Procrastination – Don’t Let It Eat You Up (Munch!)

If you love to procrastinate then these are four words you will be very familiar with:

‘I’ll Do It Tomorrow’

While it’s true these four words may actually comfort you as you say them to yourself – knowing full well that a critical assignment date draws closer and closer or your bedroom becomes more and more messy or you have precious little time left to study for that exam – they also create a major problem. A major problem that could warp into a major meltdown! And major meltdowns are never pretty. They normally end in us slumping to the ground in agony screeching like the wicked witch from the Wizard of Oz, ‘what a world, what a world, what a world’ or in the case of the scarecrow, ‘If I only had a brain!’

But Wait, I Do Have A Brain…Me Thinks

The good news is you probably do have a brain after all! What a relief. The big problem is, however, that while those four little words (in case you forgot already the words are ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’) may comfort you and give you a sense of relief that everything be will be OK or a hope about what tomorrow may bring, those four words are also the bane of your entire existence! They torture you. They tease you. They make you think that when you wake up you will be super-motivated and pumped to tackle a task that yesterday seemed impossible. But not today! Today (being tomorrow) you know all the answers and have all the confidence in the world, and besides, all the obstacles that stopped you from starting the task yesterday are now gone right? Right? RIGHT? Wrong. Nothing has changed! Everything is the same. Except that today is the day! Things are going to happen! Angels are going to fly! The earth is going to shake! OK, well maybe not, but you are going to do some work you have been putting off anyway.

Tomorrow Finally Arrives

So the big day has arrived. Tomorrow has finally come. Naturally, you sleep in (because you don’t want to try to get started tired!), but then you’re really hungry and you’ve heard people think best after a big breakfast so you cook up a feast, but then Dr Help Me is on TV and well maybe you’ll get started after that because after all, watching others struggle with their weird problems makes you feel better about yourself doesn’t it? Dr Help Me ends and you think ‘right, time to get to it!’

So you go and turn on your computer with best intentions, but maybe you’ll just check in with your Facebook and Twitter accounts to see what’s going on, just for 5 minutes (maximum!) before you start work. It’s good that you set a time limit right? Yeah, 5 minutes, that’s not long after all! So, after two hours chatting with friends, checking up on what the boy/girl you like has been doing and checking out all their Facebook pics and throwing a few sheep at people, you think ‘now it’s go time baby!’ But then you realize it’s lunch time! So you cook up another feast. After lunch, you’re thinking maybe a little nap is in order seeing as though you don’t want to work tired! Heaps of time left in the day anyway. So you have a nap. After a nap you realize maybe you should do a little exercise and get the health and well-being part of your day out the way, so you play bowling on Wii for a while. By the time you’ve finished that it’s almost time for [insert TV show with annoying laugh track here] so you may as well just rest until then and get started after that…

Before you know it it’s 10.30pm and you’re wondering ‘What the Harry Houdini? Where did the time go?

Does any of this sound familiar? It should. Because it’s your freaking life! So why is this happening to you? Why oh why! What a world, what a…wait a minute, we already did that bit!

This Is Your Life

Well, first of all, stop being a victim because you are making choices all the time and you are accountable for those choices. So if you choose to watch Dr Help Me, then accept that you have just lost an hour of time that you can’t get back. It’s gone. Forever. The good news is that you can make a better choice next time. Alright! Make a better choice next time…wooo…

But will you?

Secondly, tomorrow doesn’t mean literally ‘tomorrow’, it really means ‘never’. But in the now, nothing can stop you ‘tomorrow’, because ‘tomorrow’ is the first day of the rest of your life, tomorrow you can do anything! Tomorrow you are committed, strong and determined and the world is a different place, a place where you work so hard and fast that you complete everything in mere minutes let alone hours (well in your mind anyway). But when that doesn’t happen you think ‘Yes, but tomorrow it will happen! Tomorrow I will be strong; tomorrow I will be…’ [insert delusional ideas here]

See The Problem?

Tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes and you just keep thinking…well maybe tomorrow! One day makes no difference anyway! Each day you face the same dilemma and each day you make a decision that tomorrow is the best option.

The ‘truth’ in all of this is simply that postponing anything for a day or two isn’t really that big of a deal at all…so don’t fret if that’s all you do in this situation. You’re actually doing quite well (it would be better if there was no delay at all though!) The big problem is when one day becomes two days, two days becomes four days, four days becomes a week, one week becomes a fortnight, a fortnight becomes a month…and so on. This trend can literally last forever. Unless of course your exam is today and you didn’t study! Then procrastination isn’t your issue anymore anyway, your bleak future after failing is! Also figuring out who to blame will be another thing you will need to work out.

