Procrastinating is a serious problem for me; I even procrastinated writing this 400-word piece. What was I doing instead of studying and contributing to campus journalism, you might ask? Reading Wikipedia articles and clicking through in-article links until I’d gone from reading about liquid-liquid extractions — the reason I was on Wikipedia in the first place — to learning about LAMDA, the oldest drama school in the UK. Fascinating.
Here are some other facts I’ve gleaned from my routine of Wikipedia-fuelled distraction: nobody really knows when Idi Amin was born, male pandas have been given Viagra to stimulate reproduction, and baby Mozart was overweight — at least, the painting from his Wikipedia page makes him overweight.
I suppose it isn’t an entirely terrible thing to be constantly reading Wikipedia. I’ve become something of a human encyclopedia for those course union trivia nights or killing the awkward silence at parties. People have come to know me as someone who just ‘knows things.’
However, my personal interests have taken advantage of this practice, leading me to read mostly about pop culture and learn facts that make it seem like I regularly stalk my favourite celebrities. Cole Sprouse has moles on his face and Dylan Sprouse doesn’t. Professor Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh) married Professor Trelawney (Emma Thompson), only to leave her for Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter). This is the kind of drama I’m looking for.
Why don’t I just binge-watch television, then? Perhaps it’s some sort of psychological phenomenon, but reading a Wikipedia article, even if it’s a detailed summary of the process of toasting bread, makes me feel like I’m still doing work and learning. When the stress from exams gets too high, I like to fill my brain not with information I need to know, but with information I don’t — information that actually interests me.
Might this be a distraction from the feeling of dread I get when thinking about how the information I need to know might be just as useless? Maybe. Or maybe it’s to balance the information forced into my mind with information that’s just for fun.
I would never have learned about Wang Zhenyi, a prominent female astronomer in feudal China who hails from the same province as my parents, in any of my courses. So perhaps reading Wikipedia isn’t just a form of procrastination, but also an invaluable source for facts you never knew you wanted to know.
— Vivian Xie
For me, exam period is a time of stress, procrastination, compartmentalization, and rationalization. Together, these phenomena create a perfect, cyclical storm.
Let’s start with the stress. I want to get good marks, so I study. But my parents want me to get better marks, so I worry about whether or not I’m studying hard enough. I try to study harder, but the process becomes tedious, so I take a break and decide to watch a couple of episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on Netflix. As I reach my sixth episode in a row, I realize I’ve taken too long a break. So, still wanting to get good marks, I study.
It’s not all bad, though. The inevitable procrastination that happens every exam season is accompanied by many unexpected blessings. There are so many activities to waste time on, like setting a new high score in every game on Facebook Messenger, or rewriting Ed Sheeran songs to suit your own life.
You should never feel too bad for procrastinating; if you haven’t spent more time on YouTube than you have reading your textbook, you’re doing university wrong.
Breaking my tasks down into manageable chunks makes life easier and more efficient. Instead of barely wrapping my head around four chapters of biology in a single hour, I try to understand just one chapter in the same amount of time, which is more productive in the long run.
Occasionally, however, I’ll become far too comfortable with this compartmentalization, breaking necessary studying into the tiniest of sessions, which is hardly any help.
My ability to rationalize highly questionable decisions when it comes to studying is what leads to this mild apathy. As both a sleep-deprived student and an English major, stretches in logic are hardly a foreign concept to me. Somehow, I’ll tell myself it’s okay to put off reading 80 pages of a novel for the day before an exam, or convince myself that half a week is plenty of time to prepare, just to be able to take the weekend off.
This shaky logic leads to a number of problems during exam season. Let’s start with the stress…
— Sarim Irfan
After months of presentations, essays, and assignments, I look forward to the end of the semester when coursework wraps up. It feels like I can breathe for a moment. But then I remember I have exams. The stress builds up, so I try to manage my time well. I get my planner out and mark up times for studying. I’m in high gear and ready to work, and that’s when I discover that the latest episode of Riverdale is up.
My study routine during exam season consists of studying, sleeping, and binge-watching my favourite shows while snacking on whatever is in the fridge. I’d much rather immerse myself in crime shows like CSI, Criminal Minds, Without A Trace, and Castle than try to decipher the academic jargon that is my textbook.
My studying is regularly interrupted by the need to take a break. I hop online, scroll through Facebook, and watch some animation storytime YouTube videos. The autoplay feature represents the downfall of my productivity. Soon, I realize I am hungry. I go eat, and then I try to study again. After an hour, I tell myself I will watch one episode of Bones, which turns into four episodes. Then I feel sleepy, so I just go to bed.
This behaviour is less than productive, so in an attempt to break out of my usual cycle, I might try to isolate myself from technology as much as possible. I also need to make sure that I don’t play any music. If I do, my mind wanders, and I spend more time contemplating the complexities of life than finishing my essay. I also use a timer to keep me on schedule and ensure that my break time isn’t too long.
One way I try to de-stress during exam season is by taking long walks if I need to clear my mind. I think that frequent breaks help studying, allowing you to refocus and work towards achieving your best possible grades. Personally, I just need to make sure my break doesn’t last the entire day.
— Nicole Sciulli