The Subtle Art of Procrastination
By Angela Zhang
Picture this: it’s eight o’clock on a Monday night. Panicking. Heart racing. Hands flying.The assignment is due tomorrow. You are sitting at the computer wishing you hadn’t waited until the last minute. You realize that if you had just written it when it was assigned, you could have avoided this stress. The words “I should have” pop into your head. All the distractions. Next thing you know…its eight thirty, and still…no ideas brainstormed. No words typed. No article written.
Mason Cooley once said, “Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.” Procrastination is defined as the bad habit of putting off work until the day after tomorrow even though it should have been done the day before yesterday. I’m sure you have all procrastinated at one time or another. I most definitely have. I do it with essays, projects, homework, and permission forms. Some adults put off making reservations for dinner, or finishing a task at the office, or going shopping for Christmas gifts. But believe it or not, there is a positive form of procrastination. It is the difference between passive procrastination and active procrastination.
Passive procrastination is the poor way of putting off work. It’s when you put something off, but don’t replace it with a useful task. What often happens to a passive procrastinator is that they put it off, worry about it, and then struggle to finish the assignment. According to the American Psychological Association, about 95% of college students procrastinate. Passive procrastinators often have higher stress levels. Over a long period of time, passive procrastination can even lead to an issue with one’s mental health.
Active procrastination is when you’re fully aware that there is something you should be doing, but you know that what you’re doing is more important and it will pay off in the long run. For example, you might have to take care of a sick relative, or finish a project that is due earlier, or go to your basketball game because you made a commitment. Active procrastinators are good at organizing their priorities or tend to work best under pressure. Therefore, they will delay one task knowing that if they wait and complete another one first, they will do better overall. Active procrastinators also have lower stress levels than passive procrastinators. This is because they require an adrenaline rush in order to complete an assignment. Heart loudly pumping, brain quickly thinking, fingers speedily typing, ideas shooting everywhere, eyes zooming thoroughly across the screen
There are many reasons why a person may choose to procrastinate. Several of them are the fear of failure, the lack of time management, lack of motivation, and lack of desire. These reasons cause them to put off the work or not do it at all. Especially among teens, time is very valuable. They have to manage many things between sports, academics, clubs, and friends. A deficient prioritizer might say, “I can’t write my essay until I clean my room, and I can’t clean my room until I do the laundry, and I can’t do the laundry until I vacuum the living room, and I can’t vacuum the living room until dad is finished watching the football game.” In most cases, one simply doesn’t feel like doing the job or assignment. This could also be because of a lack of interest in the topic. One may also procrastinate because they know they will work faster and more efficiently if they wait until the last minute.
Procrastination is an easy habit to fall into. I would know. Occasionally I do the assignment early and thank myself afterwards. Other times, it’s ten o’clock on the Sunday night before an essay is due. All there is on the page is the heading and a title. The blinker on the screen goes on and off, on and off, on and off. Like a rhythm, a beat, a timer.
Overcoming procrastination is difficult, especially if you are a passive procrastinator. Creating a list of priorities, determining which task needs to be completed first base on deadlines and the importance of the task, can help you to create an efficient schedule. Now, rather than saying “I should have” the day before the assignment is due, say “I’m going to” a week before it’s due.
Ultimately, you can avoid feeling stressed or rushed at the last minute, and you can become better at what you do. Start early. Brainstorming, researching, typing, reading, correcting, printing. Do the assignment, until there is something more important for you to do. Do the assignment early to avoid the panic. Do it to save time and do it to be better. If only for to thank yourself at a later time for being proactive. And there, I might have just successfully procrastinated another assignment.