unsplash/Towfiqu barbhuiya; overlay by Owen Hanks with permission for Varsity

If, like me, you struggle with time management, you might be hoping that this piece contains some golden nuggets of wisdom on how to stop putting things off and become a productive machine, able to churn out essays, articles, novels without breaking a sweat. It does not. In secondary school I was referred for “organisation support classes“, which I’m sure would have provided me with an arsenal of useful tips to regurgitate for your benefit, if I had remembered to attend any of them. With this in mind, it would be dishonest of me to join the horde of management gurus offering to eliminate your time-wasting habits and impose order in your sock drawer. What I can offer however, is a few bits of advice on how to be the absolute best procrastinator you can possibly be:


If an exasperated parent, DoS, or tutor has ever thrown a book from the self-help section of Waterstones at your head, you might have noticed that organised preachy types (and Varsity lifestyle writers, apparently) love a list. Something about writing bullet points in the Notes app seems to unlock the path to enlightenment and a lucrative publishing deal. For the professional procrastinator, making a to-do list is a good way to appropriate the aesthetics of an organised person with very little effort, giving you the status of a list-maker - a borderline cyborg figure - in the eyes of your peers. Having a list can also be useful when it comes to a last-minute scramble, allowing you to delay work for as long as possible since you know exactly what it is you’re not doing. Be careful not to begin ticking any of your boxes off too early though; if you use your list to spread out your work too much, you run the risk of having no looming deadlines to terrify you into action at the last second, reducing your total Procrastinating Power™.


Most people seem to celebrate the end of a day by getting into bed, closing their eyes and doing nothing for an extended period. But this process can become tiresome if the previous 12 hours have also involved sitting in bed doing nothing, with the fun twist of having your eyes open. Avoiding a day’s work by staring at a screen may be acceptable for the novice procrastinator but the pros take a different approach. Instead of wasting yet another day avoiding work, go out and revel in not working: call up your friends, cycle to Grantchester meadows, buy a stupid hat (cowboy, jester, a hat that looks normal but when you cut into it you find out it’s made of cake, whatever takes your fancy). Just make sure that when you get into bed at the end of the day you can say to yourself: I bought that stupid hat today, god it’s so dumb. Sure, procrastinating will probably steal from your grade, but procrastinating without having fun will steal from your life – and my DoS tells me the latter is only slightly less important.


Want to procrastinate and get something done? It’s strangely effective to lay your looming work aside in favour of a slightly more fun obligation, allowing you to enjoy the warm, smug feeling of ticking a box, without the vein-popping effort of doing what you should be doing. Once you manage to complete a small task and buy a hat in a day, it becomes hard to waste time caring about any nagging doubts (or doubting nags); you’ll feel accomplished because you technically are. For example, I started writing this article to put off thinking about the paperwork I have to do before next term; I was thinking about paperwork because I was putting off reading for my degree, and I chose to do an English degree to put off deciding what to do with my life. Procrastination can lead you to unexpected places if you let it.


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Am I suggesting, then, that we should all transform our lives into 24-hour buffets of fun and forget our obligations? No. Well, maybe a bit, but life is defined as much by the process of avoiding tasks as by completing them. As humans, we come with a built-in deadline, but living becomes far more enjoyable when we stop stressing about it and take the rambling route to happiness, perhaps managing to write a few essays and articles along the way. We’re born and then we die: the rest is procrastination. So why waste wasted time?