Procrastination 101

#Education

Tue, Nov 19th, 2002 02:00 by John Iadipaolo ARTICLE

Ever heard that time-honored phrase: "the only certainties in life are death and taxes"? It makes sense, on the surface, and might even elicit a chuckle (assuming you haven't heard it a million times already). However, if you stop to consider that statement for just a moment, you should realize it's critically flawed. I firmly believe, and hundreds of thousands of university students around the world will back me up on this one, that there are not two, but three certainties in life: death, taxes... and procrastination.

No matter how determined, self-disciplined or strong-willed you are, it's inevitable: everyone, in some way, shape or form, at some point in their life, will procrastinate. It's practically human nature. However, while procrastination is a vice for which we're all vulnerable, I think it's fairly obvious to state that students (see above) are especially guilty: keep up with your readings? Review your notes on a regular basis? Plan ahead and work on assignments in small, manageable chunks? Forget it. As long as there are parties to attend, drugs (both legal and otherwise) to consume, and classic episodes of "The Family Guy" to watch on a friend's computer, textbooks will sit neglected in the corner.

It's amazing to see the extent to which people will go to facilitate procrastination, both for themselves and others. Impromptu movie marathons (comprised of flicks you normally wouldn't be paid to watch), massive cleaning frenzies (where a house that doesn't know the meaning of the word "vacuum" is immaculately scrubbed from top to bottom), and hour-long conversations about cheese over MSN Messenger or ICQ (the procrastinator's equivalent to alcohol for a drunk) are all common methods used for mutually effective time wasting.

However, when it comes to fabricating excuses to slack, it should be noted that not everyone requires a partner in crime. Scientifically speaking, the quality or level of interest of a sufficient diversion is inversely proportionate to a procrastinator's dedication to not working. In other words, the less appealing that 3,000 word essay on the role of physical education in medieval society is, the more likely you are to do something, anything, to put it off, whether the alternative is actually interesting or not. During times of great need, I've resorted to everything from carpooling my siblings and their friends to washing my pet rabbit's cage instead of facing my scholarly responsibilities.

As a direct result of procrastination, cramming and pulling all-nighters is hardly uncommon for university students. If anything, it's the studious and well-prepared kids that stand out as deviants to their peers (and probably some of the professors as well). The more time I spend procrastinating, the more I question its staying power and widespread use. You'd think that (reasonably) intelligent individuals with a crystal clear understanding of the detrimental effect procrastination wrecks on their grades would eventually smarten up and stop leaving work to the last minute.

However, that doesn't happen. Don't kid yourself that procrastination is something that one does unconsciously either. Students procrastinate, make jokes about it, and oftentimes predict the fruits of their non labor well into the future (...i.e. "I'm going to be so @&$%ed next month during midterms"). So why do we insist in shooting ourselves in the GPA, so to speak? Maybe it's a subconscious choice of being very stressed and working incredibly hard for a short period of time (i.e. researching and writing an essay the night before it's due) over being slightly stressed and working relatively hard over a long period of time (i.e. the right way to do things). Who knows.

While I may not be very good at explaining procrastination, I do know that I'm quite good at practicing what I preach. For example:

  • I'm way too good at Internet Reversi. Ditto for Windows Pinball.

  • Instead of studying for big biology and math tests a few weeks ago, I chose to spend hours selecting and downloading songs to make my friend a Wesley Willis CD for her birthday. It was absolutely essential that I made the CD right then, seeing as how her birthday was weeks away.

  • Just last week, instead of writing an essay due a few days later, I was reading reviews of the 90's Vanilla Ice movie, "Cool as Ice", at 1 am.

  • So far this semester, I've missed pub night twice. Perhaps I should mention the fact that I have class at 8am Friday mornings.

Oh, and one more thing... this year I started writing for CoN again.

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