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Productive Procrastination Tips from My To-Do List

photo of paper with sticky notes

Snapshot of my neglected, but still helpful, to-do list today, 10/24/17

I get stressed, sometimes, by all of the grading and emailing that’s required of me in the middle of the semester, and by the unending to-do list I keep running in my brain. For work, I have a three column to-do list that, when not woefully neglected, works really well. You can even use apps to manage your to-do lists in this way, if you’re into apps, but I like the corporeal activity of changing tasks around on a hard copy on the wall. I even save my stickies to re-use in future semesters for assignments/grading.

My to-do list is modified from an article I read years ago that suggested prioritizing and rewarding yourself for things you get done. (My mental reward is just moving it to the “done” column.) My list has a to-do column, a “high-priority” column, and a “done” column, so you can see what you’ve accomplished. Generally I pull from the “high-priority” all the time, accomplish a task, and move it to the done column. I re-organize the to-do column onto the high-priority once a week or so. However, some of the things on my to-do list end up languishing there until I have something in the priority column that I’d rather not do… so I procrastinate productively. This leads some people to think of me as someone who gets big things done early, but, you, readers, now know my secret. From my to-do column, I bring you…


Productive Procrastination Ideas

  1. Assess Gen Ed Outcomes and Email Nick Roster and Dept. Chair about it
  2. Write a letter of recommendation for a promising student
  3. Check department A3 revision schedule and see if you can get on the committee to update it
  4. Grade something, comment directly in Moodle, and enter the grades
  5. Brainstorm about the best Moodle features that could possibly exist, ask if they exist, and if not, create a Moodle Tracker account and suggest the features you want to see created
  6. Check out the OER options out there for a given class
  7. Make an OER wish-list and email it to the librarians to see what they can find
  8. Ask EMT to create META shells for next semester
  9. Copy classes into course shells for next semester and start updating/tweaking them
  10. Update syllabi from old classes that you didn’t teach this semester to reflect new College-wide syllabus
  11. Send writing assignment sheets to the WRC so tutors can access them when working with students

    photograph of owl on stump

    This image comes from Flickr user Red Rose Exile, and is titled IMG_0817. It’s licensed CC BY SA.

  12. Write the next 4x4x16 piece


I don’t advocate that folks do these things instead of grading or reading or going to meetings: you’re still going to have to do the other stuff, but putting it off sure feels good sometimes. And, later in the academic year, when you’re out hiking in the woods or sitting by the lake instead of staring at a screen, you’ll thank your past self for productively procrastinating. I know I do!


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