by Dylan Norman, Athena’s Student
Procrastination can be a terrible fiend, stealing away precious hours of your time. More importantly, it takes away time from what you need to do. For me, as a student athlete with the need to manage competing priorities, procrastination is something I need to get a handle on.
While working late to finish an assignment or occasionally forgetting a deadline might not seem too large an issue, it becomes serious behavior when your efficiency, happiness and self-esteem suffer as a result. Some students might think they have a severe case of procrastination, when they can actually have ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder. Procrastination is not to be confused with ADD.
According to Merriam Webster, procrastination is “To put off intentionally, the doing of something that should be done.” It’s kind of strange to hear such a large portion of my life taken down to a single sentence, but at the same time, it’s not just me. According to Doctor Piers Steel, procrastination effects 80 to 95 percent of college students who do coursework. A definition and a percentage might make us feel better, since it helps us realize that we are not alone when we procrastinate. Fellow procrastinators like me know that the general population generally consider procrastination to be something that you can just bypass, but if it were that easy, writing this article would have taken much less time! Procrastination isn’t as simple as just telling yourself to go focus on what you need to do, because it is all too easy just to ignore yourself, or to simply say “I’ll do this tomorrow.” For procrastinators, tomorrow never comes.
When I talk to people about my procrastination, the common response is for them to simply say, “Just do your work first,” or “stay focused and only do things you need to do first, then you can do what you want to do.” Sometimes I try to tell this to myself to, so what is going wrong? Why am I still procrastinating? Is procrastination just an inability to concentrate, a need for immediate gratification, or is it a form of avoidance? Or is it something else entirely? To really work on the problem of procrastination requires one to truly understand what it is. Often times procrastination is confused with laziness.
I heard a quote recently from lifehacker.com, and it summed up my issues with procrastination quite well; “It’s not that you have a problem saying yes to the thing you’re supposed to be doing right now, the problem is you can’t say no to everything else.” This makes a lot of sense, especially when procrastination is not laziness. The definition of laziness is a disinterest in putting in the work. The difference between the two is that procrastination is choosing to do something else. That is, it’s a more active form of avoidance.
In my experience, however, there have been some techniques that have worked better than others. For instance, breaking down a task, called chunking, and then setting a clear deadline for each step to be done is useful. If you have a long-term project, giving yourself a chunk of it to do every day can help. If you plan out your work, you might see how little time you actually have for everything. Regularly reminding yourself about your limited time can help, especially when you have trouble saying no to everything else that invariably comes along during an already packed day. Yet what I find works best for me is setting a timer for a break at the end of a work period. It might sound like the opposite of what you should do if you deal with procrastination, but giving yourself clear breaks can help. Often times, if you procrastinate your breaks are not clearly defined. In other words, you might simply take a break whenever you feel like it. But if you give clear, time restricted breaks set to a timer, and make yourself work solidly for an hour, you might actually get more work done.
I think Psychology Today explained how massive an issue procrastination is. “Twenty percent of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators. For them procrastination is a lifestyle, albeit a maladaptive one. And it cuts across all domains of their life. They don’t pay bills on time. They miss opportunities for buying tickets to concerts. They don’t cash gift certificates or checks. They file income tax returns late. They leave their Christmas shopping until Christmas eve.” Procrastination is maladaptive, and it can easily take over your life, but one of the most important things to remember is to not give it more power. In my experience, procrastination becomes an even harder foe to defeat when you start to believe that it has more power, more control, over your actions than you do.
- “Procrastinate,” Mirriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/procrastinate. Accessed November 18, 2019
- Novotney, Amy, “Procrastination or Intentional Delay,” American Psychological Association, January 2010, Page 14, https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2010/01/procrastination. Accessed November 18, 2019
- Ravenscraft, Eric, “You Don’t Have a Procrastination Problem: You Have an Impulsivity Problem,” Lifehacker AU, March 2, 2016, https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2016/03/you-dont-have-a-procrastination-problem-you-have-an-impulsivity-problem/. Accessed November 18, 2019
- Estroff Marano, Hara, “Procrastination: Ten Things To Know,” Psychology Today, August 23, 2003, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200308/procrastination-ten-things-know. Accessed November 18, 2019
- Attribution: TumbleCow – Wikimedia Commons