In this article I’m sharing with you what I do when I don’t want to study.
I want to share with you all my lazy guilty pleasures. What goes through my head. The dumb stuff I come up with to procrastinate.
I’m not going to be giving you advice on ‘how to study when you don’t want to’ here. There’s plenty of advice out there on that topic, including my detailed post here:
You’re probably going to relate to this post way more though, anyway.
This post is for you: the procrastinator extraordinare. The person who stumbled upon this post because right now, you’re procrastinating like a champ.
You’re the student out there who’s given up. Who’s fed up with all that studying crap anyway. Right now, studying is the absolute worst idea in the world.
It’s time to procrastinate like a pro. School can wait for another day.
Read on to check out all of my guilty procrastination pleasures. And then share in the comments your own favorite guilty procrastination pleasure.
If I like your idea, I’m going to add it to this official list of things to do when I don’t want to study.
Things I do Instead of Studying
1. I go straight to Facebook like a total Zombie
Have you noticed that only about 10 out of your 500 Facebook friends ever post anything?
Yet for some reason I still go straight to Facebook and scroll like a freaking zombie for 10 minutes.
About 95% of all the posts on my Facebook newsfeed are posts from millennial focused news sites like Vox. Or, they’re advertisements.
Yet still I scroll through Facebook without even thinking about it.
It’s like a reflex. The bright lights flash by until something catches my eye.
Maybe it’ll be a short video. So I’ll watch the first 15 seconds of the video before I get bored.
Then I keep on scrolling.
Somehow Mark Zuckerberg has managed to embed himself in my brain and compel me back to his zombie website as my first go-to place for procrastination.
I’m an excellent Facebook scroller. It’s second nature to me.
But at some point I realize “god, I’ve been scrolling through Facebook for 15 minutes. I really need to go back to studying.”
So I try to force myself to study. And that’ll be the second thing I do:
2. I Force myself to Study. And Fail.
Studying sucks so bad.
But at some point during my zombie Facebook scrolling session (see Point 1), I swallow hard and tell myself to try again.
Sometimes you just have to study. The exams are coming up, You’ve put it off way too long, and you have to just dig in and study your little heart out.
So usually the first thing I do when I don’t want to study is try to find a way to force myself to do it anyways.
So at the end of my zombie Facebook session I promise myself that this is it: I’m going to get back into the studying headspace.
Here’s what I usually do the first time I catch myself on Facebook:
- Close all my webpages not related to studying;
- Throw my phone to the other side of the room.
Then, I tell myself:
If you focus for 5 minutes, you can have a treat.
This trick is called the Premack Principle, and I’ve explained how it works psychologically on this post here.
I rarely make it through those 5 minutes of studying, though.
The minute I start reading again, I get that uncomfortable, annoyed, bored, fidgety feeling again.
Did I mention studying sucks?
3. I Doodle. A lot.
Drawing, coloring and scribbling on the margins of a page is totally a sign your brain is bored.
And it doesn’t take long before I start doodling.
A study in 2009 actually found that we might doodle out of boredom to let out pent up energy.
I’d say that makes sense.
I also doodle in class or in meetings at work. In fact, I find it helps me focus and maintain at least some attention on listening.
But, sometimes I just like to doodle to prevent the boredom.
Something cool that my girlfriend got me for my birthday last year was an adult coloring book.
What makes these books different to kids’ coloring books is that the images are really complex and intricate.
This means that you need some additional skills at coloring to make really beautifully colored images!
But, it’s a really fun way to kill time. So, I like to do it!
Have you heard of #Studygram?
Take a look at Studygram on pinterest. It’s full of people who are truly expert doodlers. They doodle in their study notes and end up making really beautiful study notes.
I recommend checking them out!
4. I Organize my Study Space
Above I have outlined my usual study procrastination routine:
- Get distracted from studying for 15 minutes on Facebook
- Try to study again. Fail.
- Doodle for a while.
It’s about this point when I tell myself:
“Okay, stop doodling. You can’t go back on Facebook. What should you do?”
And the next thing on my procrastination list is usually to start sorting out the things on my study desk.
The pens go in their little tin on the right. The papers all need to be stacked nice and neat.
The laptop needs to be square with the desk.
All the pieces of paper on the pinboard need to be rearranged so none of them are touching.
