Procrastination Nation

Feature Image: Voices of Youth

It’s time to talk about a real problem. Honestly, I’m surprised a medical journal hasn’t picked up on this disease yet because it’s one that has been sweeping the nation for thousands of years, and no one has been able to find a cure. It’s time to talk about that one thing that we all do, even though we know we shouldn’t. It’s time to discuss: Procrastination.

As evidenced by how long it took me to actually get to the point, it should shock no one that I am a master procrastinator. I blame my mother. She taught me that working under pressure is preferable to working at a reasonable pace. Why? I’m not really sure. She was procrastinating when she taught me this lesson, and I think it may have slipped her mind to explain it fully.

Regardless, the point is that procrastination runs in my blood, as it seems to run in the blood of many of us. Why do something now when the deadline isn’t for another week? Sure, you have the time now and you’re not doing anything pressing right now, but you’re certain you can find something else to do instead of completing the task you should be completing.

I do it all the time.

I’m doing it right now.

At the time I’m typing these words, my to-do list sits beside me with six items still on it. Right now, I should be working to tackle these last six items, but all I can think about is the photo pun of ears of corn that my friend texted me from Colorado or the scripts I should write next weekend with my friend in California or the tan lines I need to correct before I go to Europe this summer.


So, the list remains untouched. The items remain uncrossed. The video remains unedited. The grades remain open.

All of this makes me somewhat of a hypocrite because as a teacher, I preach the importance of not waiting until the last minute on essays or projects. But, when I was in school, when a teacher said, “You won’t be able to wait until the last minute to do this,” I thought of it as a challenge. Some of my students, no doubt, think of it in the same way when I say it.

But, why do we do it? Why do we allow ourselves to succumb to the pressures of procrastination? It’s not like what we’re doing instead of our tasks is any more important than that to-do list, so why?

My theory is that we procrastinate because of rebellion. While many of us may not be rebellious by nature (I know I’m definitely not), I think this is a tiny rebellion that allows us to get any insurgence out of our systems. It’s a sort of release that is socially acceptable. We’re not tearing down buildings or hacking into government files or singing “God Save the Queen” accompanied by cacophonous punk music on a ship in the River Thames on the Queen’s Jubilee. We’re committing a tiny, acceptable form of rebellion against ourselves and the things we have to do. We’re giving our minds a break.

What could be wrong with a thing like that?

Apparently, a lot.

According to research, a true procrastinator is a person who engages in what’s called “self-defeating behavior.” This behavior basically says, “I failed not because I’m not smart enough, but because I didn’t try.” It’s an explanation to cover up failure. It’s an excuse.

I hear it all the time as a teacher. A student says to his classmate, “What did you get on the test?”

The student answers, “A 70%, but that’s because I didn’t study at all.”

This excuse works in two ways: it explains away failure as a lack of effort on the part of the procrastinator and it inadvertently gives effort a stigma. That second student then realizes that it’s not ‘cool’ to study or make the effort. So, when he’s asked how he did on the test, he answers with an innocuous, “I got an 85%, but I guessed on like half of it.”

True or not, this nonchalant statement is a direct reaction to the procrastinator’s answer from earlier. Now, they’re on even ground and no one is ‘above’ the other.

In this regard, procrastination is just as much social as it is psychological. It is socially acceptable to put things off until tomorrow, or at least, it seems to be in a high school classroom.

Knowing the intricacies of procrastination is not going to make me stop doing it, however. I know that my procrastination, though perhaps not as severe as others’ procrastination, will be with me forever because I have adapted to it. I plan to procrastinate, which I realize is counterintuitive. But, when it comes to the procrastination nation, my philosophy is this: if you can’t beat it, join it for tonight and worry about your to-do list tomorrow.





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