I have a confession …
Hi there, my name is Jess and I am a procrastinator. I don’t mean the kind that takes only an extra hour or two longer than expected to finish an assignment, but I wouldn’t diagnose it as crippling either. I am your average joe procrastinator, and if you’re anything like me then you struggle with a mixture of symptoms. These symptoms can include, but are not limited to: short bursts of productivity, the occasional zone off and staring at the wall combo, scrolling through your facebook newsfeed and ending up looking at photos of your friend’s cousin’s birthday party, and possibly making your way to a wikipedia page about the war dance of a weasel (which I would highly recommend).
I’ll be the first to admit that I have taken some pride in my procrastination. There have been times where I’ve left an assignment down to the wire and have received an above average result, thus leading me to develop the tendency to assume that the “you won’t be able to leave this to the last minute” warning, does not in fact apply to me. But herein lies the problem, this invincibility complex that coincides with the success of leaving an assignment to the last minute causes more harm than it does good. It is safe to assume that the same, if not better, result can be achieved without the stress induced panic brought on by procrastination.
So why do we do it? In an interview by Psychology Today, Dr. Joseph Ferrari, states that there three main types of procrastinators. There is the “arousal types”, who are the thrill seekers and tend to wait to the last minute because it gives them a rush of euphoria. The second type is the “avoiders”, who put off their work as a result of a fear or failure or success, as they “would rather have others think they are lacking effort rather than ability”, and thus have something to blame. Moreover, the third major category that procrastinators fall into is the “decisional procrastinators”, or those who can’t make choices about their task, and thereby absolving them of responsibility. Maybe you fall into one of these categories, or maybe you don’t, but if you can begin to target the reason why you are doing something, it has the capacity to help you recognize your actions and combat them in the future. Dr. Ferrari also states that procrastinators tend to lie to themselves, by saying phrases like “I work best under pressure” or “I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow”. Not only does this make me feel personally victimized as I have uttered these statements on numerous occasions, but more importantly it highlights our ability to lie to ourselves despite previous experience proving that these statements hold little meaning.
Change is hard, especially when it comes to something as easy as putting off a paper you don’t want to write, but I would argue it’s necessary. I have my first assignments due in the next few weeks and I’m already tempted by the pull of waiting until the day before they are due, but I am determined to attempt to alter my habits. University is supposed to be a new start right, so why not start anew with time management? I know some would be inclined to say “just make a plan and stick to it”, but if it only were that simple. Instead, maybe try setting a timer for certain tasks to put a time pressure in place or make a plan, but also give it to a friend who can hold you accountable by asking for updates on your progress.
Start with the hardest task first, see if that helps, or create your own order that makes sense to you, the important thing is that you try. This isn’t an issue that is going to be solved in one sitting. Procrastinators are not born, they are made, so it will take time and effort to undo the years of practice that went into your particular procrastination system. There isn’t going to be one solution that will work for everyone, it’s an individual process, so take this time to try out new techniques and see what works and what doesn’t. I mean hey, it can’t be worse than leaving it until the last possible second, and if it is, definitely don’t go with that one.