College students seem to be really good at procrastinating. Somehow, they manage to almost always submit their assignments just in time — right around 11:59 p.m., when the assignment is due at midnight. Is this laziness, or is it something else?
Procrastination may be enjoyable at first, but in the end, it causes stress. It’s a sort of rebellious act that prioritizes immediate gratification over long-term reward, but everyone seems to do it. Maybe it’s because we live such oversaturated lives full of distraction and diversion.
Personally, I tend to procrastinate when I haven’t been actively thinking about the assigned task or project. I hustle to get the assignment done only when the deadline looms very close. If I know I still have plenty of time to complete something, I tend to not think about it.
When completing something just in time, some people may experience a sort of rush — an exciting feeling of completing a time-sensitive challenge. I admit, it does feel pretty great to finish something right before it’s due. It’s like a game between me and time, and when I win it’s the best thing ever. But this rush of finishing something last minute is probably more of a byproduct than the real reason people procrastinate.
When we set up systems to complete certain tasks, we will complete them. Procrastination is partially a result of a failure of our systems — we fail to set aside and schedule the time to work on stuff. If you wait until you find inspiration to write a paper, you might be waiting a long time. If you set aside time to write, even if you are completely uninspired, you will finish the paper in a timely manner. The momentum caused by starting something is more valuable than waiting for inspiration. Although, when inspiration does strike, it is a pleasant bonus.
According to Timothy Pychyl, a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, a person’s emotional state has little to do with their success in completing a task.
“Most of us seem to tacitly believe that our emotional state has to match the task at hand. I have to recognize that I’m rarely going to feel like it, and it doesn’t matter if I don’t feel like it,” Pychyl said.
Pychyl also said it is extremely important for people who procrastinate to forgive themselves for procrastinating. He said by forgiving yourself, you diminish the guilt you feel about procrastinating. The guilt caused by procrastinating leads to more procrastination.
Procrastinating doesn’t make you any less of a person — you are more important than any assignment or project, so don’t worry about this to the point of exhaustion. But, you have the power to change. It starts with one step. Set aside distraction-free time to work on something, even if it’s just 30 minutes, you might be surprised by what you get done.
In order to avoid procrastination, don’t think about trying to avoid procrastinating, just allow yourself to be fully present when you decide to work on something.
You have an amazing amount of potential right now — so go ahead, start something.
Andrew Brand can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @theandrewbrand