Beating Procrastination: Why You Are Not So Smart

Today, teens face an enormous number of distractions when it comes to doing their schoolwork–most of them on the Internet. Whether the distraction is texting or Facebook, the outcome is the same–lots of stress and staying up late right before a deadline to try to finish an assignment.

The College Planning Center in Palladio says that this widespread problem is detrimental to students’ success in their futures. “Such habits get carried on from the teen years to adulthood, where failure to meet a deadline has far greater consequences,” said Wendy Pierce, a writing specialist at the center.

She has a point; procrastination does not only hurt in the present, but those habits also carry on into the future and become harder to break. So why do students do it?

Procrastination allows people to distract themselves from an immediate obligation or job, usually something that they don’t want to do.

Procrastinators take things that they are uncomfortable with and replace them with things more familiar. Some procrastinators will fall into a rut known as “catastrophic functioning,” where they will avoid responsibility until the last possible minute and finally end up relying on a do-or-die crisis to complete something.

Procrastinators put themselves through a lot of stress getting their work done and often feel the same way when pounding-out a last-minute assignment: “Usually tired, and stressed–but it feels good to get it done,” said senior Tanner McCorkle. But why not finish an assignment earlier to simply get it over with? “It’s not that easy,” said McCorkle.

Fortunately, there are ways to break out of this destructive habit. “It’s usually not such a great idea to try to end it abruptly,” said Pierce.

The behavior is similar to an addiction–persistent self-defeating behavior that is difficult to end. The first step, as always, is to acknowledge the fact that it is a problem. From there, things get much easier.

“Just make a list. A list of everything you have to do. Add realistic time elements to each assignment, and prioritize the list,” said Pierce.

Break things into smaller pieces. Tackling an entire project at one time is difficult for anyone to handle, so it is much more efficient to split the work into multiple fragments and take one step at a time.

“It’s very difficult to sustain concentration for long periods of time,” said Pierce. “Incorporating breaks into your schedule is very important. Give yourself sometime to do what you want to do, not what you have to do.”

Begin projects as early as possible. If you feel yourself beginning to get lazy, force yourself to keep working; when procrastinating, stress takes over as the primary motivator to do something. But eventually, if you motivate yourself to do things, this will not be the case. Eventually you will feel discomfort in not doing an assignment immediately, and this is how you should feel about your work.

Manage your time productively. Create a schedule for yourself that includes short periods of uninterrupted working time with multiple breaks in between. Every now and then, take a slightly longer break. This will reduce stress and keep your mind running more efficiently.

Lastly, remember to have some fun. You’re in high school, so make the best of your time while it counts.