Somewhere between the slacker and the model student sits the procrastinator. Plagued with worries about a mountain of work and allured by the distractions of Facebook and Pinterest, the procrastinator rarely finishes a paper more than twenty-four hours before it is due.
Some are procrastinators by choice, others by necessity. I stand with a foot in each camp: because I work and go to school, I find myself in many last-minute scrambles; but I often waste free time when I get it. If I’m used to doing projects in crunch-time, why should I start them two weeks early? It becomes a vicious cycle, so while I get my snippets of free time, a full eight hours of sleep or an actual day off become increasingly rare.
Procrastination may seem harmless at first, but it is a dangerous habit. This little gremlin loves to devour your post-midnight hours. Missing deadlines, turning in subpar work, and getting sick after losing too much sleep are unanticipated consequences (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything).
Though it’s the enemy of discipline, procrastination is not mere laziness. Most procrastinators are serious students anxious about workload, quality, and deadlines; this anxiety is the reason they put things off. It’s tempting to delay challenging, stressful tasks. “I’m going to start researching…after checking my email one more time.”
As a seasoned procrastinator, one method of breaking the habit works for me.
If that sounds like seeking idleness, I understand. It sounded backwards to me, too. “Shouldn’t I be working harder and filling up my free time? Won’t that be the way to finally get ahead?”
Trust me on this one. The modern world is so fast-paced and hectic that we rarely find time to step away, go to God, and establish our priorities by His standards. It’s hard to master our time until we’ve submitted it to Him.
Laurel Robinson of Boundless.com has a strategy for making our time His time:
- Get alone! Find a quiet place and time during each day, where you can give your undivided attention to your thoughts and intentions. Take a journal or day-planner.
- Remind yourself why you are here. This may include consulting Scripture to review who you are as a creation of God or reading your journal to review the desires of your heart. Acknowledge your gifts, and remember that they were given to you so that you can use them to build up others. With your lifetime goals in mind, think about what you desire to accomplish this week.
- Think about the things you have to do today. Surrender them all to Christ, the Lord of all. Many activities are already set in stone for you, like your classes and work, but arrange the others into levels of first, second, and third importance. Schedule times in your day for all the Level One items first (e.g., studying for tomorrow’s test or having a serious talk with your friend). Choose times that you know you will be most productive, energetic, calm or whatever is required to do those things well. Fit in whichever Level Two items you can. Keep all the leftovers on a list for later. In time, your Level Three items will either become Level One items (like that test next week!) and you can schedule them in, or they will fade into the realm of the Unimportant and Unnecessary (like rearranging your sock drawer) and you’ll be glad you didn’t waste your time on them.
- Start this process over again the next day. Adjust your schedule and your priorities according to things you learn along the way. You will become very good at gauging how long it takes you to read 20 textbook pages, and the difference in effectiveness between studying in the library and studying in your room. You will discover whether you study best in the early part of the day or the later part. You will discover how long to set aside each day for this very process of prioritizing and scheduling.
Wouldn’t it be great to end each day knowing you did all you had promised God that morning? There will be times you can’t, of course, and you’ll still find yourself in an all-nighter, but that won’t be a problem. The joy of earnestly seeking God is, after all, worth far more than any paper.