Creative Procrastination Techniques: The top seven ways not to do your homework


When you picture yourself at your dream college, studying may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Unfortunately, those papers and midterms will catch up with you before you know it, and the library will become an all-too-familiar place. Luckily, as long as there has been homework, there have been students looking for ways to put it off just a little bit longer, so you won’t be the only one cramming calc notes as you run to your exam, or handing in your final paper still warm from the printer. In the words of Mark Twain, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”

A Student’s Best Friend

There are endless possibilities for procrastination on the Internet. Some stick to the tried and true: checking up on high school exes on Facebook, obsessively refreshing email, and watching old episodes of The O.C. or Top Chef. Others use procrastination as a good excuse to keep up with the news, loading CNN or The New York Times whenever they’re stuck with writer’s block. Still others like to keep up with alternative types of news—like celebrity gossip. “I check at least once a day,” admitted Kathryn McIntosh, a junior at the University of Delaware. And of course YouTube, filled with home videos of failed bike stunts and sneezing pandas, is a treasure trove for procrastination. You just might be inspired to put off work even longer by filming a few of your own viral videos. (Hint: a shot of the kid nodding off and drooling in the front seat of lecture is sure to be a hit.)

Home Improvement

Doing dishes, vacuuming, rearranging furniture, laundry, dusting off those knick-knacks on your desk—cleaning the room may be an unappealing chore that’s been put off for weeks…but as soon as there’s schoolwork to be done, nothing looks more enticing. And good thing, too; some dorm rooms might never be cleaned if it weren’t for impending deadlines. “The four or five times I’ve drastically rearranged my bedroom furniture this year have all happened to coincide with huge papers or tests,” said Elizabeth Snook, a junior at the University of Pittsburgh. As for the truly desperate? Let’s just say color-coordinating your wardrobe and polishing the curtain rods are not out of the question.

Sweat it Out

Campus gyms are packed in the afternoons and evenings after class. Why the influx of undergrads? It might be more about beating the stress than keeping those New Year’s resolutions. Running on the treadmill, lifting weights, tackling the Stairmaster—lots of students find the gym a healthy and worthwhile distraction from work. Carrie Schroll, a junior at William & Mary, said that going to the gym is one of her usual ways to avoid impending schoolwork. Exams getting you down? Sometimes endorphins work better than Red Bull. And the gym is a great place to run into friends, or check out that hottie from your morning seminar if working out isn’t your thing.

Best Laid Plans

No better way to get started on schoolwork than to make a to-do list, right? The reality: it’s just another procrastination technique, cleverly masked as productivity. You’ll start making a schedule, as a way to figure out how you’ll possibly have time to finish everything you’ve got to do, and it will end up extending weeks past the due date. Suddenly you realize you’re trying to plan your summer vacation, and it’s only October, or you’re looking up the date and time of graduation, and it’s freshman year. The to-do list is a good way to dream up more small chores you can get done before starting on the real work. “I like to do tiny little things that are so far on the bottom of my to-do list they don’t even really need to be there, like sewing up a small hole in my leggings when in fact I should be studying econ,” said Snook.

Plugged In

TV, TiVo, DVDs, Nintendo…sitting in front of the television is a guaranteed distraction. With crowd-pleasing games like WiiSports and Guitar Hero, video games aren’t just for the fantasy geeks anymore. Josh Knight, a senior at Princeton, said that Rock Band, among other Wii games, is one of his favorite ways to put off work. And not having a TV won’t necessarily help…most campuses have student centers and dorm lounges with communal TVs tuned to “the big game” or the latest sensational episode of Gossip Girl. And for those who like to multi-task while procrastinating, TV is great background noise for toenail-painting or making that long-overdue scrapbook. Before you know it, you’ll be battling your suitemates for DDR domination in between classes.

Comfort Food

For those college students lucky enough to have a kitchen in their dorm, or who move off campus to a house or apartment after freshman year, cooking is a great procrastination technique. Ambitious students might offer to make dinner for their roommates and fix some chicken cordon bleu, successfully eliminating a few hours of study time, while others prefer to keep it simple with chocolate chip cookies. And even for those who don’t feel like cooking, the kitchen is still a great distraction. Charlotte Hornsby, a sophomore at New York University, said one of her favorite time-wasters is “making fridge poems with magnetic poetry.”

Retail Therapy

“I pretend to shop online…I compile a huge shopping cart of things I want, then just ‘x’ it out; it’s ridiculous!” said Elle Chang, a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University. Real or imaginary, online or in-store, shopping is another go-to procrastination favorite. Some shop for food (so they can cook later and waste more time), others for clothes (because they’re counting down the days until spring break), others for that dream vacation. “I’ll pick a place I want to go on vacation, look up costs for all modes of transportation and figure out how long it will take me to make the money to do it,” said Snook. Next time you find yourself perusing eBay for used ukuleles (which you have no idea how to play), maybe it’s time to get back to that problem set.

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