It’s getting to be that weird time of year again: the one where some people have finished all their exams and coursework and are celebrating by downing absurd amounts of vodka, while other people are only halfway through and are really starting to feel the burnout. If you’re reading this and you’re in the latter group, you’re no doubt procrastinating to a ridiculous degree and should probably get back to work. But, since you’re here, why not procrastinate productively?
Doing a small, creative activity as a break has a number of great benefits to you. You’ve no doubt heard piano players drone on about how a creative hobby promotes the production of new neurons, helps avoid dementia and Alzheimer’s, and all sorts of wonderful things like that. But a short break to do something creative can be more immediately helpful than that.
Doing a small, creative activity as a break has a number of great benefits to you
There’s a much harsher limit on the amount of time you can spend doing some kind of creative output, so long as you choose the task correctly. Consider this highly abstract situation that has definitely never happened: you sit down to watch a single, 45 minute episode of some US drama. The episode finishes on a cliffhanger, and you’ve just got to keep going. Suddenly it’s 12 hours later, you can’t remember the feeling of sunlight, you haven’t eaten anything not made of potatoes or sugar in a day, and you’ve still got a huge stack of exam revision to get through. Creative pursuits tend to be harder to spiral into. You can’t really spend 12 hours learning to play a song on the ukulele. Partly because all your housemates will hate you, partly because if it takes you 12 hours to learn to play a song you’re probably doing something wrong – but mainly because you can’t physically play the ukulele for that long without having elephant skin for fingertips.
It’s not just limited to string instruments either. A haiku doesn’t take long to compose. Nor does a pencil doodle on a stray piece of paper that you can burn immediately after so nobody ever has to see how terrible your art is. Creative bouts of procrastination have the benefit of not only using a completely different side of your brain than the one that’s just spent three hours trying to listen to lecture captures from Term 1, but also give you a tangible end-product. You can sit back, look at your haiku and think “huh, this is terrible, but at least it’s something.” The only end-product you get from bingeing Lucifer is the sight of your twelve chins reflected back at you when the episode comes to an end.
There’s a much harsher limit on the amount of time you can spend doing some kind of creative output
Everyone’s brain eventually turns to amorphic sludge after a certain amount of time studying. Give the studying part of your head a break. Do something that lets you feel a sense of peculiar achievement after you finish. Check out one of those free Study Happy workshops in the library where they let you play with clay and drink ostentatious amounts of tea. Maybe you’re too tired to make anything good, but it’s perfectly valid (and very fun) to revel in your terrible art instead. Maybe you’re already an artist of some shade, and you’ve realised that you can’t keep up your hobby full time during exam season. Let it be a hobby – let it be a break.
Give yourself twenty minutes to grab a piece of paper and just do something. Anything. Then tuck it away into your bag and get back into those lecture captures with your newly cleared mind. You’ve got this.