Why do we procrastinate

Procrastination is when you know something is important… but have plenty of time to start it tomorrow. It’s when you tell yourself that homework can wait until later, it’s cramming last-minute study sessions on a Sunday night and it’s writing an opinion article about procrastination the day before it’s due. Procrastination is one of the greatest killers of productivity, yet it occurs constantly. When you’ve seen, heard and even experienced all of these obvious detriments to procrastination, it seems illogical for anyone to succumb to it. So why does it happen? Why are so many high school students knowingly and willingly wasting their precious time? As a student myself, I believe while procrastination is natural and difficult to break, people should still make an effort to increase their productivity.

Most people typically point to laziness first, and sometimes that is the case. Telling yourself that you’ll put off something to a later date gives you a false sense of accomplishment—you’re indirectly solving the problem because addressing the issue immediately causes a tension of doing something too stressful. You’ve probably also heard the myth that perfectionists typically procrastinate, but according to Psychology Today, they actually tend to procrastinate less. The task anxiety, or anxiety of procrastination, that is associated with perfectionists encourages them to start earlier. I may not be a perfectionist, but when I am aware that a project will take quite a lot of effort, I tend to finish much faster than if I were assigned something that I may have initially perceived as easy.

Contrarily, procrastinating does not necessarily make you lazy or irresponsible. As illogical as it may seem, procrastination is a natural reaction to the stress that schoolwork may induce. When we feel overwhelmed, we naturally produce a fight or flight response, both which culminate as forms of procrastination. Sometimes I consciously know that I have loads of things to do, but my body still refuses to move from the comfortable spot in my bed. This is because our bodies are actually wired to avoid unpleasant tasks such as homework.

Just because it’s a natural reaction, however, doesn’t mean it’s an excuse to embrace it. After all, getting a cold is your body’s natural reaction to invasive viruses, and we still try to suppress that reaction through medication. Similarly, we should still make an effort to surpass the counterintuitive effects of stress. But the worst part about procrastination is that once you start, it’s difficult to stop. Constantly, you’ll tell yourself that it’s the last time procrastinating only to fall into a vicious cycle of regret and stress. Our bodies are addicted to the dopamine we produce when we’re relaxed and happy, and schoolwork has rarely been perceived as a type of leisure.

In the end, it’s, literally, all in your mind, and you must possess a solid sense of self-control in order to break the habit. Despite the amount of willpower necessary to do such, you can always start small and build up a stunning work ethic through changing your daily work habits. Many think that doing things in huge chunks is productive, but most people end up stopping there and taking an even longer break. Instead, you should break up your tasks in 30-minute chunks with 15 minutes of break after every chunk. Additionally, almost every single non-procrastinator I know keeps a regular to-do list that they check off, and it’s one of the first things necessary when it comes to organizing your life. Finally, rather than perceive tasks as obligatory, try to change your mindset to voluntarily finish things. That way, you subconsciously become more committed and therefore more productive. As long as you’re making a conscious effort to stop, procrastination should be an easy foe to face. After all, this isn’t something you want to procrastinate on.

By Angela Cao, Longform editor

Photo by Austin Lam


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