Using tomatoes to end procrastination

College Writing,Studying & Writing,Blog

Procrastination is not laziness. It’s a tool our body uses to avoid negative feelings and discomfort. We can address our body’s instinct to evade by equipping ourselves with more tools to get the results we want (and maybe even enjoy it along the way). It’s possible and rewarding to break the avoidance cycle and create work we are able to produce and proud to share. 

Often, when we get an assignment, it can feel daunting, and the end result feels far from reach. We think of completing the end goals and not all the little goals we will get to accomplish along the way. Progress happens one keyboard punch and pencil scribble at a time, so don’t try to tackle it all once. 

Break down large or long-term projects into actionable steps. By making smaller goals, you’ll be able to appropriately plan and allocate your time, use checkpoints to gauge your progress, and create momentum with each goal you get accomplished. This is a skill that will help whether you are renovating your house, completing a project for a boss, or writing an essay for class. You can visit the Writing Center and develop the skill of breaking down big goals into ones or get started with a class project using the assignment calculator.

Each time you identify a task, try to identify a resource you can utilize, too. Included in your tuition are library research assistants, academic counselors, Student Accessibility and Support Services, STEM tutors, Writing Center tutors, deans, professors, and more, all ready to offer support. 

Chunk the time you spend working, with the pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro technique addresses many of the mishaps that sometimes throw us off track: deadlines too far away to incentivize our dedication to the assignment; working past the point of optimal productivity and not being efficient with our time; feeling overly optimistic about how much work you can do and getting defeated when it doesn’t happen. 

The Pomodoro Technique was developed in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo who was struggling to complete his assignments. Feeling overwhelmed, he committed to studying with full focus for just 10 minutes. He found a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato (Pomodoro in Italian) to keep track, and so, the Pomodoro technique was created. Here’s how you can do it, too.

  1. Create a to-do list or identify a single task.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes (or use this neat website equipped with work sprints and breaks) and focus on the work at hand until the timer rings.
  3. When the session is over, record what you completed.
  4. Then, enjoy a five-minute break.
  5. After three or four Pomodoros take a restorative 15-30 minute break. 

Once you have started the pomodoro, the timer must ring. Do not break the session to check emails, chats, or texts. If you have a thought not relevant to the task at hand, jot it down and come back to it later. If distractions crop up, take note of them and consider how to prevent them in future sessions. 

To optimize your pomodoro breakdowns, group together small tasks that will take less than 25 minutes to complete so you can do them in one session. Keep a note of the length of time actions end up taking you. You might not get the time break down right the first time you create your pomodoro to-do list! But, over time, you will learn how much time things take and you will be able to masterfully plan your time. For me, this has reduced a lot of stress, because it’s easier to plan pomodoro during your day than thinking of some open-ended completion of an assignment that has no bounds but a far-off due date. You can even use this for tasks you might be avoiding, not related to school, like cleaning up your room or filing taxes. After all, it’s just 25 minutes, the less enjoyable activity will end when the timer rings!

Molly Sherman | 2021

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