Can procrastination be your friend?

Do you find yourself stressed out about getting your thesis done, unable to concentrate while studying or overcommitted with personal activities?

Time management is critical to getting things done. Ironically, the technology that was designed to make us more efficient has left us swamped by online distractions such as email and social media.

Here are five tips from time management expert Rose Hastreiter who runs the Mitacs Step Time Management workshop.

Use Real-World “physical” duration estimates

Many people underestimate how long it will take to complete a task with the work effort required. While writing one paragraph of an essay could take 15 minutes, you may need an hour of research beforehand. Learning how to estimate the duration of activities starts by using historical experience to help you better do the math.  Clearly define your task with a start and end point.

Create an Effective To Do List

Prioritising things on your daily to-do list is imperative. There is no point having ten things on your to-do list if only two of them get done. Choose the top two or three things you want to achieve each day and focus on completing them.

Manage your energy, not just your activities

Being more aware of how you manage your energy helps you become more productive. Switch up tasks that require mental concentration with physical activity to balance out your day. Work in designated time intervals, making time for breaks.  If you are trying to read an article and nothing is “sinking in”, it’s time to consider switching to a secondary task that doesn’t involve as much focus. Just like after a strong physical workout when your body needs time to recover, your minds also requires downtime.

Take Procrastination & Perspective Breaks

If you’re procrastinating on a task, it might simply be your body saying it’s time to either rest or re-assess what you are currently doing. Contrary to popular opinion, sometimes it IS OK to procrastinate. If you’re finding it difficult to get writing done, check in with yourself and ask whether or not your mental energy is drained. Consider five minutes of physical activity to recharge your brain. Consider scheduling “procrastination breaks” as a reward mechanism as you tackle smaller portions of a difficult task. Every hour, allow yourself a 5 minute break to read the news or check Facebook, and then, LOG OFF, knowing you’ll be back to check in the next hour or two. By using controlled “procrastination” breaks, you’ll give yourself something to work towards

Defend your schedule

Learning how to say “no” is more about learning how to negotiate with yourself and others when you are overcommitting yourself. If someone comes to you with a task or invitation, determine what impact it will have on your time before agreeing to it. Remember, you need to give yourself oxygen before you can help anyone else.

Learn more about Time Management at a free Mitacs Step workshop, held at universities across Canada and free for graduate students and postdocs. Register at




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