From Procrastination to Productivity


Last week, I had a minor procedure of having an ingrown nail surgically removed. As I inhaled deeply to brace myself for the third painful anesthetic jab, I reprimanded myself. “How did I ever let it get so bad? All it required was periodic care – which I had neglected for too long.” And despite repeatedly discussing the merits of being proactive with my students, I had fallen into the trap myself; I had procrastinated.


I’d like to believe that I’m not alone and that most of us have been guilty of procrastinating at some point in our lives. So, my blog today is dedicated to both students and parents who want to dig themselves out of this hole. I’d like to offer three quick fixes to get things done - on time.


1. The 2-minute rule

This rule was made popular by David Allen in his book Getting Things Done and states that if a task requires less than 2 minutes to complete, you should get it done right away. It is not worth the effort of putting it down on a to-do list or mentally reminding yourself over and over to get it done. Tackle it now and move on.


2. The 5-minute rule

This rule is a clever way to trick your brain into doing something that is not particularly exciting. Perhaps you have a task that you have been avoiding for a while because it seems too overwhelming. The solution is to convince yourself that you are going to spend only 5 minutes on it and you will notice that once you get started, the momentum will carry you forward, and the task will not feel so monstrous anymore. All you need to do is to break the moratorium and just. get. started.


3. The Pomodoro technique

This is the most popular tool to combat procrastination and one that I frequently recommend to my students. It involves setting a timer for 25 minutes and focusing on your study material during this time. Remember to put all distractions away. After 25 minutes, you can take a timed 5-minute water/stretch break and then get back to another 25-minute focused study period, followed by the next 5-minute break. Remember not to make your breaks too exciting, or else it will be difficult to come back to your task. After three 25-minute cycles, you can take a longer 20-minute break.


A twist to this technique is to study for 25 minutes, shut your book or computer, actively recall what you just learned (a powerful technique to aid long-term memory) for 5 minutes, and then proceed to take your break. Personally, I have modified this technique to work for 45 minutes before taking a 5-minute break. You can experiment with this system as well to determine what suits you best.


I wish you a productive (and pain-free) 2022!


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