PROcrastination: A Fresh Take on an Old Concept

Picture of By Andrada Pop

By Andrada Pop

Today we’ll talk about procrastination… although I would rather leave it for tomorrow (cue laugh track). Get ready for the pun-filled guilt-inducing ride of your life that you shouldn’t put off for tomorrow.

Procrastination – No Joking Matter

While we might laugh at a self-deprecating joke about someone’s lack of time management skills and secretly share their shame, procrastination is far from being just a punchline delivered coolly. 

A short google search with the term procrastination would show you that not only is this a very popular blog writing topic (You see the irony? I do), but it is a cause of concern for many people. Research shows that one in five people is a chronic procrastinator and the remaining four have procrastinated at least once in their life.

If it’s so wide-spread, what’s the problem then? Well, psychologists define procrastination as a ‘self-regulatory failure’ in which people postpone doing an important task in favour of doing anything else, and I mean ANYTHING. As Piers Steel, a management professor at the University of Calgary, puts it: ‘Some people procrastinate cleaning. Some people procrastinate by cleaning’. There is no limit to one’s procrastination, and I am no exception to that rule.

Can you guess what I did before I started writing this article? I did my finances, which is something I never do, unless there’s another, more urgent task that needs to be done instead. When that is the case, I find no greater joy than to minutely stare at my every expense and come up with creative ways to save money. But I digress.

Fear of failure, lack of interest in the task, decision paralysis, or bad moods are just a few potential causes for your procrastination.

Procrastination has everything to do with time management, yes, but it also has a lot to do with guilt. Fear of failure, lack of interest in the task, decision paralysis, or bad moods are just a few potential causes for your procrastination. While the causes might shift and the proportions of the effects on your life could vary, some things about procrastination remain the same. There is some sort of mutual understanding between us procrastinators that unites us in our struggle. I mean we do have those monthly ‘procrastinators anonymous’ meetings, but they keep getting postponed for some reason.

Here’s a scenario to help you figure out if you truly are a procrastinator. I bet that if you ever procrastinated on a five-page paper, and only started writing it on the day of the deadline you must have gone through the classic 5 stages of the deadline chills.

1. Uneducated hopefulness.

At this stage, you have just seated yourself before the white screen, with a cup of your preferred poison by your side and the smug confidence that you will finish in time. Hell, you’ll even have a good 30 minutes to review everything and submit the paper without breaking a sweat.

2. Inspiration strike.

You’ve been working on the paper for a while now and in the depths of your mind a bright light flickers. You’ve just got a brilliant idea. This wouldn’t have happened if you were to start a week ago, right? Starting so close to the deadline was the best decision you’ve ever made.

3. Anxious toiling.

This is the part when most of the work gets done. The deadline is inching closer and closer and suddenly your standards for what a clever sentence should look like are slipping away. Your cup is half empty and you think you might finish in time. Maybe.

4. Guilty reminiscing.

This is the phase when you mentally browse through all those times you could have worked on this paper but procrastinated. All the freedom you had before sitting down to work has transformed into guilt. The cup is empty, your throat dry, and despair is seeping in.

5. Unobliterated self-hatred.

Questioning your entire existence and self-value based on this incident and swearing up and down that you will NEVER ever do this again. Words fly out of your keyboard as the countdown approaches 00:00. You might have finished your task (or not), but the guilt will stay with you for a while.

Where’s the PRO in Procrastination?

Now that I’ve made you feel bad about yourselves and outed myself for my lack of self-control, I might as well share some good news with you. There is a cure for procrastination. Not a vaccine, a psychedelic, or a partial lobotomy, but a strong drug nonetheless – forgiveness. 

Psychology professor Dr. Michael Wohl conducted a study in which students from Carleton University were given a survey measuring their procrastination and self-forgiveness after each of their mid-term exams. The results show that the students who forgave themselves for procrastinating achieved better marks in the second mid-term regardless of how much they had procrastinated originally. 

This might not sound like a miracle cure because it’s not. You can’t simply rip the procrastination out of someone. No video on YouTube, no motivational TedTalker, and no book claiming to heal procrastination can deliver on that promise. The progress is painfully slow and it’s all in your hands. All you need to do is accept the fact that you are human and while you may have lapses in judgement you also have the strength to steer your life on a better course.


Cover: Karim MANJRA

Edited by: Sophie Kulla

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