By Guest Contributor
December is here. I’m not going to go and say it’s “that time of year again” and pretend we’re all feeling so warm and fuzzy about the snow and the holiday decorations, even though a big part of me wants to. Despite the fact that with exams comes the end of the semester, they’re still a major speed bump we have to go over, and it’s no fun. So instead of laying out all of the tips and tricks that are out there to help you study (and that I’m somehow never able to follow), I’m going to go ahead and mention some of the strange, offbeat procrastination habits I’ve been hearing about around campus. (One of them is reading this article.) Maybe once you know all about them, you’ll want to buckle down and study! Or not. No judgment. Hopefully these awesome distractions help you make it through the one or two exams you have left!
It’s a necessary thing. Your brain cannot function without sustenance, so it’s only natural that you eat during exam season. What you eat, however, may change a little. I’ve heard of munching on candy, or chips, or trail mix, but for some, that just won’t do. Says Melanie*, an arts student, “I like to munch mindlessly when I study. Which is pretty normal I guess, but instead of munching on candy, I choose frozen fruit. I eat until I get a brain freeze.” Fair enough, points for being healthy! It can also be about what you drink. And no, I am not referring to celebratory post-exam beers, but to the nectar of the gods that seem to keep many of us running during exams: coffee. I personally have this theory that one cannot get through university without drinking gallons and gallons of coffee. For others, though, it’s not about the eating, it’s about the cooking: “My house literally becomes a bake shop. I just bake and bake and bake until I have no more butter. Because nothing is really good without butter.” I believe the French would thoroughly agree. Other interesting tendencies include teeth brushing. For Cam*, it’s essential: “I can’t write essays or study without brushing my teeth. I don’t know why, I just can’t. No whitestrips required for me!” I guess it’s all about finding the silver lining. Gum is also a big thing come exams. I easily go through a pack in two days. So, so much gum. Somehow, it helps you focus!
Also essential. Unless you’re a robot, studying for 8 hours straight without getting up to do anything is impossible. Molly*, a languages student, says, “When I study, I mostly like to take breaks. They really help me focus on the important things in life, like the shoes I’m going to buy to match that dress for that party.” Indeed, it is important to get one’s priorities straight. But what to do during these well deserved respites? There is always Facebook, and TV can be an excellent waste of time, but different people have different habits. Some choose to be productive by cleaning their rooms, doing the dishes or laundry, essentially anything to avoid studying. It’s all about the pros and cons. Others choose to spend their time by heading to the mall. Oscar Wilde said “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” My reasoning is that this justifies impromptu shopping trips. Over education can wait. Which is decidedly dangerous reasoning, especially during holiday season. Somehow, it’s possible to believe that you really do need that faux-fur skirt to match the ostentatious gold sequin top you just got. The line between need and want just becomes so much blurrier. However, there is always the option of reading something to distract you from reading the readings you haven’t read since the beginning of the semester and are now stuck reading. Mary’s* literature of choice: magazines. “After a day of studying, I read Cosmos until I can’t read them anymore. It’s refreshing to read something that makes me feel like my brain is turning into goo. Nice break from academia.” You could even write if you wanted to. But not those take homes you know you should be working on. Gabrielle* prefers to correspond: “I write. But not essays, letters, to the friends I met while travelling.” Thinking about travelling is another great way to waste time. Christina* likes to plan trips she knows she won’t go on: “I even find the best deals and cheapest flights and hotels! My most recent one is New York. I know I’m not going, but just imagine the possibilities!” Ah yes, the possibilities. Only slightly clouded over by the looming exam period.
An unavoidable aspect of procrastination is that pestering thought in the back of your head, telling you to study. You know you should probably give into it, but isn’t it more fun to live dangerously? Sometimes, though, we take that too far, and when the time comes to buckle down and do the work, we freak out. How to cope? One health sciences student joked and said: “What helps me study? Ritalin.” If that’s not how you roll, there are other ways to deal. Elena*, a third year social work student, has a system: “Stressed about studying? Nah. I like to let future ‘me’ worry about that. Then future ‘me’ will let exam ‘me’ worry about it. It’s foolproof, clearly.” I suppose there’s something to be said for looking ahead and not back. A great de-stresser could also consist in a workout. I personally like to do my readings on the stationary bicycle. Music is also great, and a timeless trick. My Dad actually used to buy himself a new cassette (ha!) every exam season. And for this time of year, there are holiday music study playlists out there. Sure enough, they exist!
All in all, exam season affects all of us in various ways, and we all cope quite differently. There is an argument to be made in favour of choosing your priorities. If school isn’t at the top of your list, then by all means, go ahead and don’t stress about it. I won’t promise you’ll be satisfied with the number that shows up on your report card, though. Surfing Hercampus is also a great way to spend some downtime in between cram sessions! However, in the end, it’s the work that you put in that will reflect on how well you procrastinate…or study. Exams are awful, yes, but the feeling you get when you know you’re done is, in my opinion, unbeatable. And what’s worth getting is worth working for. So get those books and get ‘er done!
*Names have been changed.