5 Ways to Productively Avoid Writing a Paper

Although a Master’s program that involves a thesis is generally oriented towards conducting an independent research project, your first year is still ladden with classes. In my case, I took Population Ecology and Univariate Statistics courses during my first semester. And this semester, I’m taking a Community Ecology class and will later be participating in an Experimental Design Seminar taught by the ecological statistics gurus, Tony Underwood and Gee Chapman. I will definitely talk more about this later. But for now, you can brush up on their amazingness here and here.

Anyhow, my Community Ecology course has mandated that we write a literature review. I am of the opinion that writing is hard. So, I have a tendency to distract myself in completely unproductive ways that are of no use to anyone. (I mean, who cares if I get my best ever score in Fruit Ninja? It’s not like I’m Conan-the-Barbarian-good, anyway.)

That dude is SERIOUS about choppin' that fruit, man.

Seriously though, that dude is INTENSE about his fruit.

So, I vowed to change my ways. Instead of spending hours playing Fruit Ninja and scoring just shy of the leader boards, I decided it was time to move on. And, no, I did not take up Angry Birds …  and not because I majorly suck at aiming birds at pigs, but because I’m a mature individual. No, instead of being tormented by a trio of useless blue birds that are too small to knock anything over anyway, I have decided to continue to procrastinate in a goal-oriented fashion.

Here, I present to you, dearest and completely non-judgmental Interwebz, FIVE ways to procrastinate better so you can justify putting off that lit. review on carbon uptake strategies in algae … or whatever it is that you may be working on this lovely afternoon, instead of re-organizing your fantasy football line-up.

1. Watch Hulu’s PURE NATURE Specials

Hulu is probably one of my favorite past times. Amidst all of the hi-larious episodes of 30 Rock and my 500th round of watching all three seasons of Arrested Development, I have discovered some ridiculously amazing content. Yes, I know – all of those shows are full of commercials. But, I’m happy to sit through 6 minutes of commercials every 30 seconds to avoid paying for cable.

Hulu’s Pure Nature Specials are ~50 minutes long each and focus on a specific organism.  But, if charismatic megafauna aren’t your thang, they also have episodes of NOVA, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, and the original Degrassi junior high from the 80s (if Canadians are your thang, eh).


My disdain for charismatic megafauna aside, I would love to see a whale breach at some point in my life.

I know we all love David Attenborough — but this stuff is FREE for anyone to watch.

2. Read the What Should We Call Grad School Tumblr and compile a list of GIFs that may or may not apply to you/people you know in the near future

This one’s a huge no-brainer. And, if you’re not in grad school or a scientist, the inaugural What Should We Call Me tumblr is equally funny and applies to everyone.

GIFs I’m saving for my own personal use:

3. Learn about “Geobiology”, “Macroepidemiology” or some other portmanteau via MIT’s Open Courseware website

MIT is putting its courses on the web for free. You officially have no excuse not to become educated.

4. Discover “True Facts” about a variety of biological organisms – including Morgan Freeman

This YouTube institution is relatively new – but, it’s an instant classic. I wish I had learned biology in such a sarcastic and demeaning way.

My favorite has to be “True Facts about Seahorses”.

5. Use the “Random” button on the xkcd website

xkcd is a nerd comic haven. Whether you like seeing depictions of ornithologists and herpetologists pitted against one another, YouTube commenters debating the legitimacy of the moon landing, excellent ideas for pranks, or graphical proof of science’s efficacy, you are bound to simultaneously laugh, learn, and sometimes look on in confusion as jokes are made outside of your realm of knowledge.

My favorite xkcd comic is pure, unadulterated knowledge (and drawn to scale, to boot):


*Bonus! I also love reading these amazing marine science blogs by some of my favorite people:

DJs Locker – a blog by my good friend Alex about marine science and science communication

She is also currently guest writing at Deep Sea News — check her out!

Sarah Seas – a discussion about science’s place in the contemporary world by- you guessed it – Sarah, a fabulous marine ecologist at SDSU

MicroMacrocystis – a blog that tracks the progress of my labmate Breckie’s research on the survival of the microscopic stages of the kelp Macrocystis pyrifera to larger size classes

If you know of any other great Science Blogs, please list them in the comments!

3 thoughts on “5 Ways to Productively Avoid Writing a Paper

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