Procrastination at its core is time efficient. Yes, I could spend a week writing my essay and do multiple drafts of it, or I could spend the night grinding it out and doing just as well as the guy that took a week. Sorry, but people who procrastinate are just built different.
No one in the field of psychology actually knows for sure why it is that people continually choose to procrastinate. But here are some of the leading theories:
- Procrastination is the result of your emotional state. Your ability to regulate your emotions is parallel to your ability to be diligent with your work, thus, those of us whose emotions are a rollercoaster are theoretically supposed to be those of who procrastinate the most. For me, this feels pretty true, I’m definitely all over the place emotionally and I definitely procrastinate every opportunity I get.
- Procrastinators focus on simply feeling better at the expense of gaining insight from what made them feel bad in the first place. Essentially, the act of procrastinating values the momentary pleasure of not doing work over that of healing yourself and gaining pleasure from self improvement. By its very nature this is a psychological theory that uses, at its crux, the assumption that procrastination is something inherently negative and preventative of self improvement.
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If you’re an amateur at this you might think procrastination requires no planning, that it’s thoughtless, lazy, and accidental. But if you’re a veteran in the sport like I am, you would know that a real procrastinator always has a plan.
The plan is simple, for essays it’s usually this:
Step 1. Wait until the night before the due date, be prepared to start writing from midnight to the time the assignment is due. For example if your paper is due at 10am, then you have 10 hours.
Step 2: Get yourself an energy drink (or coffee), some cold water, and some snacks. You’re going to need some fuel and something to fight off the urge to fall asleep. Don’t be afraid to treat yourself here, get some things you’re going to enjoy—crunch time doesn’t have to be hell.
Step 3: Create a mental trick or a mindset that works for you. For me what works best is to think of every hour that passes as the hour the paper is due. This may be tricky but if you can convince yourself at 12 that the paper is due at 1 and at 1 that the paper is due at 2, so on so forth, you’ll come to realize that it’s not all that hard, and that you might actually be done early.
Another mindset you could adopt if the mental trick above doesn’t work for you is something called time blocking. Essentially the aim is to convince yourself that you must write one page per hour (or whatever works best for the time you have allotted and the number of pages due). For example, if I gave myself 10 hours to write a 5 page essay I would need to convince myself that I must complete 1 page every 2 hours.
Look, if you’ve procrastinated in the past and did worse on assignments than when you actually prepared and took the time, then don’t procrastinate. Some people can be clutch under pressure and others can’t and that’s life. Do what is best for you. For me, in college, I procrastinate on essays because I believe in my ability to work under pressure, but I don’t procrastinate on studying because I know that I can’t perform on tests when I’ve spent the night trying to learn the material. You may be able to procrastinate in both categories or in neither, but either way, just remember: don’t procrastinate because you’re lazy or you forgot the assignment, procrastinate because it’s a better strategy for you.