It came to me suddenly. I realized I had a blog post due today, Monday, August 28, 2017. How did I forget? As a Kitsap Regional Library blog writer, I know my schedule months in advance. I tell myself, “That’s okay, I can still make my deadline August 28, 2017 at 4 p.m.” I recall and old post I wrote about dog stories. The title was witty – "Dogged Devotion," about classic dog stories. I told myself, “Yes! That’s it. It’s the dog days of summer. This post would be perfect. I will make this deadline.” Determined, I proceed to look for this post in my document folders at work, drive home and check my personal computers, my old thumb drives. Two hours later, I’ve nothing to show except time wasted.
Ironically, I’m reading a great book about learning called, “A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra) by Barbara Oakley." I learned about Ms. Oakley from a recent New York Times education article, Learning to Learn: You, Too, Can Rewire Your Brain. She produced an online course that teaches students how to become better learners. Even now as a fully-fledged adult, I want to improve myself. I want to be smarter, kinder, more productive and more efficient. I, too, want to be a better learner. Rather than take her online course, I choose to check out her books.
Oakley provides great information about learning and provides practical tips to learn math and science based on neuroscience research. If you read her book, you will learn about concepts like focused and diffuse thinking, techniques to improve learning like previewing headlines, charts, images, and graphs, before reading a chapter; the Pomodoro technique - learning through focus thinking on a task for 25 minutes, taking breaks (walking, napping, driving) to encourage diffuse mode thinking, chunking information, pausing and recalling information.
She also dedicates four chapters on procrastination. Oakley states, “We procrastinate about things that make us feel uncomfortable.” Oakley explains further that what temporarily makes us feel good – common procrastinating habits like surfing the web, playing video games, scanning through your social media outlets can have long term effects that can be very damaging. Personally, I like to fool myself by doing “productive” things like cleaning my desk or my house but if I’m truly honest with myself, I’m still procrastinating. I’m not focusing on the task at hand.
I share this with you because we all procrastinate. And with school starting for so many in less than two weeks it’s important to know that change is possible. No need to get in stuck in a procrastination pit. Here are some common sense tips Oakley shares to deal with procrastination. (I’m paraphrasing and recalling – a learning technique in Oakley’s book):
- Focus on the process, not the product. Process means working on something in small increments every day; product means completing a homework assignment.
- Work without distraction or work with others to keep you focused.
- Write weekly and daily lists. Write your daily list the night before.
- Reward yourself – chocolate, social media fix, online shopping is okay (after you’ve given focused attention to a task for at least 25 minutes).
And, whew…I made my deadline.