In my personal experience, it can be difficult to be productive while both distance learning and social distancing in tandem. The illusion of a purgatory-like free-time can curtail my motivation, but luckily I have begun to develop strategies to fight against my urge to procrastinate while weathering the COVID-19 pandemic.
I start every day by writing a to-do list. Even if I don’t get everything done, it is satisfying to cross tasks off and to go to sleep at night knowing I did something important with my day. I’m not claiming I’m productive every day—I certainly was not during the block break between Block 7 and Block 8—but at worst I can at least pat myself on the back for washing dishes or for calling about a prescription refill. I also write these to-do lists because I realized that the fantasy of a busy schedule keeps me more productive than the illusion of a bottomless vat of free-time, so I recommend recording to-dos to those struggling to self-motivate during this unprecedented era.
I try to complete the most unappealing tasks on my to-do list first, which allows me to tackle the most difficult parts of my day head-on when I’m feeling most energetic and refreshed. I wish I could say I always stick to this strategy, but self-discipline during the shelter-in-place era is certainly an aspiration that is difficult to achieve.
That being said, procrastination is not always a negative phenomenon. Adam Grant wrote an article titled “Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate” for The New York Times. Procrastinators are often creative, which supports Grant’s assertion that “procrastination encourage[s] divergent thinking.” Upon self-reflection, my identity—poet, artist, and, admittedly, procrastinator—also support’s Grant’s theory. I think that procrastination allows me to ruminate on projects. As I ruminate, my mind wanders, and I consequently create more unusual or complex products.
Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not advocating for procrastination. I work hard to satisfy both deadlines and requirements, and I think that’s an important part of being a student and/or employee. However, I think it’s important to avoid framing procrastination as solely shameful, because, managed wisely, the urge to procrastinate can be a creative tool.