Jesse Florea

Beat the waiting game and ace your way to school success. Breakaway shows you how.

Putting things off until the last minute may look effortless, but it’s not. There’s a subtle art involved, which can be developed only through inborn laziness and repetition.

In my “procrastinating prime,” I learned how to ignore even the easiest homework assignment until it was almost too late. But my expertise didn’t develop overnight; I carefully cultivated my craft through years of training.

Of course, this “art” wasn’t appreciated by the people around me. To naive onlookers (such as my parents), vegging in front of the tube looked easier than memorizing the significant battles of the Civil War or solving a dozen quadratic equations. But just ask any college professor and he’ll tell you, “Making the difficult look simple requires hours of practice.”

Homework Avoidance
In junior high, avoiding homework was a cinch. I left my books in my locker, goofed off with my buddies all evening, then did math homework during the first five minutes of homeroom. (No sweat!)

But when high school rolled around, the homework became harder. I was forced to change tactics.

Overnight math assignments gave way to three-week social studies projects. Instead of “What I Did During Summer Vacation” essays, I was shirking five-page papers about Albert Einstein. (YIKES!)

No longer was I preoccupied just during the first few minutes of homeroom. I was now losing sleep thinking about homework, dreaming about homework — despising homework! The burden was almost overwhelming. But I pressed on, learning new ways to delay an assignment.

Procrastination Tactics
My favorite delay tactics fell into two categories — cuisine and hygiene.

Some of my more “creative” time-wasters included cutting my toenails, eating a second bowl of ice cream, cracking my knuckles, popping my zits and drinking a glass of orange juice. These diversions were also easy to justify. “After all,” I said, “how can I read ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with my face looking like this?”

My young career as a chronic procrastinator eventually hit a crisis point in 10th-grade English. I was assigned my first king-size research paper and was given one month to deliver the goods.

Naturally, I waited 27 days to pick my topic. So the next 48 hours involved a crash-’n’-burn marathon at the library, right? (Not!) My “Let’s-put-things-off-till-the-last-millisecond” mentality forced me to research and write my paper in one frantic night.

Of course, there were still some important tasks to complete before I actually began typing, like picking out the sock lint from between my toes, brushing my teeth and eating some “brain” food (which consisted of red licorice . . . but Smarties and Gummi Bears also do the trick).

After staying up half the night, I not only finished the assignment on time but learned a few things about myself:

• I need more than two hours of sleep per night to appear human (because the next morning in school I looked like a zombie on a bad hair day).

• My brain can compose semiunderstandable sentences for only about five straight hours. (My mind was mush during the last 120 minutes it took me to finish.)

• I won’t survive the rest of high school unless I change my study habits.

Conquering Procrastination
Implementing these changes didn’t negatively impact my life as much as I thought it would. I could still be cool. Wearing an industrial-sized pocket protector and lugging a 20-pound, leather-bound briefcase were not part of the plan. But I did devise a new strategy, and it’ll work for you, too.

1. Do Homework as It’s Assigned.
What a concept! If a teacher assigns 15 pages of reading every night for a week, read each section overnight. Don’t let it amass into a festering heap (like your gym socks), until you’re forced to catch up by reading 75 pages during the weekend. Of course, you can ignore this advice if you have nothing better to do on your weekend than learn about the French and Indian War.

2. Make Lists.
While it sounds tedious, it works. Between friends, sports, clubs, hobbies and household responsibilities, it’s easy to forget something. Get organized. Write down all the assignments you have for the next day. (If you really want to go crazy, buy a calendar or daily planner and plan one week — or even a month — at a time.) This way, you’ll be able to see what’s coming down the road so you can attack your homework (without it attacking you).

3. Follow Your Lists.
Duh?! You’d be surprised by the number of people who have the ability to make a list but end up losing it or crumpling it up in their pocket and finding it the following week in the washing machine. Going through your list and crossing out finished tasks will help you feel you’re getting something done. News flash: You are!

4. Tackle One Thing at a Time.
A great way to develop an Excedrin-style headache is to stare at a long list of assignments that are due the next day. Anybody got an aspirin?

Projects are more manageable when you focus on them individually. Besides, once you’re done with a task, you can scribble it off your list. Hint: A black indelible marker works best!

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