Procrastination might be seen as extreme laziness for some, for others, it is a real curse and one that ought not be underestimated. For all of you out there who don’t understand how people continue to procrastinate and complain about it, you should know that procrastination is usually involuntary behavior. Otherwise, duhh, we wouldn’t be crying in a corner everytime we have to finish a university dissertation in one night while everybody else finished it weeks ago.
I already hear some of you thinking “Just move your lazy ass and do some work.” It is not that simple. I feel like it would be the same as telling someone who’s sad “Just stop being sad and you’ll feel better.”
I’m voluntarily putting some irony and sarcasm into this article, but as I myself suffered from procrastination for, basically my entire academic career, I know what I’m talking about. I use medical-related vocabulary to give it more credit. Not that I consider it a disease, but it certainly is some kind of trouble. Many people exhibit it at different levels; however, some people don’t even know what it is.
Four of my closest friends come into mind when thinking about people who simply don’t understand how procrastinators’ systems work. These friends all organize their work very clearly. They work on time and productively. Something that, to this day, has remained a mystery to me. They explained to me how they organize their time and it sounds really good. But it simply doesn’t work for me.
Trust me, I’ve tried them all. I can’t seem to make it work. I simply cannot stick to a calendar. My brain is not always in a mood open to work. And if I plan to focus on one subject, chances are that my brain will want to study something else. Then, when I start working on that other topic, my brain will decide that it is more interesting to go to the random article section on Wikipedia and learn something I didn’t know. Or to visit a DIY website to learn how to make origami boxes.
I sometimes binge-watch series, like everybody I guess. But you know what, I’ve never really binged-watched anything during holidays or weekends. Nooo. You know that period before and during final exams at university? In Belgium, we call it “the Blocus.” Well, that’s the time my brain chooses to spend hours watching series that I have (even probably) ALREADY watched. Why am I doing that? I don’t know. I don’t enjoy that time. I usually feel guilty for not working. I start wondering why I’m living that way and why I’m such a piece of trash. I start to develop guilt and self-hatred feelings that hinder me from working productively, of course.
The problem with procrastination is that all the time wasted reading random Wikipedia pages or watching stupid Youtube videos cannot be traded with something that is actually enjoyable. My parents would sometimes tell me, “You spend so much time doing nothing, why don’t you actually use that time to go to the movies, or to go spend some days on the seaside, or to do any kind of real leisure activities”. And you know what I would answer? “ I don’t have time for that! You don’t realize how much work I have to do!”. Quite contradictory isn’t it?
On a more serious tone, procrastination has really put me into dark places. The fact that I was unable to work in a healthy way frustrated me. Especially when you see other people being such at peace with their schoolwork and duties. I would always have to go through dark emotions, self-hatred feeling phases to achieve something. Last minute stress became my motivation and my only way to finish my work. However, I always hoped that eventually I would be able to work differently. Whenever I was assigned a new task, I always thought that that time would be different, that I would be able to start it immediately and finish it several days in advance. Well, I was always wrong. It only awoke deep interrogations about myself, sometimes life reconsideration, regrets and a decline of my self-esteem. Because I was unable to do something that seemed simple...
One good thing though, that I have developed throughout these dark years is what I call productive procrastination. You know how everything sounds more interesting when you have a tight deadline to finish something? Well, I call productive procrastination the moments of procrastination that I spend doing other things, that aren’t very important of course, but that end up being useful or somehow interesting. Still not ideal but better than fakely laughing at stuff on 9Gag to hide your tears of self-deprecation and anger.
Example: Last summer I had to write my Masters thesis. I tried this “planning” thing, but of course it didn’t work. So, during the times of the day that I was supposed to spend working on my thesis, I would usually do other stuff. For example, I started drawing again, which is quite nice. I loved to draw as a kid and I’ve always really enjoyed it. However with school work and university duties, I hadn’t really drawn anything in years. Well, during that summer, I did. And it felt good. So, in the end, I didn’t work on my thesis as much as I thought I would, but I spent some time doing things that I really enjoyed.
Because one of the perks of productive procrastination is that you don’t feel as guilty as usual. You feel like you’re actually doing something, even though it is not a priority. But that’s not the only thing I did during that summer of course. I’ve hated school system for as long as I can remember but I’ve actually always loved to learn new things, even useless ones! So, apart from drawing I also learned how to finish a Rubik’s Cube. That’s right. Why, you ask? I don’t know. Never knew how to do it, now I know. And I practiced until I reached about 1 minute time. Then, just for the fun of it, I decided to remember the first hundred decimals of Pi in order. True Story. Again, useless talents, but I prefer to see them as “New Skills Unlocked”!
One real argument that kept me from trying to make big changes in my life is that, however painful it is, it works. Procrastination has not prevented me from being successful at school. It made me unhappy most of the time, but it did not make me a failure. As far as I can remember, I failed only one exam in my entire academic career, and that one was not even because of a lack of study, ironically. So in the end, I knew that my methods worked. My sick brain developed a way to work for 8 hours straight, even in the middle of the night, sometimes without any break and without the help of any drugs either. So, I finally came to a point in my life where I simply accepted my condition and tried to work with it. If I want to see the bright side of this bad situation, I can point out the fact that I have developed a way of working very efficiently and under pressure, which is quite a useful skill.
Now that I have finished my studies, I feel more at peace with this subject. Because it is not as much a problem as it used to be, I feel more comfortable talking and writing about it. If some of you can relate, please leave a comment or tell us your experiences and if you found a cure to the curse of procrastination, please, let us know, because I still haven’t.
And if you’ve never watched this Ted Talk, please do; Even if it means you procrastinating from doing something else: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arj7oStGLkU.
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