Written by Janet Kim
Many people claim that their greatest enemy in life is procrastination. Procrastination, as defined in layman’s terms, essentially means you do things at the last minute. Being someone who identifies with this to an unhealthy extent, I dare to say that procrastination is actually my greatest friend.
You may argue that procrastination is easily fixable; a flaw that can be easily undone with some forward-thinking and fear of consequence. As an expert at procrastination, I can tell you this is not true. Procrastination is something that may start as an occasional tendency, but it can often manifest into a permanent methodology. And once you’re there, preventing procrastination from happening again is easier said than done. But do people only procrastinate because they can’t resist the urge? Not necessarily. Economically speaking, the utility I gain from say, completing a homework assignment a week before it’s due, appears to be very minimal to me. And so, I opt for the only other option. A night or two before it’s due. Very rarely do I procrastinate because I am unable to foresee the future consequences; it is in fact always the other way around. I willingly choose to do so. This train of thought is one that I have come to adopt over the years, and for it, I see myself being much better at adapting to quick-thinking and conflict resolution.
Let me give you an example. Every week, on Sunday, my Economics problem set is released, to be due on the forthcoming Thursday night. Knowing the problem set will be a day and a half’s worth of work, most would advise me to start on that Sunday or to the latest, Tuesday. On Sunday, however, I don’t feel the absolute need to begin my problem set simply because there is no sense of urgency. And so, I spend that Sunday doing everything but the problem set, followed by Monday and Tuesday. I then feel that slight flutter in my heart on Wednesday night signaling that I should start being concerned. By this time, a lot of the resources that were available to me had I started earlier (office hours, study groups) have passed me by and I have then essentially shoved myself in a corner where I have to complete the task by myself, in a short amount of time. It would be unreasonable for me to say this doesn’t cause me stress. It definitely does.
It is under these high stress situations, however, that I am forced outside of my comfort zone and produce the best work. As the stakes get higher, my brain attends to these tasks with the utmost focus and concern, before hitting the plateau. Under a rush of adrenaline, I then complete my problem set, scuffling through the problems on my own. Surely not an easy process, but a rewarding one nonetheless. After completion of the task at hand comes a feeling of proud accomplishment, perhaps undeserved. However, upon careful reflection, procrastination does indeed make me more productive. I purposely gave myself ten more hurdles to jump over, and I successfully tackled them.
So why then, is there such a stigma around procrastination? Because modern society admires those who do wisely with their time. Spending time “wisely” tends to mean that one accomplishes their tasks in a timely, sequential manner. All pockets of time are carefully calculated and spent in such a way that one is constantly preoccupied, but never under unnecessary pressure. Individuals as such are seen to be efficient and productive. On the other hand, those who push their responsibilities to the last minute and create for themselves obstacle after obstacle are seen to be lazy and incompetent. Society also admires those who minimize risks for themselves. This generally means that many assess the risk one could incur upon procrastinating as much bigger than that of simply completing tasks on time, usually zero. This risk analysis is largely applicable to general life situations, as human beings generally make decisions based on their own evaluations of risk. It is very much this risk factor that separates the procrastinators from their counterparts. Procrastinators tend to take this risk, however foolish it may be. Many fail to realize, however, that being a procrastinator means that you must be equally as, if not, more efficient with your time.
When pushing off a task until the last minute, procrastinators are often busy completing an even more urgent task, followed by another. Procrastinators also value their time, just in different ways. Personally, I tend to want to minimize the amount of time spent on certain tasks, not because I do not care, but because I see my time being spent more efficiently that way. It makes sense to me to spend the least amount of time needed to complete a certain task, given the quality of the results will remain the same. This assumption does not always hold, as more time delegated to a certain task often does yield higher quality results. However, when I do choose to procrastinate, this is the thought process behind doing so. Limiting myself in time and resources also forces me to figure out ways to work around these walls. If time has been significantly decreased, this generally prompts you to be more productive in the remaining time left. If resources are unavailable, you become your only resource and are forced to hold yourself accountable for obtaining all of the information and knowledge that would otherwise be presented to you. Thus, procrastinating is not always the enemy. In many ways, you become more responsible and come to value your time more.
And so, I would like to tell all of my fellow procrastinators to stop feeling so guilty. The real world is in many ways one big arena of difficult obstacles that approach one after the other. And though nothing in excess is good (namely procrastination), becoming used to high-stress environments and becoming an expert in thinking on your feet can prove to be a very useful skill. A skill that can be applied to all areas of your life, whether it be academics, relationships, and your professional career. As a college student, most of us are at the liberty to create our own schedules and make individual choices regarding our daily routines. However, life will not always provide us this liberty. There will undoubtedly be many moments when we will be forced into a corner and expected to produce results under high pressure. And to have worked under said pressure and be familiar with fast-paced environments will prove to be the most useful asset.
Power to the procrastinators.