Procrastination is the be-all and end-all for most college students. I can safely call myself one who believes that procrastination is the bane of my existence. Ironically enough, I am procrastinating as I sit here and write about procrastination.
I am constantly checking my Facebook, tweeting, changing the song on my iPod, sending text messages, making phone calls, talking to my co-workers, and any other number of things that can distract me. As I’m struggling through this first paragraph I can affirm that I did stop and listen to some new Glee songs, and I did catch some of the Patriots game, anything to keep me away from Microsoft Word and away from finishing this column.
Funnily enough, it seems procrastination is at its worst at the end of the semester. It’s unfortunate that when the stakes are the highest and stress levels have positively maxed out, that is when we are most susceptible to procrastination. I know that the more important an assignment is for me, the more I tend to put it off until the last possible second. I’ve been known to break into cleaning binges that I’d been putting off for months in an effort to not do my work.
It doesn’t matter how much I’m looking forward to or dreading what I need to do either. The difficulty of an assignment doesn’t make much of a difference to me, if anything the easier an assignment is, the harder it will be for me to finish it in an appropriate amount of time. The easier an assignment is, the longer I’ll take to do it. A ten-minute assignment can take me up to two hours to complete, depending on the time of night and where I am doing this assignment.
If I’m doing it in my apartment, it will take much longer to complete than if I were to do it somewhere more neutral like the DC or the library, but if I really want to get my work done, I go somewhere in the student center by myself where I can just put my headphones in and get to work.
Even as the entire campus hunkers down for the week of finals, procrastination seems to be gripping the campus, and most students are falling for it. Facebook and Twitter are blowing up with posts, students cursing their procrastinating tendencies, or fully taking advantage of them.
Seeing as social networking is a predominant form of procrastination, it’s funny that students would head straight there to complain about their procrastination skills, but since their posts about their struggles with procrastination continue to feed my own procrastination, there isn’t much I can say against them. It just amuses me.
From what I’ve read on the subject of procrastination, I understand it may stem from a problem humans have with understanding the way time works. According to an October 2010 article in The New Yorker, experiments in the past have shown that when offered the choice between $100 today and $110 dollars tomorrow, subjects will generally chose the $100 today. However, if offered $100 a month from now, and $110 dollars a month and one day from now, they will chose the $110 dollars a month and a day from now.
Additionally, a series of experiments have shown that when asked to pick a movie to watch now and a movie to watch later, movies they chose to watch now were comedies and lowbrow blockbusters, while the ones they watched later were serious, landmark films.
These studies seem to support my belief that we, especially being young, college age students, favor our short-term happiness over the long term happiness. While we know getting out work done ahead of time will free up our weekend so we can have guilt-free fun after our work is complete, we instead will settle for having fun now and waiting until crunch time Sunday night to finish the rest of our work.
The desire to have what we want now outweighs the notion that it might be better to postpone our happiness until after the work we have to accomplish is completed. We’d rather revel in procrastination, bragging about how much work we could accomplish in the few short hours before it was due.
One thing that I’ve learned works well is the notion of setting time limits. I work best under extreme pressure, so I tend to tell myself that I have a specific amount of hours to complete a specific amount of work.
Even in high school I followed this routine. I would go to bed really early and wake up really early to pressure myself further to complete my work. Giving myself two hours and two hours only to finish a paper before it was due worked much better than giving myself an entire night to procrastinate away.
As we battle the procrastination demon in an effort to bring our semester to a close, I urge my peers to get off Facebook and do their work. The relief of finally finishing work with time to spare is comparable to any other simple life pleasures we tend to overlook.
This might be the appropriate time to complete this article, but there are several friends I haven’t spoken to in months waiting for my phone call, as well as a sink full of dishes I should wash.
Chelsea Mellin can be contacted at