisis.

The time that we are endowed with is a non-tangible commodity, one that is only measured in our sense of self and the accomplishments that we produce, and it is measured in our own perception of reality. Time does not exist, nor does tomorrow. We make our own time and we make our own tomorrows. If your reality is one fraught with sadness or anxiety, take advantage of that time that has presented itself to you and create. Create a safe space for someone in need of a safe space. Create a work of art that illustrates your struggles and share it with the world because there are many more who will find peace in the knowledge that they are not alone in their own struggles.

Most importantly, remember that we trick ourselves with procrastination as a way to avoid responsibilities, often stunting our own growth and shunning those around us who are in need. Don’t assume that the “tomorrow” that you hope will always be there for you, will be, because just as easily as a tomorrow can exist, it can cease to exist.

Start today, not tomorrow.