It’s 3:30 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, and I’m pouring my third cup of coffee and bumping Kanye West on my iPod to try to keep my energy level up as I power through this article that’s due the next morning. I’ve been “working” on this article for a solid three hours now, and by working, of course I mean constantly typing and retyping the first sentence while simultaneously Facebooking and “pinning” clothes on Pinterest.
This is my first staff commentary for The Carroll News, and since I was assigned it on Thursday, I have been brainstorming for the perfect topic to write about. I’m currently a communication major with a journalism track, and I started working for the paper this year to hopefully get my foot in the door to the whole journalism realm. I saw this assignment as a chance to talk about something of which I was very knowledgeable that would make people think, “Wow, she’s really got some potential.”
That’s my problem, though. I might have a decent amount of potential as a writer, yet I’m still sitting here in the early hours of the morning while my roommate is sleeping peacefully, wondering, how in the world did I become such an awful procrastinator? I recently read an article about the psychological study of procrastination by Piers Steel, in which he defines it as “to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.” He included some statistics that indicated 80 to 90 percent of college students procrastinate somewhat frequently, 75 percent consider themselves regular procrastinators, and 50 percent procrastinate consistently and problematically.
I am definitely included in these numbers, and I keep wondering why. I mean, my intentions are always in the right place. I don’t plan to wait until the last second to get started on an assignment; in fact, whenever I receive a task, be it for class, the newspaper or even just personal responsibilities, I always plan to take care of it immediately that night. But, when it comes time to get to work, I find a million other less important things to do to stall on getting this one important thing done. Even with a deadline multiple weeks in advance, I continue to put off the task day by day until finally it’s the night of the due date and I haven’t even started.
Personally, one of the factors in my own procrastination is perfectionism. I would always prefer to hand in my best work past the deadline than submit a poorly or only partially completed assignment on time. I take my schoolwork, especially my writing, very seriously, and really attempt to put my best effort into everything I submit. However, hard, extensive work is very overwhelming, and I almost always subconsciously find ways to put it off until it’s too late. I survived with this method in high school; but now, as a sophomore in college, it’s no longer cutting it and certainly will not cut it after graduation.
Perfectionism isn’t the only factor in my procrastination, though. In the most recent decades, society has become incredibly acclimated to immediate gratification, and with that comes the automatic delay of discomfort. I mean, honestly, who wouldn’t rather take a nap right after class, or go out one night instead of staying in and studying? Many people today have become too comfortable with constant pleasure, and thus can only handle stress and displeasure in very small doses. You might even be able to notice this mindset in yourself, for example when you give yourself an hour-long Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest break after 30 minutes of homework.
I’m not being judgmental, though. I agree that it’s very challenging to turn off a really funny episode of “The Big Bang Theory” and read 50 pages of your political science book. And, unfortunately for us students, the opportunities for immediate gratification will never go away. There will always be something better to do than the task at hand, and therefore the art of procrastination will continue to thrive. However, simple awareness of your procrastination tactic might just be the best solution. Next time you start thinking you might just take a quick Inn Between break from your paper even though you’ve already been to the ‘Tween three times that day, consider your motives and the consequences of procrastination.
What I will be reminding myself from now on, and hopefully you will do the same, is that trucking through discomfort now will only pay itself off 10 times over in the long run.