If you’re anything like me, you’re very familiar with the phrase “Due tomorrow? Do tomorrow.” For example, this letter is due to my editor this afternoon, so I’m writing it… this afternoon. Now, that doesn’t mean that I hadn’t thought about what I was going to say. As a matter of fact, it’s just the opposite. In the back of my mind, while completing other tasks (or let’s be honest, while binging The Office on Netflix,) I start forming outlines for articles, planning my schedule for the next day, or working through complex problems that I know I will have to solve later. My daydream prone brain even goes so far as to picture me doing all of those things, becoming a productivity god and knocking out my entire to-do list in one sitting. Inevitably, however, I wait until the absolute last minute to do any kind of task: school, work, or otherwise.
I am the first to admit that procrastination is one of my worst habits. Though I adore organization, and making lists is one of my favorite pastimes, it does not always translate into an equal love for actually completing those tasks on my list. It can be a vicious cycle – doing everything in a frenzied panic, all the while thinking “next time I won’t waste so much time,” and then the next day immediately proceeding to waste time. Though I set out with the best intentions, my procrastination tendencies almost always take over. It can be frustrating, knowing that I’m putting myself in situations where I’m more likely to make stupid errors in work or not put my best foot forward. I strive for perfection and pay attention (probably a little too much) to detail, things that don’t necessarily mesh with doing work at the last minute. It means I pull a lot of all-nighters, and though I still manage to turn work in on time, I’ve had more than a few close calls.
Surprisingly though, I don’t always mind being a procrastinator. Time is an excellent motivator, and especially because I have a hard time self-motivating, a fast-approaching deadline can be just the kick in the butt I need to get to work. It forces me to get into a groove, and when I find a rhythm, I can knock tasks out like nobody’s business.
However, just like any good procrastinator, there are times I wish a could be just a bit more proactive. And surprisingly, reading copious amounts of Buzzfeed articles about ways to procrastinate less don’t help, and, in fact, can egg on my procrastination tendencies. Having tried most of the suggestions on these lists, I can say with near certainty that most of them are either a waste of money or a waste of time (ironic, right?).
This isn’t to say that the cause is hopeless. There are things you can do to make living a procrastinator’s life easier. One of those internet hacks that I’ve found actually works is the “one-minute challenge.” If a task is going to take less than a minute to do, do it. It keeps your space cleaner, and your day free of little chores that can build up and overwhelm you. Another of my favorite things to do is to practice “productive procrastination.” If I know my brain won’t focus on what I’m supposed to be doing, I do something less pressing but still productive, like cleaning or running errands. Sure, it’s the last thing I need to be doing, but it’s a completed task nonetheless. Though I know I still have work to do, it makes me feel like, at the very least, I haven’t completely wasted my day. When it comes to schoolwork, I make sure to at least read the assignment descriptions right away, even if I don’t dive right into the assignment. No matter how much you want to believe it, you probably can’t write a five-page research paper in an hour. Procrastinators can pull off some pretty incredible feats, but magic isn’t necessarily one of them. Knowing how much time you’re going to need to finish an assignment allows you to budget for any kind of procrastination, an it helps guard against rushed work and/or forgotten assignments.
More than anything though, it’s important to be kind to yourself when it comes to procrastination. It can be easy to become frustrated with yourself when you let tasks build up, and it can be even easier to put yourself down because of it. Procrastination is a hard habit to kick because it’s cyclical, and breaking that cycle takes some momentous effort. Take baby steps towards managing your procrastination, starting little by little until things become routine. Be proud of yourself when something gets done ahead of schedule, but don’t berate yourself if you do find yourself procrastinating. Reach out to campus resources if you’re truly having trouble managing time, or ask friends to keep you accountable. Though it may seem impossible, there are steps you can take to make procrastination habits manageable, and use your ability to get work done quickly to your advantage WITHOUT waiting until the last minute.
Oh, and remember, the next time someone accuses you of procrastinating, tell them that it’s rumored that Leonardo da Vinci was a procrastinator, and you’re just trying to emulate genius.
Your Fellow Freshman,