Procrastination: I’ll Finish This Later…

By Nicole Chedraoui

Picture this: You come home from a long and strenuous day of school, just to be faced with additional hours of homework and projects. What sounds better? Watching an episode of your favorite show on Netflix or completing your homework due the next day?  Netflix, of course! You promise yourself you’ll just watch one more episode, take one more minute on Instagram, watch just one more TikTok, and, suddenly, you look at the time, and it’s 10:00 pm. If this sounds like you, you are one of the many people that suffer from procrastination, or habitual hesitation.

To avoid getting confused, know that there is a very large difference between procrastinating and being a procrastinator. “Everybody procrastinates, but not everyone is a procrastinator.” Being a procrastinator entails much more than just putting off a task occasionally. A chronic procrastinator procrastinates in multiple areas of their life, including work, financial, social, and personal situations. Procrastinating in these situations has been described as “wreaking havoc, undermining goals, and in the end, producing perpetual shame.” Interestingly, one out of five people are considered chronic procrastinators.  Let’s dive into the minds of a chronic procrastinator, to understand why all of us teens delay getting our work done, and how we can stop!

To understand a procrastinator’s decisions and tendencies, journalists Dianne Tice and William James Roy Baumeister, from Psychology Science, conducted an experiment at Case Western Reserve University. They first rated college students on an established scale of procrastination, tracking their academic performance, stress, and general physical health throughout the semester. At first the study showed a potential benefit to procrastination, with the procrastinators exhibiting lower levels of stress, presumably the result of them just engaging in pleasurable activities instead of doing their work.  At the end of the experiment, though, the costs of procrastination far outweighed the temporary benefits, with these the procrastinators earning lower grades and reporting higher cumulative amounts of stress and illness. After discovering their recent findings, they wanted to put their research to the test. The two reporters brought several college students into a lab and told them at the end of the lesson they would all be engaging in a math puzzle. A few students were told that this was a meaningful, important cognitive test, while others were told the puzzle was meaningless. They gave the students a preparation period, and, as expected, the chronic procrastinators only delayed preparation when they were told it was going to be a serious evaluation. Those that were told that the puzzle would be fun and meaningless exhibited no signs of procrastination.

The conclusions from these tests are that procrastinators exhibit much higher stress levels than other individuals.This type of habitual procrastination is a “complicated failure of self-regulation,” which, experts say ,is the voluntary delay of an important task that we intend to do, despite knowing we’ll suffer as a result. A poor concept of time may be part of the cause of this problem, but the main cause of procrastination is the learned inability to properly manage emotions.  Some procrastinators put off their work due to a lack of self assurance or motivation; whereas, others may have a predisposed negative mindset and possible fear of failure, self defeat, or perfectionism. In the end, to combat these unconscious qualities, it all comes down to self control and perseverance.

Now that we’ve really dived into a procrastinator’s mind, let’s discuss how can one stop being a  procrastinator. Like any other bad habit, it won’t be easy and requires operating in a totally different mindset.  Here’s a step- by- step guide to kick start your journey of overcoming procrastination.

Step 1:

The first step to breaking your bad habit is to establish a plan. Invest in an agenda or planner, and actually use it. Write down your goals for that day and at least one thing you need to complete after school. Upon completing these assignments, you will get a sense of accomplishment.

Step 2:

Be your own motivator. Think of a few good reasons you should get these tasks done early and  write them down next to the assignment. This will help you later in the day when that pesky thought of, “I can do this later,” pops up. When you check your agenda,  you’ll see the pros of starting the task outweigh the cons.

Step 3: 

Make it easy to get started.  Be specific when planning to do this task, know the date and time when you are going to start it, and find an environment that will help you focus and work the best you can.

Step 4:

Identify your procrastination tendencies and excuses, and learn to recognize when they become toxic. Pay attention to certain habitual tasks you use to distract yourself from what needs to get done and schedule the distraction for a time after you have completed your assignment.

Step 5:

Learn to say NO.  Even when it’s hard, and you really want to hang out with your friends, or go to that party, prioritize your needs. This will save you stress in the end, and you can do the fun stuff afterwards.

Step 6: 

The last and final step to try and combat your procrastination is to be patient. Procrastination isn’t something you can change overnight; it takes time to change bad habits and re frame your thoughts and actions to work efficiently.  Always remember to recognize when you are making progress, and reward yourself!

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