Procrastination: The ultimate form of self-sabotage

Sarah Zehnder, Lifestyles Editor

   Summer break is two and a half months long. Summer assignments, although they require work and diligence, are very achievable to complete in that time frame. However, students still find themselves putting off the impending assignments as the new school year grows closer. Many students wait until right before school to do their assignments. But why? Why not finish the assignments at the beginning of summer and have the rest of summer to relax and not think about school work? The answer is procrastination.

   Especially at Trinity, assignments can pile up quickly, and brushing aside or putting off work can be damaging considering Trinity’s academic vigor.

   “A lot of them [students] are over-scheduled, overbooked, they are not getting home until late, they are exhausted, and it creates this apathetic approach because you are tired,” Fine Arts and Psychology teacher Donna Walker said.

   In a 2000 study by Pychyl, Lee, Thibodeau and Blunt, students reported that they “spend about one-third of their daily activities procrastinating.” Typical activities, and those reported in the study, included going on social media, watching TV, napping. 

   Trinity students share a similar statistic. In a poll of 216 Upper Schoolers, 63.4% reported that they go on social media or watch TV while procrastinating.

   Reasons for and types of procrastination can take many forms. 

   “Some people procrastinate because they have magical thinking that the task will just eventually go away,” Walker said.

   Although this fantasized reality is an adequate, temporary distraction, it is exactly that: temporary. The workload becomes heavier and heavier as deadlines get closer. Although this is not a productive use of anyone’s time, this kind of procrastination is extremely common.

   On the other hand, many find themselves masking their procrastination by completing different, although productive tasks. 9.3% of 216 upper schoolers reported that they complete productive tasks, like cleaning their room or running errands, while they are procrastinating on school work. While 22.2% say they procrastinate by pursuing a hobby like reading or art.

   Whichever way procrastination presents itself, researchers agree that the majority of procrastinators do so as a form of self-sabotage. If a student wastes their time procrastinating and the assignment grade or comprehension of the material is poor, they have an excuse. The students can claim that they ran out of time and that they are actually capable of much more.

   In an article by the Association for Psychological Science Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at Depaul University said,

   “The chronic procrastinator, the person who does this as a lifestyle, would rather have other people think that they lack effort than lacking ability,” Ferrari said. “It’s a maladaptive lifestyle.”

   Other perspectives claim that procrastination is due to the mismanagement of emotions. Working on a stressful or time-consuming assignment yields an emotional response which could take the form of sadness, anger, anxiety etc. These emotions can cloud practical judgment and decision-making.

   “At the core of it, everybody procrastinates for different reasons and if you can identify why you procrastinate, you can solve your procrastination problem,” Walker said.

   An important differentiation to make is that there is a difference between occasionally procrastinating and being a procrastinator.

   “It really has nothing to do with time-management,” Ferrari said. “As I tell people, to tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.”

   On the surface, the practice of procrastination and time management is something that can be taught and be approved upon. However, procrastination can also be a symptom of larger emotional issues and may require a deeper-dive to solve other problems.

   Chronic procrastination has been linked to conditions such as depression, ADHD, OCD, and others. 

   In a depressed state, it can be challenging to be productive, and putting off tasks is common. Those who suffer from depression might feel like they are frozen or unable to complete necessary tasks.

   For students with underlying or undiagnosed learning disabilities, a majority of the time, Walker says, it is difficult for teachers to identify actual issues with the students’ study behaviors.

   “To a teacher, the end result is the same: did not complete the assignment, or it’s clear that it was done in a hurry.” Walker said. “Did the student put in enough effort? Or is this because they actually struggle with staying focused or on task and eventually completing the assignment.”

   Although it can be difficult, learning to overcome procrastination is a crucial skill for success in school and in life.