The Ins and Outs of Procrastination


Angela Gardella, Opinions

I am the type of person to wait until the last minute to complete a project. I’m sure we’ve all been there, staying up late to get an assignment done or putting things off until later. But why do we do this, and where do these tendencies come from? Our brains have mental “to-do” lists. The New York Times writes,“If a task has a negative feeling associated with it, our brains will put it off to try and avoid those feelings.” Most of us feel anxious or nervous when we need to accomplish a serious task. Our brain would much rather avoid the feelings of nervousness completely, which causes us to push the task farther down on our mental “to-do” lists. 

Dr. Ferrari was interviewed by the American Psychological Association. When asked about procrastination, Dr. Ferrari said, “We are a nation of ‘doers’ but we are also, like people from other industrialized nations, a people of ‘waiters.’” We should be jumping at deadlines instead of waiting until the last minute. A primary reason why we procrastinate is because those around us accommodate procrastinators. Dr. Ferrari uses a great example in his interview involving Tax Day. On April 15th, some post offices stay open later to accommodate procrastinators. This gives off a feeling of relief when we are able to hand something in late and not have consequences for it. Yet, this same feeling causes us to do it again and more often. An easy solution would be to have strict deadlines and not accept anything late. But, us being human, we sympathize with each other. In the long run, though, you could be fueling someone’s procrastination. 

Another point made by the American Psychology Association is that some people procrastinate intentionally because they work well under pressure. These people take the stress of turning in something late and use it to their advantage. This is called active procrastination. These behaviours seem like they can easily become harmful. Intentional procrastination can become unintentional with a blink of an eye. Being unaware of the fact that you’re procrastinating can begin a downward spiral of unintentional procrastination. The only way to  completely avoid procrastination is to get things done the minute that you can. For those who live busy lives, it’s difficult to divide your attention evenly between multiple things. Not only does it take time to get an assignment finished, but it also takes time to make it as accurate as possible. 

Procrastination is hard to overcome, but it is not impossible. Here are 3 steps to stop procrastinating: 

First, you must recognize that you’re procrastinating. Then, ask yourself why you’re procrastinating. Do you not have enough time? Are you afraid of failure? Finally, adopt anti-procrastination strategies. These can include things like a written to-do list, minimizing your distractions, or even getting the hard work done first and out of the way.