It’s six in the evening. You have a research paper due tomorrow. You tell yourself that you will get it done now, no questions asked, so that the rest of the night is stress free. But wait- is that a new Facebook notification? It is! Suddenly you are fixed in a state between consciousness and not caring about that all important assignment. Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook pages fly across your computer screen, each click of the mouse seeming more satisfying by the minute – or by the hour? It’s late now, too late to even fathom getting your paper done without passing out on your keyboard. You get bad grades. You don’t go to college. You live with your parents. Your parents kick you out. You are now homeless, living off the streets and dreaming of a better life where cardboard didn’t disintegrate and people didn’t spit on you daily.
Okay, so maybe I’m over exaggerating just a tad. But in all seriousness, procrastination can become a serious problem that takes over your life. According to statistics, 20 percent of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators. However, in the population of students I have surveyed, I have found that number to be a high 75 percent instead. For serious chronic procrastinators, it isn’t a problem; it’s a lifestyle, one with serious repercussions. They don’t pay bills on time, file income taxes too late, and leave Christmas shopping to the last minute. Students that I have surveyed added their own academic side effects: sleep deprivation, not meeting deadlines, bad grades, cramming, and above all, stress.
So if it is so costly for us, why do we do it? Students say that they procrastinate because there are other things better to do, work is boring, that they have time to do it later, they’re lazy, it makes the days prior work-free, distractions and they work better under pressure. We procrastinate because either we don’t like the task, motivation is weak, plentiful distractions keep us off track, or our natural impulsiveness gives in to the urges to put things off. It is easier to not deal with the negative emotions of the task by providing distractions rather than actually doing what you are supposed to be doing. As aforementioned, social media just adds fuel to the fire, as well as other entertainment outlets. We give in to feel good. At the heart of procrastination lies the dangerous art of self deception: the ideology behind the classic thought “Oh, I’ll just do it tomorrow…” We don’t want to do anything, but we don’t like the tension or consequences it creates either, so we trick ourselves. This could mean not removing distractions that you know aren’t helping, having purposeful lame motivation, or claiming to be waiting for that one mood or spark of “inspiration”.
For procrastinators, improvement can seem next to impossible since they are used to procrastinating all the time. Not procrastinating can almost seem near painful; it’s hard to break the mold. Hard, but not impenetrable. There’s always room for improvement, especially when it comes down to procrastination. This might sound like a cliché opening line for an intervention, but the first real step is admitting you have a problem. Become aware and get started. Don’t think; react and get it done. Eliminate all possible distractions (yes, even that poster of Harry Styles on your wall). Set smaller goals for yourself instead of looking at the whole big picture and scheme of things. According to psychologytoday.com, “Research indicates that establishing a low threshold to task engagement fuels motivation and changes perception of the task.” Once you get started on a task, you might not find it nearly as bad as you thought. Any progress is progress. Sophomore Allie Conway lends her own advice: “Think of how happy you’ll be when it’s over, and the time you would’ve used doing it at three A.M. can be spent sleeping (or doing whatever else you procrastinated doing).” Just pick a day and mentally slap yourself if you even begin to have a single thought of putting something off and see how it goes. It will be difficult, no doubt, but you never know – it might just change your life.