HA! Yeah right! XD
All students procrastinate to varying degrees, but stellar students know how to mitigate procrastination by starting assignments immediately. Beginning projects early and quickly reduces last minute rushing and promotes the likelihood of earning a better grade (with less stress). By structuring work using The Pomodoro Technique, you can start gaining work momentum quickly and defeat procrastination and its negative side effects. The logic behind why one Pomodoro session can spur a productive work day lies in the Zeigarnik effect.
The Pomodoro Technique structures work intervals with 25 minutes of sheer work and 5 minutes of a mentally revitalizing break. The technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo, who used a tomato shaped timer to time his work sessions at university. His system takes advantage of peak attention performance by cutting work off at 25 minutes, the time when most students or workers begin to lose focus. This system is appealing and useful to procrastinators who fret starting an all night marathon to complete an assignment, and can more easily digest a 25 minute study sprint.
The effectiveness of this system can be seen in High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), where short-bursts of high intensity exercises are done, and followed immediately by a rest period. Instead, with The Pomodoro Technique, short-high intensity study sessions are followed by a quick study break. See the similarities? This structure allows for optimal brain performance, and prevents the brain from slumping into a sort of “low-power” mode while trying to accomplish work. Pomodoro periods and breaks are scheduled in cycles to maintain efficiency over extended work periods.
How long can you hold your maximum speed in a track race? Not very long. It would be comical, to structure a continuous sprinting exercise…so why would your form your study routines comparably? You.Need.Breaks.To.Maintain.Peak.Efficiency.While.Working.At.A.Productive.Pace.
Actually completing a Pomodoro routine is relatively simple. Work solely on one assignment or task in a diligent manner for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break (take a walk/eat a snack, you get the idea). Repeat this cycle for however long your work chunk may be(ie. three hours). If you don’t want to worry about setting a timer for work intervals and breaks, you can use your browser or phone. Recommended browser apps would be: Tomato Timer and Marinara Timer. If you have an Android device, take a look at Brain Focus Productivity Timer or Productivity Challenge Timer. On the Apple end, check out Pomodoro Time and Pomodoro One.
Procrastination causes many adverse side effects including: heightened stress, potential sleep loss, reduced productivity, and the diminishing likelihood of a standout grade. Not to mention the cost of two, 8oz. red bulls and three snickers bars ($9.03), to get completely blitzed in a time of a need for unrelenting focus.
Academic procrastination can be sourced from a lack of structure, and/or an underestimation of procrastination costs. The effort and energy cost of starting an assignment early, is much “cheaper” than waiting until last minute. The initial effort and energy investment up front to tunnel your attention is high at the get go, but low to maintain over work intervals. Once you gain work momentum, it’s easier to knock an assignment out of the park.
It’s almost like the static and kinetic forces of friction in physics (you don’t need to have taken physics to understand this analogy, just look at the trends in the graph). Figure 1.
Let’s look at the static region as the cost or force of starting an assignment and the kinetic region as the cost to continually work on the assignment. As you can see, the hardest part about any assignment is really… just starting it. An increasing amount of effort is needed to get the wheels rolling, and a maximum effort point is reached just before you have enough momentum to get into a working routine. After that, the amount of effort you need to expend to keep working drops immediately, and remains relatively constant afterwards. This is why many students procrastinate. They only think about the cost of starting the assignment. And while it is the most expensive in terms of overcoming the resistance to starting, there are tremendous benefits to having started. Intelligent students have a broader perspective to their work. They see it takes a lot to get moving, but once you get moving it’s easy to maintain momentum, bolster motivation, and keep working until the assignment is done.
The effort and energy cost of starting an assignment last minute is very-high, and the cost to maintain a sprint like pace is tremendously high as well. It’s like trying to sprint the 800m race…It’s pointless. For a layout of the pros/cons of procrastination/non-procrastination work habits, refer to Tables 1 and 2.
Just by looking at the trend of the Effort/Energy Cost in Table 1, your effort expenditure starts high, but immediately drops. In Table 2, your effort is very high to start a task, and very-high to complete your task. Once you really take the time to understand the hidden costs of procrastination, you see starting an assignment early is less stressful, more enjoyable and promotes the likelihood of success. It just makes sense.
Now let’s dive into understanding why this system works, by looking at the Zeigarnik Effect. This phenomenon of psychology is incredibly powerful, yet simple. If you understand it, you can “trick your brain” into doing more work. In summary, the Zeigarnik effect states we remember uncompleted tasks better than completed ones. Starting any significant assignment for 25 minutes leaves it incomplete. Thus your brain nags you to act on the uncompleted task. This open loop, so to speak stresses you out (in a good way), and makes you think “You know, I really need to finish my Calculus Homework”. We don’t just want to start something and leave it unfinished. We want to finish it. This brain nagging forces you to act, which can be funneled into further Pomodoro sessions…or Facebook.
WARNING: If you want to remain productive while studying, AVOID SOCIAL MEDIA SITES! They are a work substitute for your brain, and are fun and rewarding to use… but leave you with nothing accomplished. If the temptation of social media is too much, consider using software to block your favorite sites. A quick google search will introduce you to these types of programs.
Let’s get back to the point. Your brain has a process running for any uncompleted assignment, and to free up mental ram, you need to work on/complete that particular assignment. The optimal way to complete your task is via The Pomodoro Technique.
After observing the dark side of procrastination, and learning about effective study routines and psychology to combat it… you, yourself are equipped to slay the ugly-beast that is procrastination. And you’ll be able to do so in a knowledgeable and systematic manner.
Great students have navigated and or experienced detrimental procrastination effects, and thus are more resilient to reducing procrastination and excelling in a way that’s both smart and effective. Good luck, and get to work!