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A Vicious Circle

Causes of Procrastination and Ways to Cope with It

Photo by Nubelson Fernandes on Unsplash

“I’ll do it later.”

It is very easy to let that thought control you. Many students use the word “later” on a daily basis to justify their reasons for not doing their work. Procrastination has been around people for a long time, but the arrival of the digital age in the 21st century made the issue even worse. Studies show that 15-20% of adults are chronic procrastinators. 80-95% of college students practice procrastination to some extent, and 50% think that procrastination is a consistent problem. The type of procrastination, the way to procrastinate and the reason behind procrastination all vary among students, but there is one common problem that most procrastinators share. Since it is hard to procrastinate only for a planned amount of time and go back to work after procrastinating, procrastination often ends up being too much.

“[The biggest type of procrastination I see is] students waiting until a night before to start studying for a test,” biology teacher Claudia Arakelian said. “I get a lot of emails the day before a test asking me to clarify a question on a study guide. It affects their performance a lot. They don’t get the information down, wait until the last minute, do poorly and then it just snowballs because they never catch up.”

Reasons behind procrastination exist in a variety of forms. While some procrastinate due to poor time management skills associated with lack of plans and desire to do something else, others do it because of deeper underlying issues related to their emotions, such as fear and anxiety. Under uncertainties, students often worry about failure and negative feedback. This causes stress and anxiety, making them more likely to ruminate more and drag out the work. For example, when an individual is afraid to fail a test, they tend to put off preparing in order to stop thinking about it. Another common type of fear, fear of asking for help, is common in classroom settings. Especially when other students are watching, an individual worries that their question will sound silly and becomes reluctant to ask.

“Anxiety has a lot to do with procrastination,” history teacher Timothy Fitzpatrick said. “Students don’t ask for help, so that leads to procrastination. They think they should’ve asked but realize they didn’t and it becomes even worse, so it builds on them. As the time gets closer [to the deadline], it gets worse. That’s where the fear starts coming in.”

Even though people procrastinate to avoid current negative feelings, procrastination only makes them feel worse in the end. Procrastination usually leads to bad performance, which discourages students even more. After experiencing a failure, students confront greater anxiety when they face a similar task or realize that they need to catch up. Knowing that they will have to finish the tasks eventually but with a shorter amount of time adds to the already existing fear. As a result, procrastination often becomes a cycle, which makes it so hard to stop.

“Procrastinating made me feel bad because I knew that if I took the time to study I could’ve gotten a better grade,” freshman Peyton Price said.

Still, procrastination is needed and helpful under certain circumstances. Some people find that completing a task at the last minute boosts creativity as approaching deadlines help them think outside the box to the same problem. When it comes to writing an essay, a little bit of procrastination might increase the quality of writing by allowing students to record their thoughts whenever they come up with the best ideas. Working under some level of pressure can also serve as a source of motivation by making people feel a greater urge to focus and get the work done.

“I know that when I have more time, I am usually less effective and get less done, but if I have a smaller amount of time, I work harder,” upper school academic dean Angela Croston said. “Sometimes for me personally, procrastination [motivates me] as long as I don’t let it get out of hand and procrastinate too much. But I think students procrastinate too much. It’s hard for some students because they don’t know how to only procrastinate a little bit.”

Despite the general opinion that procrastination is most often bad, when it becomes a part of a plan, it can turn into an effective working strategy. Just the fact that an individual is not working right now or ahead of time does not mean that they are procrastinating. Even after impulsive procrastination, planning encourages people to go back to work and helps reduce stress and regrets. Moreover, delaying tasks when there is a need for a break is crucial for preventing burnouts as long as it does not affect the student’s grade or performance. However, just like everything else, procrastination takes planning.

“If you know what exactly you need to do in the next week or two weeks, just plan your week out, discipline yourself and stick to that,” senior Teresa Morgado said. “If you do things on time and not push them back, you’ll end up being less stressed.”


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Andy Poll

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