“Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” This reads as if it is the headline of my own and many of my fellow students’ lives. Too often when we have a very important task to complete (like an essay or preparatory readings), we find some other less important tasks to do. Invariably, this means that we write our entire 5,000-word essay the night before we have to hand it in. This is usually in itself an amazing feat because for the last two months that we have been aware of this essay we haven’t even been able to even write the first introductory sentence! But, the results of this sort of behavior are all too obvious. Although we manage to complete our work, it is usually shoddy and a poor representation of our true abilities. Goodness, in Hong Kong there is even a special word for people like us: deadline fighters.
Well, enough is enough! It is time to put an end to procrastination and to start making the most of our potential. While I cannot pretend that I have the silver bullet for procrastination (I even procrastinated for a week before I wrote this article), I will now take a look at what procrastination is and how we can begin to address it.
What is Procrastination, really?
You may think the term “procrastination” is really simple and straightforward. I mean, it is obvious isn’t it? Procrastination is when you go on social media instead of doing your assignment that’s due next Friday, or check your emails for the fourth time today instead of doing your reading. However, not all procrastination is equal.
You see, not all people procrastinate for the same reasons. The PsychologyToday.com website explains that there are two types of procrastinators.
The first type of procrastinator finds less important tasks to do instead of the task that should be their priority because they are focused on instant gratification instead of long-term reward; that is, it is easier and therefore more pleasurable to check your emails than to research the constitutional dispensation of Venezuela, so we’d much rather check our emails. The key to this type of procrastination is irrationality: the procrastinator knows the consequences of not completing the assignment, but despite this will spend five hours on social media.
The second type of procrastinator is a perfectionist. This form of procrastinator simply puts off doing important tasks because they are afraid of not being able to complete the project to the very high standard they have set. This fear then inhibits them from doing any of the required work; they leave it until the last minute when the fear of not being perfect is overcome by fear of the consequences of not doing the important task at all.
So the question remains, how can I stop spending all my useful time on useless things?
How can I stop going on social media instead of working?
In an article on PsychologyToday.com entitled “Problem with Procrastination? Try This: Do Nothing,” Gretchin Ruben gives what in my opinion is the most effective way of combatting procrastination. As procrastination is not doing nothing instead of doing the important task, but rather doing less important tasks instead of the important task, Ruben suggests a zero-sum game as a solution: say to yourself, “I have two hours in which I will work on my math assignment or do nothing.” How does this work? Well, in the example I just gave it would involve going to the library for two hours to either work on a math assignment or stare at the wall waiting for the time to pass. Inevitably you will find yourself working on your assignment to while away the time.
Set realistic goals instead of erecting mountains of seemingly insurmountable height. What do I mean by this? Don’t say, “I will complete my math assignment by 31 August.” Instead say, “On 15 August I will complete sections 1 and 2 of my assignment; I will complete section 3 on the 20th, and I will check all of my answers on the 24th.” This is a simple approach that breaks a large task down into much more manageable and bite size portions, so that you aren’t frightened or intimidated by the task.
Relax! Stop treating work like work and instead remember why you started studying what you’re studying in the first place. If you remember why you started studying accountancy, then the task you are approaching will become meaningful to you and won’t feel like dreadful and unfortunate work.
Go ahead and give procrastination the kick it deserves. Take control of your studies once again!