If you’re reading this, you’re not studying… busted! Today’s post is about procrastination, more specifically “positive procrastination.” Procrastination has earned a bad reputation – we’re trained to think we don’t deserve downtime, and we often associate procrastination with video games or obsessively refreshing our email or “doom scrolling” social media. But, hey, you’re not going to study for eight hours straight without some kind of break anyway, and there are some productive ways to give your brain and body a boost when you take a breather.
Even though it might sound counterintuitive, we recommend making a list of things you can do when you need to take five. That way, you’ve got your guilt-free activities all queued up. We started a list of “positive procrastination” examples for you, but feel free to add to it:
Take a Shower
You have to take one anyway, and a warm stream of water can be a great incubator for creative thought. Showers can release dopamine and relax you so thoughts can flow creatively and freely. Sometimes our best ideas happen when we’re not actively trying to have them. So soap up, productive procrastinator!
This is another one you need to do anyway. Skipping meals can lead to low blood sugar which actually makes it more difficult to concentrate. Scarfing down a lot of food at once can make you sleepy so choosing lighter fare will keep you from going into a food coma. For a shorter “positive procrastination” break, we’re banana fans (brain food bonus!).
This one’s especially for the slouchers out there. Five to ten minutes of stretching is great for your body, and lying on your back while gently holding your knees to your chest can help reset a lower spine crunchy from hunching over the keys. If you’ve been typing for hours, try clasping your hands and rolling your wrists around for 30 seconds.
Unclutter your mind by decluttering your work area. No need to spring clean, just pick one surface to clear or organize during your “positive procrastination” break. Keeping your space clear doesn’t just clear your mind, it can also have a positive effect on your mental health.
Here’s a novel idea: try “positive procrastination” while you study. There’s evidence that doodling while you’re learning by ear will actually help you concentrate and retain information. In one study, doodlers retained an average of 29% more information!
This is a three-part productive procrastination technique: wash, dry, and fold. Even the short walk to and from the machines is good for breaking up a sedentary study session. Added bonus: you can time your study sprints around each cycle.
Take Water Breaks
Hydration begets concentration. Your brain mass is about 75% water, and it needs regular replenishment to operate at full capacity. Dehydration can affect more than your brain as well, from your metabolism to heart health to body temperature regulation. Get up, refill your glass or water bottle, and take a good long drink.
Stare Into Space
It’s no secret that staring at a screen at length can strain your eyes, and even do permanent damage. Your eyes need a study break, too. The 20-20-20 rule is a quick and simple way to remind your eyes the world is bigger than your computer monitor. Choose a point in the distance (20 feet or so) and stare at it for 20 seconds. Do this every 20 minutes or so.
Call a Friend
This one’s good for intermission – a slightly longer break. Studying can feel isolating, especially when you’re cramming for exams, and talking to someone can be a morale booster. There’s nothing wrong with dialing up a friend or loved one. You’ve earned a little dose of friendly endorphins to help ease stress and remember there’s life beyond books.
To sum up: You don’t need to space out your breaks precisely – if you’re on a roll, by all means, stick with your learning. But cycling through the above will help you become a productive procrastinator and stay happy, healthy, and focused, without feeling guilty. And now that you’ve finished reading this (hopefully helpful) post… get back to work!