Stop Putting it Off


By Michele Bacigalupo

Photo courtesy of Rennett Stowe.

Speaking the word “procrastinate” out loud typically declares a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once the idea is stated, it’s more likely to happen. The option of putting things off a tad bit longer begins to run through your mind.

The truth is that procrastination is a habit that people are capable of overcoming. Almost all procrastinators–95 percent–who admit their lazy tendencies wish they could reduce their reliance on the habit.

In college, procrastination is a disease that afflicts student assignments like a relentless case of mono. When you’re a college student, your life at school is a microcosm with its own set of rules and habits. Especially when you live in a dorm or off-campus with friends, you’re influenced by the behavior of the people who surround you. Accompanying your academic education, you will also learn the myriad of ways of how to waste your time wisely. You will discover a thousand ways to have fun when you’re supposed to be studying.

The college environment is full of opportunities for distraction. There’s the comfort of talking to people for hours in the dining hall, exploring the attractions (or mediocrity) of the city you’re in, or drinking beers at strange times during the day. In fact, students who procrastinate are found to drink more heavily than those who complete their work ahead of time.

At college, people are faced with implicit peer pressure to fill free time with social activities. Work often gets pushed to the side, and students find themselves dwindling time away.

The bad habit of putting off work doesn’t disappear when students leave college and enter the real world. Adults are guilty of procrastinating as well, oftentimes in the workplace. According to one survey, the average employee devotes an hour and 20 minutes each day to delaying work. During this time, the individual will opt to engage in personal activities instead.

The diehard procrastinators of the world will argue that putting tasks off until the 11th hour can be handled in an efficient manner. Psychology experts estimate 25 percent of adults are chronic procrastinators, delaying many aspects of their lives until the absolute last minute.

While some procrastinators believe they perform better under pressure, studies show that this is rarely true. Leaving work to the last minute is shown to produce low grades and performance levels, as well as cause a spike in stress. Ingrained with the notion that everything can wait, procrastinators are more likely to exercise less, sleep less, delay doctor appointments, and therefore become sick more often than non-procrastinators.

Procrastinating is hardly a pleasant behavior to endure. The repercussions cause increased rates of anxiety and anguish, and worst of all, the habit is a slow, self-inflicted torture. Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation, found that the tendency to procrastinate is a result of poor self-control. Impulsivity is also linked with low levels of self-control. Steel compiled research from more than 200 studies, and repeatedly found that the more impulsive a person is, the more excessive he is as a procrastinator.

Researchers also discovered that the tendency to rely on procrastination may be linked to genetics. Humans possess low levels of willpower. People only possess the willpower to motivate themselves to achieve three to four things per day. The rest of what we do each day is accomplished by way of habit. We don’t need to devote much mental energy when we’re simply going about our routines.

In order to enable willpower to accomplish a task, two parts of the brain must work together effectively. The brain’s prefrontal cortex, which controls planning and problem solving, and the limbic system, which desires immediate gratification, must cooperate before any progress on the task can be realized.

While at college, a student leads a somewhat sheltered existence and therefore can escape the consequences of procrastination more easily than someone living in the real world. Procrastination is an epidemic for students and some professors have even reluctantly come to tolerate it. Although many people uphold their lazy habits in their adult lives, it’s not a characteristic that they should brag about.

Procrastination is a habit, and once it’s broken, a person’s happiness, health, and quality of life should improve immensely. Plus, without procrastination, think of all the extra time you’ll have on your hands. You could free yourself to do more activities of your choice without any unnecessary panic looming on the horizon.