And so on, and so on.
Maybe I’m a little OCD when I’m bored?
Or maybe my brain is just searching desperately for a distraction from the studying I’m absolutely not getting done.
5. I Write Flashcards
The study space is clean. I’ve thrown out all those pieces of paper I doodled over obsessively. I’ve tossed my phone to the other side of the room.
“Do something … anything related to your work!”
Something I like to do that I feel is productive but doesn’t hurt my brain is make up flashcards.
It involves some craft: cutting up paper into hand-held card-sized pieces.
It also involves some doodling: I get to make the flashcards nice and neat and beautifully designed.
So, writing flashcards isn’t too bad.
Plus, I’m not actually trying to remember things when I write the flashcards. All I have to do is get my notes and then re-write them onto smaller pieces of paper.
Fortunately, re-writing my notes actually has some benefits for my memory. I’m re-writing information, so it’s going in through my mind, being processed in my head, then signals are going through my arm and I’m re-creating that information on a new piece of paper.
So, I think this is a pretty productive study procrastination trick that I use.
It’s at least doing something and it’s not hurting my brain too much.
6. I go for a Walk
I’ve gotten in the habit of breaking up my studying with walks over the past few months.
Walking really helps me to clear my mind and let out some energy.
In fact, I think I come back feeling really fresh and ready to study some more! But, sometimes it’s also just a nice way to end a study session and take a mental break before getting onto another task.
Either way, if you haven’t taken a walk from your house for a little while, why not having a go?
I walk down by a creek that runs past my house, and it’s actually been really nice to watch the seasons change in the past two months.
When I started the walk it was snowy and the river was iced over. Now, the snow’s all gone and it’s a totally different vibe.
So, for me, walking seems to be good for the soul. And I have a really good time doing it.
7. I Listen to Podcasts on my Class Topic
Another procrastination thing I do that I think’s pretty clever is listening to podcasts on the topic I’m studying.
I don’t know about you, but I prefer to listen than read.
Reading is exhausting, boring and just not really much fun.
But listening to podcasts hurts my head less.
I study teaching and there’s a ton of good podcasts out there about how to become a better teacher. So, I feel like I’m actually doing something worthwhile when listening to the podcasts.
I’ve even cited podcasts in my essays before because they can give you really good tips, insights and explanations of various topics you’re often interested in.
If you’ve not used podcasts before, I recommend downloading a podcasting app on your phone. I know most iPhones come with iTunes and you can jump to the podcasts category on iTunes and download some ones in your topic area.
I use an android and the app I’m currently using is called CastBox. I know there’s a ton, though, and they’re mostly free so I don’t recommend downloading one that will cost you money.
One last thing.
If you’re still bored listening to podcasts, combine points 6 and 7. Why not listen to a podcast while going for a walk?
I really like doing this – I get fresh air, a bit of new information, and a little exercise. It’s win-win-win.
8. I text my Girlfriend. Then my Best Friend. Then that guy I met on holidays that one time.
Do you ever drop your best friend a message just being like,
“Hey bestie, I’m bored. What’s up?”
Well, I find myself doing that pretty often when I’m procrastinating.
Then I go down the list of people I haven’t contacted for a while.
I think of old high school friends, childhood friends, and eventually people who I barely remember but for some reason we’re friends on Facebook.
Really, these people must think I’m strangely overly friendly.
But sometimes it pays off. Sometimes people will invite me to hang out or let me know of something cool going on in town.
And then when that happens, say goodbye to studying! I’m outta here! I’ve got better stuff to do.
Studying can wait.
9. I Play Candy Crush Saga
Do you remember this game!?
Well, I’ve got to admit, I recently re-installed it and it’s SO addictive!
I’m up to level 1500 or something ridiculous like that.
Imagine how much studying I could have done instead of playing that stupid, pointless game.
Fortunately Candy Crush Saga only has 5 lives, and now I’m at a higher level I usually lose all my lives within 10 minutes and I end up having to find another way to avoid studying.
Other games that I’ve become addicted to in the past include:
- Plants vs. Zombies (Love it!)
- Fruit Ninja
- Clash of Clans
- Pokemon Go
Do you have any more that you can remember playing that totally wasted all your procrastination time? Share them in the comments below and I’ll add them to this list!
