Debunking procrastination

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While every semester comes with its unique challenges, the most common challenge students face is procrastination. With the online delivery of both the upcoming Fall and Winter semesters, students have increasing anxieties about procrastination since they will be learning from home and will not have access to study spaces on campus or as many outlets to reduce stress levels.

With that being said, procrastination is not unique to any individual; we are all capable of and do procrastinate. Procrastination is the trouble of persuading yourself to do something you should do or want to do. 

While most students have or will experience the last-minute scramble to write a paper or study the night before, procrastination impedes on things you want to do, like going to the gym. 

However, procrastination does not mean you’re lazy. Lazy people are content when they don’t do anything. Procrastinators have the desire to do something, but struggle to start a project or task. 

Also, keep in mind that relaxation is not procrastination. Relaxation helps recharge your emotional and physical energies which ultimately helps prevent procrastination!

Procrastination is typically fueled by three factors: decision paralysis, dismissing the value of time and the lack of self-discipline. 

In our society, we value individual freedoms because they’re perceived to make people happier. However, with more autonomy, people have a wider foundation to make their decision and can get easily confused about what is a priority. 

For example, when writing an essay with an open topic, you may procrastinate because you are given little direction from your professor.

The time you waste procrastinating on writing your essay is time you will never get back. Having said this, our most precious commodity is time. While some may argue that it’s money, you cannot borrow, save, or earn time; every second used is gone forever. The realization of finite time leads an individual to stop procrastinating and manage our time more carefully.

Finding our ability to practice self-discipline or self-control is a large factor in procrastination, and directly connects to the type of motivation we are using to begin projects, tasks, or assignments. We tend to think procrastination is caused by a lack of willpower, but it’s typically our intrinsic motivations that influence our productivity.

Your first set of motivations come from the difference between short-term and long-term outcomes. Short-term motivation often involves instant gratification and focuses on the present moment. 

For example, you choose to play video games with your friends over studying for a midterm because studying is boring; you are choosing a meaningless task instead of your important task because it’s more fun at that moment.

On the other hand, long-term motivation visualizes the future to make rational decisions for the present. While the task may not be the most entertaining in the present moment, it will make the future easier for the individual. This is notoriously seen when a professor assigns a project weeks or months in advance and suggests you work on it over time.

This leads to your second set of motivations: deadlines and no deadlines. 

As students, we have a variety of deadlines to meet with assignments, exams, weekly readings, etc. Ultimately, the work gets done because there is a deadline, and if you leave your assignment to the last minute, you begin to panic, forcing yourself to work. 

Students will claim that they thrive under the pressure of a last-minute due date; however, multiple scientific studies show this leads to higher stress levels, more guilt and overall ineffectiveness.

Deadlines are often a promising motivation to get the job done; however, not having a deadline for a project or goal can be even more frustrating. 

For example, students often begin the semester with healthy habits, like going to the gym. However, as projects and responsibilities pile up, an individual’s priority is often shifted to the tasks that have a deadline and, subsequently, the individual stops going to the gym. The student stopped going to the gym because, with no deadline, there is no panic to produce results.

We’re in a constant battle with procrastination because we want to be self-fulfilled and enjoy life. While time is our most valuable commodity, it’s important to practice a balanced lifestyle and remember that sometimes it can’t all get done. 

Sometimes you will have to skip a weekly reading or a gym session without feeling guilty. While it couldn’t get done today or this week, don’t lose sight of your goals and keep moving forward.

On the other hand, you may need to find more self-discipline to not play video games and study for your midterm without feeling overwhelmed or bogged down. In the famous words of George McFly from Back to the Future, “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

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