Saturday, August 13, 2011

School Suggestions: Useful Procrastination

I’m a world class procrastinator. This may surprise you, considering how much I’ve advocated starting things way ahead of time and finishing them early. I’m also nearly always busy; I don’t spend any time watching TV, and only a bit wasted on Facebook or Twitter. And yet, virtually all the time I have some sort of big project looming over me that I should be doing, but I’m not. In fact, right now I need to start working on an essay (due in a week) but, obviously, I’m not. I’m writing this blog post.

And that’s the key. While I’m procrastinating I’m not lying on my bed thinking ‘I don’t want to write this essay, I don’t want to write this essay…’ I’m writing this blogpost. I’m doing something useful. I spent all morning reading King Lear because I didn’t want to work on that essay. I haven’t done any work on the essay, but I’ve spent all day doing useful stuff, stuff that needed to be done.

So, technically, I’m procrastinating. But I am not wasting time. There’s a big difference. When you’ve got five courses, you’ll have a variety of assignments, from reading a couple pages to writing 3000 word research papers. The research paper takes a lot more work, but you also need to do the reading. There’s nothing wrong with doing the reading first and then working on your research paper. At any rate, it’s a whole lot better to be doing the reading, rather than sitting around thinking about murdering your prof so you won’t have to do the paper.

Maybe you’re one of the people who likes to get the hard stuff done and over with right away. I’m not. If I have a bunch of things to do in one evening I write them all down and arrange them in a random order. I’ll start with something that requires a bit of brain power, like creating an outline for a short essay.  Then I’ll do something easy, like read for awhile. When my brain is sufficiently fuzzy I’ll make myself a cup of tea and take a break before coming back at it. At this point my brain is both sufficiently alive (from my previous work) and sufficiently rested (from the tea) that I can tackle the hardest work of writing/researching a paper. If this is going well, I’ll just keep doing it until my brain shuts down and I go to bed. If it isn’t, I’ll stop and tackle something a little easier.

It’s perfectly fine to procrastinate on a big project, at least for a little while. Last year there was one essay I kept trying to work on and it just wasn’t happening, so I finished everything else and left it to the end.  Having nothing else to do forced me to work on it, and I ended up with an A+!  In short, procrastination isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When you don’t want to work on an essay just do something else useful, like writing a blog post on procrastination. 


  1. Hi Elanor,

    My name's Kate, and I'm a newly-agented YA author from Utah. I stumbled across your blog this evening and I thought I'd say hi! I'm also going to be a college freshman this year, and I'm super excited to find other teens who are serious about writing.

    Anyways, looking forward to more of your posts!


  2. How come your post become listed in Spark of Google+?

  3. I am a world class procrastinator like you, except I always seem to end up doing stupid things like surf YouTube or paint my nails. :P Clearly I need to work on this.... >.<