Procrastination is Normal and Shouldn’t be Shamed

Let me admit: I did not submit this column on time.

I could easily blame it on the end-of-semester workload which is filled with group projects, papers and exams all in the last week of classes. But, this is not an isolated incident. I’ve submitted other editorials late, often writing “so sorry I haven’t gotten this in on time,” “oops I did it again” and “AHHH” in my emails that I send when I finally finish. The opinion editors know well enough; I am a procrastinator.

Most college students would readily confess their own citizenship of Procrastination Nation. We like to put off all our assignments and mundane responsibilities. Well, I don’t know if we like to do it, so much as we are compelled by some external force to procrastinate. In the 21st century, people have so many distractions, including social media, television, friends and games that are all at our fingertips.

Students like to check Facebook on our computers, close the tab and then open the Facebook app on our smartphones. Or we play games or mindlessly browse the Internet (I’m guilty of doing both simultaneously). Even while I was attempting to write this column, I spent time googling “procrastination,” “opposite of procrastination” and “procrastination buzzfeed.” From that last search I found several lists of procrastination jokes that I thought maybe might inspire me to write this article. Instead, it just fueled my procrastination fire.

If procrastination is so bad and such a downfall of the human experience, why do we still do it? Shouldn’t evolution have caused the practice of procrastination to die out already? Maybe back in the day, as the old folk like to say, procrastination wasn’t as serious as a problem as it is now. However, I like to think that generations of people have always found ways to procrastinate. It probably just seems like more of an epidemic in today’s society because we like to attribute our woes to the overload of technology in our lives.

To those of you proactive people, if you’re still reading this column, I have two things to say. First of all, how do you do it? Second of all, keep reading and maybe I can convert you to the dark side (quite literally, procrastinators tend to do all their work late at night).

Being proactive is hard. Trying to start an assignment way ahead of time makes me squirm. Don’t just blame poor time management skills — these are both a symptom and a cause of procrastination. I just feel uninspired and overwhelmed. I work best under pressure. And guess what? This is normal.

Each person has an ideal stress level under which they perform the best, according to the Yerkes-Dodson law (a real scientific law that I did not make up). That’s the reason why some certified geniuses procrastinate. By procrastinating, we limit the amount of time we have to complete a task. Under the constraints of time, we can stress ourselves into focusing and getting the task at hand done. Sometimes, this produces better, more creative work than had we gotten the task done in a reasonable, responsible amount of time.

In order to get an assignment done, sometimes we have to be more creative. This is not to say we should ignore entire parts of a project, but rather we should find new ways to complete a task. And when it comes down to the wire, procrastinators become very good at prioritizing. We know that if one task is more pressing than another, we’re going to do the former first.

Plus, procrastination on one assignment doesn’t mean overall procrastination. While I feel that I take procrastination to the extremes, there is some productivity in it. When I am technically procrastinating on one thing, I can be doing something else that I also need to do. Often, I will procrastinate on my homework by cleaning my room. Cleaning my room may just not be as important as my sociology paper.

In that moment, cleaning my room seemed more fun (read: less painful). John Lennon once said, “Time you enjoy wasting was not wasted.” And, as long as I’m enjoying myself and getting my work done to the best of my ability, I can keep living by my personal philosophy that “if tomorrow isn’t the due date, then today isn’t the do date.”