Friday, October 19, 2012

Procrastination: Binging on Pleasure, Binging on Anxiety

According to University of Calgary Professor, Piers Steel, 95 percent of college students procrastinate on their coursework. I know, right, who are those other 5 percent of people?

I procrastinate. It’s 6 am and I just woke up to rewrite this blog post under a different topic than I first wrote it because I procrastinated after I didn’t like how the one I was supposed to write ended up. I do this all the time. I get deductions on essays like it’s no big deal and feel terrible about it constantly. I spend agonizing hours watching alarm clocks count down, watching myself wait to start assignments that are due in only a few hours.

This is the way I’ve phrased the question to myself so many times: “What is present-Jakub doing that’s messing up future-Jakub so bad?” I don’t think present-Jakub hates future-Jakub, though present-Jakub often hates past-Jakub. Present-Jakub’s just greedy, he wants all the movies, candy, video games, and books future-Jakub is going to enjoy and he wants them now. Present-Jakub wants to watch one more Bukowski interview before he starts his metaphysics paper. He wants a nap so future-Jakub can work more effectively.

I blame the internet for my temporal quandary.

Just the slightest impulse can bring a person from being well into mastering radiocarbon dating equations, to looking up how they found the age of the Shroud of Turin, to reading about how up to half the world is infected by brain parasites that control their behaviour (it’s spread by cats, just so you know).

Why would I even bother to continue memorizing equations after being faced with that fact, and the links to studies, and articles written about the lead expert in toxoplasmosis (that’s the name of the parasite that may currently be nesting in your brain, reader), a quirky Czech scientist who started off simply by being paranoid that parasites living in his brain were altering his behaviour.

Sorry what was I writing about again? I better get to the point because I’m almost out of time to hand this in.

I blame the internet because the most effective thing I can do to end my own procrastination is to disconnect from it. I’ll delete my Facebook account, and block myself from accessing addictive websites in arduous ways. I’ll go to my local public library with only my old dumbphone with basic internet connectivity, or leave it at home altogether and just grab all my research, references and notebooks in paper form and do the task by hand. The further I can get away from easy, comforting electronic stimuli, the better especially if it’s a tough assignment.

 Other tactics that I’ve used somewhat successfully are breaking  tasks up into small pieces, and checking them off after I finish them. I’ve also given myself small rewards (I’m a big fan of Big Turk and Bounty chocolate bars)  for certain checkpoints, whether it’s word count or time spent working. If I really need to get serious, sometimes I’ll set a timer that goes off every 20 minutes, work until the twenty minutes are up, write down in a log what I’ve done in those twenty minutes, take a five minute break with the reward, then start the whole process again. There are as many different tactics for overcoming procrastination, as there are procrastinators. There probably is a singular way to ‘cure’ procrastination, or I’m sure one of these methods will be absolutely perfect for me, but I’ll figure it out later.
Got any procrastination tips or stories? Share them with us in the comments section below.


  1. Delaying pleasure is important, but I also find that really flooding yourself with pleasure till you want no more can also help. E.g. the week before exam, I will take a day off just to completely spend on things I enjoy, things that have nothing to do with those exams, or things that just don't mean anything useful. Juxtaposing productivity against "wastefulness" has worked quite well for me.

  2. That sounds like a great tip, It's important to decompress instead of just driving yourself further and further into work-related anxiety. I also like to give myself enough time so that I can work for a few days, take a night off and go do something fun, and then be able to go back to whatever coursework I was working on with a fresh head.

    It's also apparently beneficial to forgive yourself for procrastinating, procrastinators, if you want to stop doing it.

  3. What helps me is the careful maintenance of a "working mood". That means I have to start working as soon as I get home; any slips into Reddit or other time-wasting sites means that that working mood evaporates and I'll likely get very little done that day.

    Working mood also means walking around like I have a chip on my shoulder and curling my lip at anyone who seems to be having fun.

  4. My friend gave me great advice, that incidentally also prepared him for transitioning into his work life after he graduated. He said that he treated his days like a work week, no matter what his class schedule was like. So he would start working at 8:30 studying and going to class until 5 (unless he had a late class which is okay) and then use his evenings and weekend for leisure time without feeling guilty for not studying. i mean you can study all you want but I think the point was, to set specific schedules for yourself so you have more structure to work with and less room for guilt when you don't do it.


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