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‘Cat in the Stacks: Put Down the Phone!


 I’m Michelle Callaghan, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is our column, “‘Cat in the Stacks.” I’m the ‘cat. Falvey Memorial Library is the stacks. I’ll be posting about living that scholarly life, from research to study habits to embracing your inner-geek, and how the library community might aid you in all of it.

It’s a hard truth to face, but maybe now’s the best time to face it: our phones waste our time. And we’ve got three weeks left; time’s a premium we can’t afford to waste! This is, in a word, “crunch time,” although people who aren’t currently enrolled in courses have an adorable habit of calling it downhill—but that’s just not true. It’s, frankly, a pretty steep climb.

(The drop off, however, is pretty rewarding—a cannonball into the cool lake of summer.)

It’s always around this time of the semester I realize just how addicted I’ve become to media, social and otherwise. It’s never a surprise, either—for years now, my paper-writing schedule almost always devolved into one paragraph followed by ten cat videos, then one paragraph followed by fifteen minutes of Reddit. Not very productive. Sure, I’d get everything done, but at a cost—I’d pay dividends in lost sleep and overwhelming panic as the deadlines taunted me!

Perhaps this is the time to try and break the cycle. A couple little changes could produce a huge boost of productivity.

If you have no self control…
Seems counterintuitive, sure, but you can use technology to force yourself off of technology. Try apps like StayFocusd (Chrome extension), RescueTime, and Focus Time. Decide how hard you want to be on yourself based on how you see yourself wasting time.

If you have some self control and need to reward yourself…
Divide your work hours between intense focus and a few minutes of media reward. If you have the self-control to manage this sort of work habit, then you probably don’t have that bad of a productivity issue. Still, I wouldn’t go above a 50/10 minute ratio of work to fun.

If you need a drill sergeant…
Try the app Carrot. Heh, heh, heh. This might not be suitable for everyone. Carrot is “the A.I. construct with a heart of weapons-grade plutonium,” so that should give you a hint.

If you want to go cold turkey, because you’re crazy…
Turn your phone off. Don’t click on your internet browser. Good luck.

If you need to go old school, because there’s no way you can avoid clicking on your internet browser…
Write half of your paper by hand, print articles, or only study from textbooks for a huge chunk of time. Work in the library and don’t bring your devices.

You got this. Godspeed.

Article by Michelle Callaghan, graduate assistant on the Communication and Service Promotion team. She is currently pursuing her MA in English at Villanova University.



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Last Modified: April 16, 2015

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