Putting the Pro in Procrastination

Procrastination has ruined many lives. If tubular rock and roll band Guns and Roses hadn’t taken 14 years to come up with their sixth studio album Chinese Democracy, maybe it wouldn’t have been such an overproduced mess.

Maybe if Great Britain and France had spent less time being cowards at Munich, Hitler would have retired early to a remote Austrian log cabin, his vegetarianism reducing him to a diet of inflated German paper money and Eva Braun’s urine.

Many more examples of the dangers of procrastination can be found on the historical battlefield. J. Robert Oppenheimer, designer of the atomic bomb, procrastinated on becoming “death, destroyer of worlds” and as a result we missed out on a few years of Godzilla remakes. This is why I suggest that we declare a collective war on procrastination. Start whatever you need to do as soon as you finish reading this article. Or take your time, get another coffee and check out the comics page.

Procrastination affects many students. For the sake of appearances, here are some meaningless statistics about procrastination to make you feel better about not being alone. According to the world of psychology, about 80 to 95 per cent of post-secondary students procrastinate, but psychology was invented to excuse irresponsible people by liberal communists.

The point is, almost everyone procrastinates, but almost everyone in university is also stressed out. Procrastination has a lot to do with this. If you allow yourself to endure a constant game of catch up, the pressure will crack your mind, which, like a defunct car battery, will leak acid into the rest of you. Stress strangles the life out of young bodies. You won’t sleep as well. You will get sick more often. Your skin will break out. If you are a guy, your erections won’t last as long and girls will look at you with an expression of compounded pity and disappointment. This data was all collected from statistical sources, mind you. I try not to base my arguments on personal experience.

My personal experience with procrastination has been that of mingled perfectionism and hyperactivity. The reasons why people procrastinate are as complex as the ecological webs of deep-sea marine life, but attributing procrastination to laziness is an oversimplification. Procrastinators are often high achievers — my own department head confessed to struggling with tendencies to put off work she finds boring. A lot of people procrastinate because they have convinced themselves that failure is unforgiveable. The weight of our self-expectations causes us to back off and pretend that if we do not make an effort, we can never say we weren’t talented enough. For others like me, monotonous tasks are painful. Disorders like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder often go undiagnosed, causing misery so intense that when its victims are forced to sit still and study they would rather clean their toilets. Or eat half a kilogram of salted nuts without any water in the Taylor Family Digital Library at 2 a.m.
Distant but menacing, the possibility of habitual procrastination in future life always lies at the back of our minds. And just like everything else we put off, the fight to break the habit of procrastination itself haunts us with past failures and the feeling that we are never making progress, the feeling that there is no goddamned point because there are no jobs and we’re just going to end up doing data entry / rig work / housewifery / baristaship anyway.

But there is always hope. Like any habit, procrastination can be wired out of us. This is a task that is particularly manageable for those of us in our early or mid twenties, when our prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls personality, undergoes its final stages of development. The best strategies are to start small, as anyone who has successfully quit smoking knows. Do not try to drop your habits cold turkey, or restrict your own access to what you employ as diversions. Give yourself rewards, but monitor them. If you work for an hour, give yourself a 15-minute break. Fifteen minutes is enough to watch the “Wrecking Ball” music video three times in a row. Or masturbate. Maybe even masturbate to the “Wrecking Ball” music video, three times in a row. Take short, frequent breaks to pace your ability to concentrate. Everyone works differently, but setting goals for yourself such as a portion of an assignment or a word count will help you break down your work into manageable chunks and also ensure that you don’t feel overwhelmed by what seems like an unsinkable, looming assignment. Most importantly, learn to forgive yourself. Like any self-improvement effort, people slip up and fall back into their old ways every now and again. Do not mistake this for total failure. Get up, wave your torch around to scare away the bats, do push-ups and become Batman. Batman doesn’t procrastinate.

That’s all I have, folks. I wrote this article in order to avoid my Spanish homework. Lo siento, future Toby, lo siento.

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