Struggling with and Overcoming Procrastination

As college students, procrastination is no stranger to us. It is something that we struggle with almost every finals week during every semester (that and a whole lot of other things). Instead of sitting down to work on some critical essays or do some readings that are due in a couple of days, we waste our time doing things like stalking someone we once knew from high school on social media for hours, or watching too many funny cat videos on YouTube, or killing time with our friends until past midnight. But we know too well that procrastinating is something that is only rewarding for a while but is detrimental for us in the long run. So, why are we like this? Why do we procrastinate when we know it is such a bad thing?

Procrastination is a charming but a destructive monster. It is like that extra pack of candy that our much younger selves are willing to eat despite knowing how painful it will be on our next dentist appointment. Or it is like being broke but still buying that criminally expensive pair of shoes that we do not really need (and finding out later on that said shoes are not the most comfortable or the most functional, so they end up hidden super deep into the closet). When we procrastinate, we put in less effort to our work and we subject ourselves to so much unnecessary stress and pressure in trying to beat the deadline. This unhealthy habit may result to not making the grade to pass the course and when that happens, our chances of staying in school is significantly diminished.

I have resolved to kiss procrastination goodbye and to start listening to my better judgment, no longer giving in to the immediate charms of procrastination.  But overcoming this habit is not so easy as it sounds. Before I take this on, I have read several articles about procrastination to truly understand what it is and why we do it almost thoughtlessly.

I have realized how present it is in almost every aspect of my life, not just with school. There are dreams that I can start working on right now, or simple tasks that I can start tackling with (like organizing my files), or I can start being healthier, or start saving up money, but I always end up making excuses for each of these tasks and assuring myself that I can do them at a much later time.

Procrastination is causing us so much anxiety. We keep putting off something until the very last minute. And all the days leading up to the deadline, we are plagued with so much guilt and anxiety for not doing it. These pressing tasks are breathing down our necks but procrastination is there to distract us while incredibly at the same time, it is also causing us this misery.

There are several techniques to stop procrastinating: one of them is making an undesirable task as pleasurable as you can. For example, you need to prepare and study for an exam but you don’t look forward to it that much. Instead of locking yourself up in the library (that is if you are not too fond of your library), why not study someplace else where you feel the most relaxed and comfortable, like a favorite cafe or a quiet park. Or if you cannot do that and you are tied to your own desk, prepare your favorite coffee drink or put on some good, non-distracting music in the background – anything just to make the experience better than how you have initially imagined it to be.

Another strategy is having an immediate consequence for when you procrastinate. Often, negative consequences for procrastinating happens in the future and so your present self will not be too affected. Case in point: you have scheduled your whole afternoon to prepare for a school report due next week. However, you end up having a film marathon. Instead of saying that it is fine to miss work that afternoon as you still have ample time, prepare some sort of punishment like having your least favorite vegetable for dinner that same night. Just do not go extreme and put yourself in danger and make sure that the consequence is something that you cannot procrastinate with.

The next technique is decreasing the friction between you and the devices that enables you to procrastinate. If you are addicted to playing games on your phone to the point of neglecting your responsibilities, then perhaps it is time to uninstall those games. If you spend too much time on social media, then try to deactivate your accounts before starting a project (and only activate these once you have finished said project). The point is to make procrastination much harder for you to do and to access.

So far, these are the ways that I am thinking of trying to slowly overcome procrastination. College life is not just about studying and submitting the required coursework on time, it is also about meeting new people, socializing, learning about stuff beyond the lecture hall, and getting to know yourself better. This ugly habit of procrastinating should not get in the way of all that.