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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Procrastination Damnation

Zach McCoubry

Zach McCoubry

I once read somewhere that being a good writer is 4% talent and 96% not being distracted by the Internet.

Actually, now that I think of it, I believe that I read that somewhere on the Internet. I was supposed to be working on a paper.

Yes, the Internet has been both the great bane and blessing of our aspiring young future academics. At the tip of our fingers dwells a vast wealth of resources and information ranging from online dictionaries, to academic journals, to newspaper articles, to online multi-player Bejeweled tournaments. Just one more game, and seriously, this time you’ll get back to doing your work.

Face it, if you have an issue with procrastination, or you have a short attention span, or both, being on the Internet is like being a kid in candy store. The first step is to admit you have a problem. All procrastinators convince themselves of their own genius. They don’t need to start early because they are smart enough to put it off and pump it out on one last minute work mega-session. This is not smart by the way. Procrastinators also have convinced themselves that they work best under pressure. This is a lie as well. Everyone works best when they have time to revise, edit, and revise again. Procrastinators are just confusing running out of time and being forced to pump anything out onto paper, with working best. So, here are 6 handy tips to make your studying life just a bit more effective. I didn’t bother to put down “Start early” because you would have ignored it anyway.

1. TURN OFF THE INTERNET – As noted above, the Internet has both good and bad elements in its ability to aid you in your studying and productivity. But remember this: prior to 1995, most people wrote papers without the help of the Internet. This proves that the Internet, while being a valuable tool, is not a necessary tool. Everything you can do on the Internet, you can do later once you’ve actually completed a chunk of you work. Go to the coffee shop, go to the library, or just simply unplug your Internet access. This is not to say that you shouldn’t use the Internet at all, but you need to learn when to utilize it and when it is just another distraction. Instead try the next tip…

2. DO LARGE BRUSHSTROKES FIRST, THEN GO BACK AND PUT IN THE DETAIL – This is a metaphor lifted from the visual arts but applies to the written kind as well. All it means is that you don’t spend hours planning out the subtleties your subjects retina and cornea, before you’ve outline your subjects whole body. You also don’t spend hours working on a slam-bam opening line, before you’ve sketched out the rest of your paper. When you have an issue with time management, the solution is to best utilize your time efficiently. Laboring over one paragraph, or one sentence, or worse, one word, is not efficient time management. Instead try the thought-dump: pour out as many ideas as you can without stopping, just keep writing, and when you get suck on an idea just insert a marker (ie. _______) to tell yourself to come back and work on that point later. Don’t get suck in dictionary hell, constantly looking for the right word to fit your meaning. Instead just put down the first thing that comes to your mind, you can always fix it during revision. You always revise, right?

3. THE FIVE MINUTE PLAN – Pick something, anything. Let’s say choosing a thesis statement. You could have picked anything from, sketching an outline, to doing some reading. OK, now that you’ve got an area to focus on, convince you self that you will crack down on accomplishing as much as you can in that area for five minutes. If you’re the Mister Smartypants that you think you are, than diligently working for five minutes should be easy, right? The point here is to convince you’re self that you can do at least five minutes worth of work. Obviously once you’ve got the flow going you continue will past the necessary five minutes.

4. TALK ABOUT YOUR WORK – Your friends will hate you for this one, but engage in a discussion about whatever it is that you’re working on. Don’t worry they don’t even need to respond, they can but this isn’t about them, its about you. See, when you read material you put a lots of facts and ideas in your brain, but many of them may be disjointed. They’re like little dots of information that are floating in your head. When you talk about these ideas you are making sense of the information and connecting the dots creating a better understanding of the material.

5. TURN OFF THE MUSIC – Many people claim they can study better when they are listening to music. Those people are wrong. Listening to music may make studying more enjoyable, but it doesn’t make it better. Unfortunately, better studying means MAXIMUM COMPREHENSION, and any additional distraction that could possibly compete for your attention works against this maximum comprehension.

6. SCHEDULE TIME FOR SLACK – Just don’t schedule too much time for slack. What you need to avoid is ambiguous times where you could and should be doing work, but aren’t because you need to relax first. This doesn’t work because you’ll never be able to effectively relax when you have evil demanding schoolwork floating over your head. If you’re waiting to be ready, willing, and able to start work, than you can expect that to happen just short of never. No one wants to do work. Ever. The trick is to separate slack time from work time. When its slack time, enjoy it, live it up. Do cartwheels, whatever. But set an alarm for work time to begin and when it does shift gears into work mode. There is no slacking when you’re in work mode. Slacking is for later and you should set a time for that as well. Allow your self several hours of work, followed by some time for slack. Slack can be your reward for doing good work. Just make sure its clear when these times begin and end.

About the Contributor
Denez McAdoo served as the following positions at The Mass Media for the following years: Arts Editor: Spring 2005; Fall 2005 Editor-in-Chief: Spring 2006; 2006-2007