How to cross the finals finish line [OPINION]

Andrew DeCelle procrastinates a paper. (Kevin Loker)
Andrew DeCelle procrastinates a paper. (Kevin Loker)

As I sit in Fenwick Library and think of the millions of ways I can occupy my time other than writing the two final papers of my college career, I can’t help but laugh at how my habits of procrastination always get in the way of my productivity.

Four years of late-night paper writing, always due to putting reading, research, writing and editing off until the last minute, have still not taught me to use my time wisely.

Part of this, admittedly, is because assignments themselves do not teach anything. How a student reacts to an assignment decides how much a student will learn from the experience. You can have the best teacher, the most interesting class, and the coolest paper topic, but unless you are willing to put in the time and effort to learning the material, you are wasting everyone’s time.

What? Wasting your time? That can’t be it. You just absolutely have to “like” and comment on all the new photos in the Facebook album your friend just put up. It’s prom/formal season, so you know that between your siblings and your friends, you are guilty of doing this sometime in the past month. Whether you’re a girl who is complementing her friends on how stunning they look in their dress or a protective brother who is posting somewhat passive aggressive comments about the guy who has an arm around your sister (who you’re convinced shouldn’t be legally allowed to look like that around any guy… let alone a so called “date”).

And let’s not forget the hilarious memes that your friends are posting that you need to comment on and share with all of your friends. There couldn’t possibly be a better way to spend your finals week time than that, right?

And that blog you haven’t caught up on in the past few months now looks like the most interesting thing in the entire world, how could you have possibly gone without reading it for so long?

Once you finish accruing all the value from these (albeit entertaining) suddenly extremely important things you’ve found on the internet, it’s time to realize that finals week has these things called “deadlines” that have been created specifically for procrastinators like you and me. Only after I finish catching up on the newest VlogBrothers episodes though…

Is it ironic that I am spending valuable “finals-preparation” time by writing an opinion piece about how stupid it is to not take advantage of the wonderful resources for learning we have at our finger tips? Perhaps, but reflecting upon my own habits and those held by the rest of my generation can provide insights that will (hopefully) help combat the “let’s see how many things other than my school assignments I can do” disease.

Here is a list of ways I have found helpful for fighting procrastination in my four years as an undergraduate:

1. Create tangible (and reasonable) goals before you start your work

A roadmap you can look to in order to complete specific steps of an assignment can go a long way. It can be as simple as “I am going to do research for one hour straight” or as complete as “I am not going on Facebook until I have handed in this paper.”

Either one is at least a start, so give it a try.

2. Change your scenery

Can’t get work done at your dorm? Can’t stand that the internet in the Johnson Center is at least 10 times slower than you want it to be so that your research actually gets done? Find a place where you can get work done and stay there until you’ve completed your goals for that time period.

Maybe you work best at a quiet place like the library. Maybe libraries scare you (and you haven’t had to visit one in years… a sad and scary reality of the digital age in which we live) and you need to do work in a place where there are a lot of other people around. Regardless of your personal tastes, the fact is you know there are places where you are more productive and places where you are less productive.

Find the place where you’re most productive finish your work so you can relax.

3. Be conscious of social influence on your study habits

Know that if you are planning to “study with some friends,” you won’t actually be productive? What about getting together with a group of friends so that you can complain about how much you all hate finals? Ignoring the fantasy world in which there are groups of people who get together to talk about how much they love finals during finals week (those people would actually be spending their time productively if this were the case), take a minute to consider whether or not company will be helpful or harmful to achieving your “study objectives” of the day.

If you have friends who will yell at you for being on Facebook or for spending hours watching the newest viral videos (that of course are way more important than school work), then by all means invite them to study with you so they can help hold you accountable.

However, if your friends are going to be constantly posting about how much they hate finals on Facebook and averting your attention from your work because “this has to be the best/worst/funniest/most ridiculous video you’ve ever seen and your life will be a million times better if you would just spend these 3 minutes watching it,” then you should probably go back to tip number 2 and plan from there.

4. If all else fails, procrastinate by doing things you’ve been procrastinating

Sound like an oxymoron? Well, to some extent it is, but it can turn your lack of productivity into “misplaced” productivity (which is better than no productivity at all).

Ever notice how your room has been messy the whole year and now that finals week has rolled around, there is suddenly nothing more important to you than cleaning it? As I mentioned previously, I have two papers left to write in my college career. However, I also am lending my writing talents to Connect2Mason for credit, so writing this is every bit as necessary as those papers are.

While I think I am procrastinating (because I am not editing my ten page paper), I am actually being productive at the same time by completing another important thing on my “to do” list.

Is this idea a tad convoluted? Perhaps, but I am willing to bet that there have been times that you’ve done the same thing. It’s essentially a way of outsmarting yourself by avoiding doing what you need to do by doing something else you need to do… And when you’re finished doing what you (don’t) need to do (as much), you can use this last tip to finish what you (actually) need to do!

5. Treat yo’ self

Speaking of funny videos that are sure to provide some short-term entertainment while also wasting your time, this one does a fantastic job of all that.

In all seriousness though, the idea of taking the time to reward yourself is a really, really good idea. Companies spend millions of dollars researching the best incentive structures for the employees so that they can get the maximum amount of productivity out of them. The least you can do is rewards yourself when you complete the goals you’ve set for yourself.

It’s really quite easy:

  • “When I finish proofreading this paper, I will treat myself to some refreshing yet overpriced frozen yogurt.”
  • “After I study for this final for two hours, I will take a break and go have dinner with my friends at Southside.”
  • "Once I finish the last final of my college career, I will run through the fountains behind the Mason Statue without a care in the world.” 

Rewards are great, and we as human being respond to them, so treat yo’ self, and have a fantastic finals week!

Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily represent those of Connect2Mason. More columns and opinions will be coming this fall. To submit a piece of writing, send an email with your name, year, major and an attached draft to exec.editor[at] 


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