By Arthur Wang |
The subject of procrastination is often treated as a joke by many of its own victims. A few of my friends have grinned as they confessed to staying up until 3:00 a.m. working on something that should have begun weeks prior. In more than a few of my classes people have let out sighs of relief when a deadline is extended for a day or two, only to then laugh upon realizing they’re not the only ones who need the extra time. I myself have put off readings, homework, or essays to get in another hour – or two or three – of video games.
To us it’s funny because we don’t really see the effects of our actions when we do them. Doing the actual work we’re given when we have so little time to do it is unpleasant; but it’s only unpleasant for a few hours, while the time we spend slacking off is often much longer.
Things become much less funny when grades come in and the shoddy work we spat out comes back to bite us. The time we spend slacking off is longer than the time we spend actually working; but the time we spend beating ourselves up over our decisions is often the longest of all, which triggers what people have dubbed the “cycle of procrastination”.
The cycle of procrastination is one that many of us – myself included – have been, are, or will be trapped in. Certified Life and Productivity Coach Kirstin O’Donovan sums it up in her article for Lifehack: the cycle begins with a person’s confidence in their goal, and the belief that a brief delay – often accompanied by an excuse – won’t cause any harm. Discomfort and unease set in as the person realizes that doing what they set out to do requires genuine effort. As more time passes and progress is still not made, fear and frustration set in as the person asks themselves why they didn’t start the task sooner. The person begins to resent themselves for not doing their task, and, as the feelings of panic and failure finally fade, tell themselves “this was the last time and next time will be different”.
While this statement helps reassure the person in the short-term, it doesn’t erase the feelings of panic and despair that they felt the last time, and those feelings can cause people to hesitate and make excuses the next time they begin.
Thankfully, the issue of sloth has been faced before, and that means people have solutions to help alleviate it.
Figuring out what exactly needs to be done can be difficult with open-ended projects like essays or test preparation, and planning what to do can help break the project down into smaller pieces. Make sure you take sudden delays and mishaps into account – plan to finish projects the day before they’re due.
The second important step to take is to work in spite of temptations to procrastinate. This is not an easy thing to do, so a common tactic is to try to identify the sources of these temptations. Once these sources are identified, it can be easier to suppress these temptations. Though the idea of simply taking a break or indulging oneself will be appealing, O’Donovan states that “It is not a question of comfort anymore; it is a question of results.”
Planning and pushing oneself to work can be difficult to get used to, but you have to work to make sure that you get things done without delay.
If not, you may find yourself caught in a loop of laziness, panic, and self-loathing.