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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The Chosen Rosen: Procrastination temptation

Published: March 4, 2011
Section: Opinions

Like every article I write, the process is a long one. I usually sit down, flip open my laptop and open a Microsoft Word document. I stare at the blank document for about a minute, waiting for ideas to come to me. When they don’t, I casually log onto my Facebook as I browse through the pictures and skim through the statuses on my home page, occasionally clicking on ones that interest me. I then explore the links that are posted and watch the hilarious YouTube videos that parody everyone and everything. And before you can say: “Charlie Bit My Finger,” two hours have gone by and my stomach is growling. I scurry over to Usdan and eat with my friends. My friend asks me what my plans are for the night and, as I open my mouth to respond that I have nothing to do, my brain reminds me that I have a column to write. I hurry back to a disapproving laptop and force myself to start typing (eventually).

As you can see, you’re not the only one that struggles with procrastination. In fact, I find it hard to believe that there is anyone out there who doesn’t. As human beings, we’re naturally prone to distraction. We can’t just ignore everything that is going on around us, no matter how loudly our music is blaring. Additionally, as college students, we need to balance our classes, clubs, organizations and social lives. And so, to sit down and write a paper when you’re completely overwhelmed is no easy task. Part of the problem is that we don’t schedule ourselves enough time to relax. Many Type A Brandeisians (like myself) plan out their entire schedules for the day—where they’re going, who they’re meeting, what work they’re doing—and don’t leave themselves any time to go to the bathroom or laugh. And so our overworked brains react through procrastination.

Procrastination is our mind’s cry for diversion. We get tired of the same dense textbook readings and the same monotonous essays. Taking a breather to play basketball with friends or to watch a comical video is necessary to keep us sane. Waking up every day to do work is hardly a healthy or happy life. And so, in many cases, procrastination is preferable to doing work. But the problem is, many of us procrastinate so much we don’t know how to do work anymore.

Most of the things we procrastinate are work-related. After all, how many of us actually want to do the work we are assigned? And, as a result, we put it off. We push off reading assignments until we forget about them. We push off papers until the night before they are due (or the morning before). We justify this by saying we work well under pressure—and some of us do—but, the truth is, we cannot escape the web of procrastination that we are tangled in.

At the root of this is repulsion; we won’t procrastinate eating chocolates or watching a movie, but we’ll procrastinate reading a memoir for a class or writing a lens essay. Procrastination also comes from a desire to be perfect. The reason it always takes excellent writers so long to start writing is because they expect so much of themselves; they expect themselves to write Pulitzer Prize-winning novels every time out and the result is a lot of pressure and a lack of success.

Senior year of high school was the worst for me—“Senioritis” took hold, and I was never really cured. Prior to senior year, I had never missed a homework assignment in my life—I had a rock-solid work ethic. But after getting into college, I—like every high school senior that ever existed—stopped trying and stopped caring. I preferred to go to sleep early and not do any work (which for me is unprecedented), rather than waste time on a calculus problem that would have no weight on my future. But it turns out it did, because the lethargic attitude that I had my senior year in high school affects me today.

Currently, I employ many different strategies to procrastinate. One of them is the Half-Hourly Procrastination Technique. It involves looking at the clock, and telling yourself that you will start your work at the nearest half-hour. If it’s 9:46, you give yourself until 10. If it’s 9:13, you give yourself until 9:30. But the problem with this is that you end up repeating it every hour and never actually get anything done.

That is just one of many strategies that we use to procrastinate. Luckily, there are some visible symptoms of procrastination, so you can know if you procrastinate regularly (you do). If you have any of the following symptoms, don’t be alarmed, consider yourself normal:

Symptoms of procrastination:

1. Sitting on the bench in the bathroom counting the ceiling tiles

2. Playing hide and go seek with friends in your hall

3. Text-messaging everyone you’ve ever met in your life

4. Spending any amount of time on Facebook

5. Closing your eyes and day-dreaming

6. Running up and down the Rabb steps as fast as you can

7. Finding a random person and making it your mission to get to know everything about them

8. Calling home and asking to talk to your pets

9. Having snow (or ice) ball fights with your friends

10. Sitting down on the floor and trying to get up without using your arms (it’s physically impossible)

11. Going to the library with anyone (you can talk to the other person to procrastinate) …

12. … Talking to yourself

13. Compulsively checking your e-mail every five minutes and refreshing the page if nothing comes up

14. Pondering life’s unanswerable questions

15. Playing with your food

16. Thinking about what every person in your life is doing at that exact moment

17. Making raspberry sounds with your tongue

18. Doing your friend’s homework (oddly we’re willing to do other people’s work but not our own …)

19. Watching “Family Guy” clips on Hulu

20. Making nicknames for celebrity couples

21. Causing a massive food fight (but since it’s Brandeis, nobody will join in)

22. Organizing your desk or cleaning your room

23. Playing Pacman … or Tetris … or Snake … any game online, really

24. Changing your desktop background

25. Going through your roommate’s things

26. Listening to Foamy the Squirrel’s rants (if you haven’t heard of him, look him up!)

27. Doodling in your notebook

28. Planning your schedule for next semester

29. Exploring every level of the library

30. Making a drum beat with your hands

31. Sporcle—need I say more?

32. Holding your breath for as long as possible, just for fun

33. Looking through all the clothes in your drawers and ordering them in order from worn most often to least often

34. Asking other people for ways to procrastinate

35. Google-searching everything that comes through your mind

36. Bouncing a ball against a wall

37. Solving a Rubix cube

38. Knocking on the doors of everyone in your hall to say “hi”

39. If in the library, picking a book at random and reading it cover-to-cover

40. Start an argument about why the Earth is flat

(If you’d like, you can try to do everything on this list for fun. Or procrastinate doing these things until later …)

Unfortunately there is no doctor for procrastination. And there’s no immediate cure. But there are things you can do to cope. You can try changing your work habits; attempt to do your work in a distraction-free environment (not your room). You can take half-hour breaks every two hours to give yourself a breather. You can study with lots of snacks.

But when it comes down to it, you just need to do get the work done. And it’s better to it sooner rather than later. After all, why put off until tomorrow what you can do … in an hour …