The Art of Procrastination

As I sit in my usual spot in the library, finishing up papers and assignments that are due tomorrow, I wonder, what is it that makes so many of us procrastinate? The idea of procrastination isn't new to me, as I can’t remember a time when a non-major paper has been started more than a day before it is due, and my motto in high school was “I’ll wake up early and do it in the morning”. While sitting here, thinking about the Her Campus article that I put off, and, let’s be honest, putting off starting paper number two, I decide it’s time to kill two birds with one stone: finish up this article, and solve the million-dollar question: is procrastination really that bad for us.

According to science, yes. In his article published in The Association for Psychological Science, Eric Jaffe writes that those who procrastinate are actually more stressed, and have lower levels of general well-being. He refutes the idea that procrastination is actually a “helpful” habit to make you write under pressure, as it causes hurried and stressful work environments. Reading this is like reading a book that’s already been spoiled: you know it’s coming, you know exactly what it’s going to say, but you just can’t accept it. Yes, I know that putting off papers and projects until the night before their due isn’t good, as does every single student out there, but does that mean I’m going to accept it? Am I really going to change my ways? That answer would definitely be no (though I wish so badly it could be yes). 

However,  I strongly believe that the real difference here is procrastinating, and learning how to procrastinate well. There is a big difference in putting off writing a paper or studying for statistics until ten the night before than having a basic understanding of the topic, an outline, and a general idea of how to execute your plan, and then starting at ten. To procrastinate well is to know time management, to know how to handle the pressure in a way that will fuel your work, rather than hinder it. Part of the reason I wait until the last minute to start so many projects is because I know exactly what the paper will say, or what the test will focus on, but the excess time will stress me out more than the adrenaline rush of emailing off a paper ten minutes before it’s due will. Many, many students can attest to the fact that there is a point where you have overstudied, and sometimes you just need to accept that your work is great the way it is, and that staring at a blinking laptop screen of a twice through edited paper for ten more minutes won’t get you anywhere. 

There are so many ways to motivate yourself to work when the clock starts counting down, such as putting the smallest things on a to-do list so you can get satisfaction and motivation from crossing them off, reviewing the topic and having a game plan before starting, and leaving yourself enough time to focus solely on that project. While I hope there will be a day where my thoughts and ramblings won’t be caffeine-induced and written at 1 am, I like to think that it’s gotten me through just fine. The day will probably never come, but I think the real difference is learning how to put work off, rather than putting it off to never be done.