It’s 11 p.m. on a Sunday, you have a paper due tomorrow, and with an embarrassed smile to your roommate you click on the Netflix tab on your computer. Three hours pass and you’ve watched more than half a season of Friends (good job!), but you’ve written zero pages.
It’s not just you; everyone procrastinates and everyone has the same advice on how to curb it. If I hear the phrase “positive motivation” one more time, I think I might drop out. With finals coming up, here are some fresh tips to actually get your work done.
Get out of your dorm room
If you sit in a public place, you’ll feel a lot weirder about watching that seventh episode of The Office in a row. Use peer pressure and debilitating social norms to force yourself to dig into your physics homework.
Bring your textbook to the gym
Pump up your GPA while you pump iron, because you know that the “Alternative Workout Jams” playlist on Spotify just won’t cut it anymore. What could better distract you from the grueling burn of that fourth mile on the elliptical than Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics?
Go to that silent library on campus—and leave your headphones at home
It seems like a self-imposed jail sentence, right? You’ll thank yourself later when you are so beyond bored without Kendrick’s new album to listen to or the next episode of Scandal to watch that you accidentally stumble through your entire reading on Thing Theory. Boredom is a wonderful drug.
Find your strength in numbers
Hire your strongest, most intimidating friend to make sure you stay focused. Ask them to hit you when you stop doing your real work. Or ask them to give you a “surprise” Ice Bucket Challenge if you try to open up Netflix. If you have a friend who owns an air horn, bring them in on the deal, too.
Buy heavy earplugs
Do not—I repeat, do not—leave your study space when you hear your friends next door start up the nightly Shakira dance party. Block out the sounds of their bad belly dancing and laughter with a few good pieces of foam shoved in your ears. You have bigger fish—and problem sets—to fry. “This Time for Africa” will still exist tomorrow.
Turn off your phone
No, don’t just put it on silent. Warn your loved ones you’ll be “falling of the grid” for a while and hold down that power button. If you still think the temptation to scroll through your Twitter feed is too strong, take extra measures: hide it in your sock drawer, under your mattress, in the high cupboard you just can’t reach. Better yet, get your friend to hide it.
Race against time
Put a bowl of ice cream or a hot plate of nachos on the desk in front of you. It looks good, doesn’t it? Finish that final page of your term paper before it melts/gets cold, and then reward yourself with some slightly soupy Phish Food or lukewarm cheese. It’s all about positive reinforcement.
Write due dates into your notebook way in advance; if you know what’s coming up, you’ll be a lot less likely to put it off. Pretend your essay is due the week before you actually have to turn it in and you might even have a rough draft (or two!) done the night before.
Take away your escape option
Put on your least comfortable shoes (you know, the ones that are a size too small that you just had to have anyway), and head out to your favorite study space. If your toes feel too pinched once you get there, feel free to take them off. Studying barefoot is NBD but walking home barefoot is an entirely different story. Writing that seven-page paper due next week won’t seem nearly as abhorrent as the thought of walking home in whatever leather/canvas/suede vice you’ve cursed upon your poor feet. Get ready to camp out.
Finally, just drop out
Yes, you read that right: just quit school. Move away from your loved ones and become a farmer. There will be no papers to procrastinate writing while you’re living on the open plain. Just please, don’t put off feeding the cows.