It was several weeks ago that I agreed to write this article. There has been more than enough time for me to have written it. Yet it is not till today, the day before the deadline, that I have actually sat down and begun writing it. That’s right, I have engaged in that age old activity. I have procrastinated. I have procrastinated an article on procrastination. The irony isn’t lost on me either.

What is procrastination? I’d be amazed to find a student who didn’t know what the word meant, but just in case you’ve been putting off looking up the word’s definition, allow me to enlighten you. Stemming from the two Latin words – “pro” (“for”) and “crastinare” (“of tomorrow”), “procrastinate” is when you delay or postpone doing something.
Procrastination is found in all walks of life. But we students are by far the worst offenders. The psychologist William Knaus estimated that 90% of University students procrastinate on a regular basis, of which 25% are deemed “chronic procrastinators”. I imagine the ridiculously organised 10% are hard at work rather than reading Impact… allowing me to safely assume that you are a fellow procrastinator, and thus know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe you only delve into the odd bout of procrastination, or maybe you start all assignments 24 hours before they’re due in, armed with cans of Relentless and packets of ProPlus. Still, let me ask you the same questions I ask myself at 5am on the day of one of my assignment deadlines, having not slept for 40 hours, sustained only by caffeine, Sainsbury’s Basics sausage rolls and the heavy fear of receiving a grade below that sacred 40% and thus being forced to give up my wild dreams of a 1st class degree. Why do we do it? Why do we put our work off? Why do we leave it all to the elusive, never-arriving tomorrow?

After trawling through possibly all the procrastination self-help sites on the internet (mainly to put off actually starting the article) I’ve compiled a rather extensive list of potential reasons for procrastination. Which ones apply to you?

Poor time management Do you always have something else that you have to be doing rather than your work? Perhaps you’ve over-committed yourself and are trying to do more things that you have time for.

Indecisiveness Can’t start until you’ve decided whether to use Arial or Verdana font? Whilst it’s important to make the right decisions a lot of people spend far too much time worrying about them. (Besides, Verdana every time)

Unrealistic self-expectations Are you a perfectionist? Do you have to get full marks in every piece of work you do? You’re probably putting too much pressure on yourself. Which may even lead to…

Getting overwhelmed This is mainly on those bad-ass million-word essays or those dreaded dissertations. Do you have no idea where to start with so much to do? Do you find yourself doing other things just to distract yourself from the task?

Difficulty concentrating Is your workspace cluttered and messy? Having difficulty focusing with all those people chatting around you? Perhaps it’s time to drag your feet up those stairs in Hallward and camp up in the silent area. (You’ll have to leave your food and coffee behind you, I’m afraid…)

Task is boring/unpleasant This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you know you’re not going to enjoy the task, you’ll end up putting it off. Only thing you can do is man up and just do it.

Personality problems Zero self-confidence? Depressed? Just been dumped/cheated on/beat up/insulted/reprimanded for bringing coffee into the silent area? It’ll be hard to find the energy to do your work. Several studies have also shown that less conscientious people are far more prone to procrastination. (Which, in my opinion, seems fairly obvious)

Used to procrastinating. Does the concept of started work as soon as you’re set it seem ludicrous to you? Procrastination is a strong habit. After a while you find yourself putting work just because that’s what you’re used to.

As you can see, there are many reasons why we procrastinate. It’ll often be more than one of this list. Still, there’s no denying that procrastination is a problem. Or is it? Not everyone thinks so… If you visit www.procrastination.com you won’t find any solutions or tactics to overcoming procrastination. Instead, the site is a self-proclaimed “safe-haven for procrastinators”. Here you’ll find different things you can do to help you procrastinate (though personally, Facebook has always been more than enough for me). The site owners believe that in today’s “info-crazed, not-a-moment-to-yourself world” that procrastination is healthy and an activity we should all undertake.
I admire the sentiment and can see their point. However, whilst the occasional stint procrastination is indeed harmless, it can easily become a much bigger problem. Studies have shown that it can lead to health problems. This is not something that surprises me as the elevated stress levels and lack of sleep that I achieve when deadlines approach definitely don’t do a great deal for my health. What’s more, whenever I receive feedback on some work that I rushed and handed in last-minute, I can’t help but wonder how much better I could’ve done had I taken my time…

Now I’m sure you have some work that you could be doing rather than reading this. Quit procrastinating!

Stephen Lovejoy

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1 Comment

  1. Chloe Painter
    May 10, 2010 at 15:37 — Reply

    http://www.sporcle.com

    Another fabulous time waster for epic procrastinators like myself. Please don’t hate me.

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