Procrastination: Your Personal Mafiosi Against Academic Success
Overview: The Nature of Procrastination
We are all veterans, or active combatants, of the academic war that we wage against ourselves, for ourselves. Every student has sprinted to capture deadlines, slogged through the marshy trenches of afternoon classes, and dodged for cover against the shrill scream of alarm clocks. We’ve always felt the stress of impending assessments and dread the immanence of grade reports – but perhaps, the most malicious opponent that we encounter is one that lies within.
Procrastination is a term that is familiar (perhaps all too much so) to all students. Time Management and the respective ailments that arise from it affect all individuals, but are especially harsh upon students. Students are growing adults that, on average, have weaker self control and are more vulnerable to imbalanced schedules. The most devious characteristic of procrastination is perhaps the way it operates – ensconced in the ripples of time, procrastination acts indirectly on the individual by degrading the efficiency and quality of the ‘work’ that the individual does. Like a meticulous, determined mafioso, procrastination targets the areas of academics that are the most challenging to students, resulting in catalyzed, premature failures in areas that should be theoretically possible within the range of a student’s predicted academic potential. Thus, procrastination is able to disguise it’s actions by harboring and cultivating discomfort and contempt towards these ‘work’ actions. This effect is chronic, anchoring itself within the impressionable years of young adults and continues to sap away, undetected, throughout the entire life of an individual.
Then why, if so well understood and attributed to such a negative connotation, does procrastination exist? The answer is simple: it acts similar to entropy, in which it is within human nature to avoid conflict and unfamiliar challenges. Postponing beneficial, but difficult academic work is a perfect example. Like a bedroom becoming untidy, procrastination manifests naturally unless effort is put forth to halt or reverse it’s inevitable progression.
Analysis: Who Is the Enemy?
After struggling through my middle school years riddled with numerous gouts of various time-management problems, I slowly began to understand the different catalysts of procrastination – and perhaps most importantly of all I began to understand more clearly the workings of my own mind. I, as any middle schooler, was content on lounging in large swaths of my afternoon, not really bothering with homework due to the confidence that I held in my workspeed in relation to school homework – but as my workload was slowly (and seemingly silently) engorged, it suddenly seemed that my workspeed had been bludgeoned and I was no longer able to listen to the luxurious sirens of procrastination. A brutal introduction, caused by the nonlinear increase of schoolwork from k-12, but perhaps a necessary one. Had my academic workload increased gradually, increment by increment, procrastination would have had longer, and easier time staying with me. As I lamented my now-unusually tedious workload, I, like any middle schooler, instantly pinned the blame on just about everything but me. My parents, my teachers, the school, my extracurriculars, my poor quality and lack of rest, etc… Eventually, however, I reached an interesting accusation: rather than myself as a whole, what if the object, or ‘thing’ of malice that had hindered me so was a fractional part of myself?
Ever since, I have resolved myself to do the work of a maid, cleaning my mind and schedule of time ingesting dust bunnies and mysterious time voids. I have realized that physical solutions to physical problems can be analyzed to derive practical solutions to mental problems as well; for example, if something physical is depreciating the value of some real estate, effort would be made to remove such offenses from the property. For individual, mental problems, the same goes, but is made more difficult by the intrinsic advantage of entropy. It is not nearly as easy to simply remove procrastination because it is ingrained, entwined with us. It likes staying there, and just like many of us, doesn’t like making changes or abiding by restrictions. Why? It’s almost like it has a personality. Well, it does. It’s part of us.
Action: Freeing Yourself Through Your Schedule
To combat such a stealthy, opportunistic, and most maliciously personalized assailant, an individual must be similarly meticulous and observant to maintain control over themselves – truly, the more careful you are, the more accurately you track every passing second and imbue it with purpose, the more you gain effective and efficient time. The easiest way, as determined by Benjamin Franklin over 200 years ago, to go about such a task is keeping a planner or journal of some sort.
It can be a simple excel sheet or google doc, where plans and schedules are displayed as lines of text. Or, it can be complex, handwritten notes on a physical planner. The format in which your plans are noted does not make a large impact on your future actions, so long as they are organized. This is the easy, but crucial step – believing in yourself, your work ethic, and having the foresight writing down your tasks for tomorrow or the upcoming week is far different from actually acting on them when the time comes. There is no real way to transform work into play, but creating a planner provides a shield against uncertainty and unfocused casualties. Regardless of how well you follow your planner, it will always let you know how much work has been completed or is yet to be finished. You may surprise yourself with the amount of time you actually have, and the active potential that was previously masked by the pursuit of unfocused passions. The information that the planner provides is an incredibly powerful tool – by being honest with yourself, you are able to manifest an introspection into your past, present, and future, removing the cloak by which procrastination hides behind. Just as with diets and exercise routines, procrastination cannot simply be willed away within a matter of minutes, days, or even years. Small changes within your range of tolerance will build up over time to create a healthier, balanced schedule more resilient to the ever-present pull of procrastination. You should maximize your schedule, and squeeze the unchanging passage of time for every droplet of productivity.
Or not. Too often does this mindset result in the ironic failure of an individual trying to rebalance their schedule; angry and resentful emotions commonly arise from this failure, which is all too commonly caused by the bane of planning and self-improvement: being unaware of one’s personal range of tolerance. Rebalancing your schedule does not go hand in hand with antagonizing the things you do for fun, or drastically removing all semblances of rest and relaxation from your schedule. Regardless of whether or not these parts of your schedule were a large part of the unbalancing force, straightforward removal does not leave any room for adaptation or adjustment – ironically, it creates another deficit imbalance that creates more problems than it fixes. Don’t feel guilty for taking breaks or even relapsing – set aside time to play, and play hard. Set aside time to work, and work hard. The closer you track the time you spend, not how you spend it, will lead to greater satisfaction and return.