10. I re-read Harry Potter. Again.
Look, I’m not much of a reader.
But I love Harry Potter. What a book!
So many of my friends read Harry Potter at least once a year.
I’m not quite as diligent as them. But if I’m totally bored, it’s definitely my go-to book to read in order to kill time.
You just need to open up to Page 1 and read:
“Mr and Mrs Dursley of Number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
And you’re hooked. You’re back in that amazing, magical world and hours might pass before you realize … oops, wasn’t I meant to be studying!?
Do you have a book that hooks you in as well? A book you go to and read when you’re positively the most bored you’ve ever been?
Let me know what your go-to book is in the comments below!
11. I watch Friends on Netflix. Again.
I’d say Friends was Netflix’s greatest ever purchase.
I’ve watched Friends so many times that I can drop into any random episode in any season and totally know exactly what part of the plotline I’m up to.
There’s something about sitcoms that makes them so easy to binge watch.
You know and love all the characters so there’s no wasting time needing to learn new character names.
They’re also just 22 minutes long, so you can tell yourself “I’ll just watch one episode then get back to studying” (as if that ever happens!)
And shows like Friends are genuinely funny. It’s like actually being with real friends.
The problem is, I’ve watched it so many times, that I’ve had to branch out to other shows lately.
Here’s a few that are probably the most watched on my Netflix playlist:
- That 70’s Show
- How I Met your Mother
- Kim’s Convenience (If you’re not Canadian, you don’t know what you’re missing.)
- Rue Paul’s Drag Race
- The Ranch (because Ashton Kutcher)
- Any Christmas Movie at all – even the super lame ones.
Let me know if you know of any other great bingeworthy Netflix shows I need to get into next time I want to avoid studying.
Okay guys, those were my Top 11 Procrastination things that I do instead of studying.
I shared a draft of this post with a few friends and asked each of them to send me a list of other things they do when they study.
Here’s their additional ideas:
- Go to the gym (okay, show off!)
- Put on my headphones, lie on my bed and listen to Nevermind from Nirvana (I guess you could listen to any music you want – this was my friends’ suggestion, though).
- Go on a pub crawl (alone!? No judgement here.)
- Go to the movies to switch off for a few hours.
- Clean my bathroom. (I liked this one. It’s something you’ll only really ever actually want to do when you want to avoid doing something worse than sticking your hands in the toilet. You know, like studying.)
- Browse Pinterest for days.
- Sort all the photo albums on my computer.
- Try out a new hairstyle you found on Pinterest.
- Try out cooking a new recipe you found on Pinterest. (Turns out I have a friend who really likes Pinterest.)
- Take a Buzzfeed Quiz.
- “Read your blog, Chris.” (Nawww, thanks!)
- Call your Mom because you haven’t called her since last time you needed to distract yourself from studying.
- Delete all the files off my computer desktop because it’s gotten super crowded with documents for some reason.
- Go on an epic YouTube binge for hours and hours and hours. (I recommend you start with Saturday Night Live and Whose Line is it Anyway)
- Play 5 Clicks to Jesus. (Okay so I had to look this up. The goal of this game is to start on a random Wikipedia page and try to get the Wikipedia page on Jesus in just 5 clicks. What a cool idea!)
- Re-connect Your Nintendo 64 to your TV and play Mario Kart for days.
- Scroll through job search websites trying to figure out if there’s any entry level jobs in the whole world that you’d be qualified for once you’ve gotten this damn degree.
- Download DuoLingo and try to learn Spanish. (Or French, or Welsh, or Italian, etc.)
- Create a Wish List and then share it with your parents so they know what to get you for Christmas.
- Update your resume. (Make sure you prematurely write-in that degree that you’re probably not going to get because you’re too busy procrastinating).
- Sleep (Ha! To be fair, studying can probably put you to sleep.)
- Write a blog post about things to do instead of studying (Okay, smartass.)
- Just go to the library. It’ll force you to study! (Interestingly, I’ve given the same advice on this post about best study places).
- Read up on latest news about my football team. (I’m not a sports fan, but I get your point).
- Color code my closet (OCD much?)
- Play Age of Empires III and pretend I’m 15 again (Good call).
If you’ve got any more ideas to add, stick them in the comments and let’s see how long we can build this list!
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]