Blog Prompt #2: Learning Strategies or Procrastination Experiment

Summarize your chosen strategy and explain why you picked it or explain your procrastination or multitasking problem and explain why you want to fix it.

I always feel like I never have enough time to finish my homework. Most nights are spent staying up past midnight either cramming for a test in nine hours, finishing off the last few paragraphs AKA my entire essay that’s due the next day, or getting caught up playing games and watching videos. Every time this happens, I think to myself “why didn’t I let myself sleep earlier?” Some nights, I even notice that it’s 10:00PM and I think “oh hey, it’s the perfect time to sleep. I’ll just finish up and head to bed.” Then, by the time I do finish up, it’s 12:03AM and I’m reflecting on all my life choices. At one point, the question became “why can’t I let myself sleep earlier?” I tell myself that it couldn’t be helped, I just had too much homework that day, there wasn’t enough time. But I know the truth. I’m just lying to myself so that I can feel better. The real reason why I always end up sleeping late is because I procrastinate. I don’t start working until around 10:00PM which, as I mentioned earlier, is when I start “finishing up” my work. I decided that this has to stop… but how?

The answer came to me during a Learning Strategy presentation: the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique is based on a work and reward system. You work for 25 minutes and then you take a break for 5 minutes and that’s one session. After four sessions, you take a 25 minutes break. That day, when I got home, I decided to test it. I didn’t think it would be too useful but trying something is better than doing nothing. I didn’t have a Pomodoro timer at home so I set a 25 minute timer on my phone using Forest. The thing about me is, even though I struggle with procrastination, I actually have pretty good self-control. If I know for sure I shouldn’t be doing something, then I won’t do it. If it’s not definite, then I’ll waver. Since I knew I wasn’t supposed to do anything but work in those 25 minutes, I was able to fully concentrate on finishing my homework. One session became two, which became three, and before I knew it, I’d finished all my homework. It wasn’t even 7:00PM yet! So, because of how effective it turned out to be, the Pomodoro technique is my chosen strategy.

Explain how you will implement the strategy – be as specific as possible

Everyday after school, I’ll set up my work space so that I have all the homework I need to do nearby. This is so that when I’m done one thing, I can easily switch to another without breaking my concentration. Then, when I sit down in front of my laptop and ready to work, I’ll set up the timer and start focusing. I’ll settle down and start the timer within one hour after coming home. This should be enough time to do so since any longer and I might start telling myself, I have “all day” to finish my homework. During the breaks, I’ll check off the tasks I’ve finished, read the notifications on my phone, and do anything else that needs to be done that isn’t work related. Then I’ll complete as many sessions as is required for me to finish all my homework that day and feel satisfied and productive.

What is your end goal? How will you know the strategy works for you?

My end goal is to turn this into a habit. Once I am able to complete at least one session a day for a month straight, and only skip a day every two weeks, I’d have reached my goal. At this time, it also shouldn’t feel like it requires an effort to complete. The first time I succeeded in using the technique, I felt a wave of relief and happiness wash over me. When I was playing games after, I didn’t feel as heavy as I normally did. It’s like I was free for the first time in a long while from the cage of procrastination. I still didn’t end up sleeping early but hopefully I’ll get there some day. I feel that just experiencing that sensation of being productive is a good way to know that the strategy is working. In the long-term, if I feel that I am less stressed overall, and that it has helped me to develop healthier sleeping habits, then I would know for sure that it’s working.

What are your critical moves?

My critical moves would be to convince myself to do my homework and actually start the timer. As soon as the timer is going, I’d feel compelled to concentrate on doing my homework and it would be fine. Like I said earlier, to help with this, I’ll give myself one hour at the max to get ready to work. I’ll also add reminders onto my phone to help get me started on doing my homework.

How will you shrink the change?

I’ll start off gradually, doing 20 minutes of work and 10 minutes of break. Additionally, I’ll let myself lapse three times in a week – but not two days in a row. The following week, I’ll increase the work period to 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break with two lapses allowed. Next, it’ll become one lapse per week, and then one lapse every two weeks. This should give me enough time to get used to working with the Pomodoro technique.

How will you tweak the environment?

Before I start a session, I’ll have all the homework that I plan on working during that session nearby so that I am able to easily transition between tasks without wasting much time. This does make my desk a little cluttered but, like I mentioned before, I have fairly good self-control so I am still able to focus on my work. Additionally, with all the work I plan on doing nearby, I get visual cues of all the homework I still have to complete which motivates me to work harder and get all my work done.

I would remove my electronics and laptop but more often than not, I need them to do my work. I use my phone for the Pomodoro timer and I use my laptop to type up documents, search the definition of words, and check if my equation is correct. However, I tweak my environment here by trying to minimize the chances of me straying to a game.

On my phone, using Forest, I am able to prevent myself from accessing any app that doesn’t have to do with my work. When the timer is going, a tree is growing and this tree is used to track my progress. If I enter a game app while my tree is growing, Forest can sense it and it would kill the tree. Having a beautiful forest of trees is an aesthetic that is able to keep me motivated while working. Additionally, the screen shows messages such as “Don’t look at me”, “Stop Phubbing”, and “Get to work” that also encourage me to keep working.

As for my laptop, I’m the kind of person that always has 20 tabs open because they’re all very, very important. Extremely important, I assure you. However, since hardly any of them are related to my homework, they tend to be pretty distracting. Luckily for me, there’s a feature on Windows 10 that allows for multiple virtual desktops. The tabs stored in the browsers on each desktop is different. So, this means that I can keep my 20 tabs AND work without being distracted by them by using a desktop especially for working. Sure, there are other ways of handling this, such as opening another browser, but the separate desktop helps to give a more defined distinction between work and play and allows me to focus better.

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