You Are Not Alone

The good news is that when it comes to procrastinating you are not alone. One of the biggest reasons people do not achieve their goals (and then feel unhappy about it) is because they are chronic procrastinators. It has been reported that 94% of people are putting something off and it is making them feel unhappy…94%!* If you’re a procrastinator you are truly not alone. In fact, you’re totally normal! However the good news ends there. Students that procrastinate are more likely to achieve lower subject grades, lower exam scores and lower overall grades. Worse still, procrastination is strongly linked to poor health and (what the fudge!!) less money. That’s right, procrastinators have less money. Amazing huh? But we’re not trying to make you feel bad because you’re poor. We’re just trying to help you early in your life by making you aware of it.

Lies, Darn Lies

Procrastinators tend to tell themselves little while lies like ‘I am a perfectionist so if I’m going to do something I’m going to do it right…or…I’m almost ready to get started…or…I’m working on it…or…I need more information first…or…I’ll get started tomorrow when I’m refreshed…or…I have a few things to do first…or…I work better under pressure (one of our personal favorites!)…or…I just need more gosh darn time!…’

We’re not here to tell you that these are necessarily ‘complete untruths’ but if these phrases are familiar to you then you might just be a serial procrastinator. You probably tend to spend a lot of time convincing yourself of these lies (because those around you are bored of your excuses at this point anyway) and ultimately you will most likely believe them to be totally true. The major problem with this approach is that it will ultimately bring no long-term satisfaction to you (but hey who cares about that? In the short-term I won’t have to do anything…yeeehaaaa!) If you don’t complete the tasks you need to complete then the ‘tasks list’ gets longer and longer and longer. And you feel more and more and more unhappy about it. Sound familiar?

So, if you do tell yourself these things, stop it RIGHT NOW! Seriously…stop it. No. Stop it. That’s naughty. Bad dog. You are just lying to yourself anyway. So stop the lies. Accept the truth. In the words of Rob Schneider in every Adam Sandler movie ever made, ‘You can do it!’

Why Can’t I Just STOP?

Believe it or not procrastination has a purpose and creates something that people actually enjoy (for reasons way too deep to discuss today)…DRAMA! It creates panic. It creates a sense of urgency. It creates excitement and adventure. Someone asked me to do something but I’m not doing it, what will happen to me? O-M-G! Let’s find out after this commercial break…Ever felt the rush of an assignment due the next day and you haven’t started yet? It may not be a good rush, but it’s still a rush and that’s why people do it. They then spring into action, usually with a heavy degree of dread and stress about the task ahead. But nonetheless, what was once a boring task has now taken on a challenging context. Their previously boring life now has a serious edge! This is the ultimate test and people like to test themselves – and pass (although most just fail and look a fool). In a procrastinator’s mind, this rush allows you to perform to an exceptionally high standard and achieve things normal circumstances won’t allow. However, it’s the testing and failing that is the seriously dangerous part of this practice.

Get Ahead Of The Game

Of course, on objective reflection, this is a horrible approach to anything in life, particularly your studies. Worse still, you will get absolutely hammered if you try to continue this behavior after High School because University and College (and life in general) takes no prisoners when it comes to last minute work. Do it at your own risk – you will (no doubt about it) pay the price. Believe me, we know. We’ve been there. Learn from us.

Get Out Of Your Own Way

First of all, don’t beat yourself up, you’re human after all. We’re flawed. That’s life. If we weren’t you wouldn’t be reading this. Everything will be OK! We promise. In fact, most people are just like you – so you are actually quite ‘normal’ (if there is such a thing). So drop any guilt you may feel about it right now because it really won’t help you – it will only make you feel sorry for yourself. And we hate it when people feel sorry for themselves!

Instead, just take a moment and think about it. Think about what the payoff is for you. Think about what it is that reinforces why you should procrastinate. There has to be a payoff. No-one does anything they don’t want to do without a payoff being involved. So what’s yours? Is it because you don’t like being told what to do? It is because you want to be in control – even if that means failing? Is it because you fear what your friends or family will think? Is it because you think it will be too hard? Is it because you don’t know where to start and are hoping someone will help you? What is making you believe procrastinating is a desirable action? Think hard here. What could it be?

Good luck!