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ASC Success Strategies: Procrastination and Productivity

Procrastination and Productivity - Approaches

We’re huge fans of the WellCast series, and this video does a fantastic job of introducing strategies to overcoming procrastination. There you’ll learn the importance of (a) “chunking large projects into small, bite-sized, manageable segments;” (b) starting with the part of the project you’re anticipating you’d like the most; and (c) removing distractions (more on that later!; WellCast, 2012). The worksheet referenced in the video can be found here.

Other theories and approaches to breaking procrastination-inducing habits include starting the day—or at Walden, your studies--with a 10 minute “mise-en-place” exercise. In his article, Friedman (2014) stresses the importance of a chef’s prep time—the mise-en-place—and conveys how this mini-planning session can be applied to other activities to overcome false starts, time sinks, or worse, the fear of starting a task altogether.

So once we’re able to embrace our procrastination emancipation, how do we stay productive? Brown and Moffit (2012) of AsapSCIENCE claim that it’s largely dependent on our ability to understand the way our brains conceptualize a task. As you’ll learn in their video, it’s important to understand that willpower is an “exhaustible resource” and particularly taxed when we examine large projects (like a dissertation) as a whole instead of a number of achievable components contributing to a whole (Brown & Moffit, 2012). We therefore need to use methods most commonly aligned with the brain’s abilities to encourage production: discipline, scheduling, goal setting, reflection, recognition, measurables, etc. (Brown & Moffit, 2012). We can also, as Vrabie (2013) notes, rely on our brains need for completion (what Bluma Zeigarnik referred to as the Zeirgarnki effect), and use that to our advantage. The Academic Skills Center has taken the liberty of creating an accountability chart and a tomorrow action plan worksheet, both featured in the Moffit and Brown video, should you choose to employ either method.

When considering your own approaches to productivity, it’s also important to consider what type of person you are. Are you outgoing? Or shy? Are you emotional? Or analytical? According to WellCast (2013), knowing what type of person you are can help you be more productive. For those of you that haven’t taken the Myers-Briggs personality test or need a fun refresher, we recommend starting here, with Wellcast’s “Intro to the Myers-Briggs Personality Test.” You’ll want Wellcast’s worksheet as well.

Of course, another approach to increasing productivity—and many of you in the Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership already know this—is to embrace your intelligence, or rather, how Gardner (1983) would define your type of intelligence. To learn more about multiple intelligence theory, and how you can apply it to your studies, Literacyworks has created a fabulous resource, specifically for adult learners. There you can find out your own intelligence type, learn what approaches to studying are most effective for your intelligence, and explore other resources related to the theory. We’ve provided a visual aid to the multiple intelligences below courtesy of symphony of love at Creative Commons.

Multiple intelligences

For our more left-brained students—those of you traditionally a little more organized than the rest of us—we invite you to look at our resources on time management, including our referrals of online planners. For some of us, productivity is less a struggle to stay on task and more about using the type of time we have available. 

Increasing productivity will allow you to study more effectively. For more information on getting the most out of your study time, see our information on studying effectively.


Brown, G., & Moffit, M. (Producers). (2012). The science of productivity [Video file]. Retrieved frop class="citation"

Friedman, R. (2014). How to spend the first ten minutes of your day. Retrieved from

Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Vrabie, A. (2013). The Zeigarnik effect: the scientific key to better work. Retrieved from

WellCast (Producer). (2013). Myers-Briggs and productivity [Video file]. Retrieved from

Procrastination and Productivity - Applications (Apps)

If discussions of approach aren’t quite enough to help you overcome your chronic procrastination habits, you might want to consider more intrusive methods to staying on task, like Google apps and extensions. For instance, if you’re like us, and do a lot of your procrastinating on the Internet, an app like StayFocusd, a great tool that limits your time on unproductive websites, or Strict Workflow, a nifty app that temporarily blocks social sites and other virtual distractions during your study time, might just do the trick, helping you focus on the task at hand. A newer app, Time Warp, might be even more effective. With it, you can set up “wormholes” to forcibly redirect your Internet browsing habits into more productive channels. You can even have it replace time-sink sites like Facebook with inspirational quotes to get you motivated and refocused on your project.

Planners and productivity apps are also widely available online. Our favorites, though, are not actually built exclusively for students. They are, however, entirely customizable and appropriate to manage your Walden experience:

  • Remember the Milk is a free,e-planner that is not only cloud based, but able to sync with your mobile devices as well. You can enter assignments, their due dates, their requirements (if you wish), and those reminders will be pushed out to your e-mail address at the times you requested. Bethany Groot provides a brilliant video tutorial of the Remember the Milk here.
  • While Remember the Milk is a pretty straight forward e-planner, Habitrpg gamifies your task lists. Add you habits, dailies, to-dos; assign bonuses for completing them and penalties for letting them collect dusk; and create your own system of rewards to encourage further productivity. It may not be for everyone, but it certainly is a new way of looking at your tasks.