Procrastination: What is it Good For?

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imageAs I’m sitting here, writing this piece on procrastination, I should be writing a piece of coursework on “the figure of the wanderer or outsider in 19th century literature”. Instead, I’m procrastinating.

It’s the one thing that stops me from achieving my full potential (a lie I tell myself daily), but no matter what I do, no matter how disciplined I think I am, I always end up doing anything but what I should be. Everybody does it though, at one time or another. Some people are better at it than others, and some people spend their time doing nothing but jumping from one attention-grabbing thing to another, never circling back to that essay they’re supposed to be writing. I know I do it frequently, but I always drag my mind back to the task at hand, and I never allow it to stop me from doing a task entirely. However, that doesn’t change the fact that I still do it.

And I know you do too, Mr/s. Reader.

Yeah you do, don’t give me that look.

Don’t think I don’t know about that really important thing you’re supposed to be doing right now. Yeah that’s right, THAT thing. But instead you keep putting it off to watch another episode of (insert generic TV show here), or to watch those hilarious clips of (insert famously funny animals and objects here), or to read another pointless blog post about (insert common obstacle in people’s lives here).

Procrastination

It’s obvious why we do it. We find more enjoyable activities to take up our time in order to avoid doing the one thing we should be, whether it’s an essay, revision, ringing the gas company, tidying the house etc. However, a couple of years back I decided to look into the subject (mainly because I was interested in the psychology of what makes us inclined to do it) and I read an interesting idea about why people tend to procrastinate more about tests and work than everyday things. The idea, basically, is that our subconscious says to itself-

“Hey, what if I just don’t try? That way, when I fail, on my intelligence can’t be blamed because I just didn’t try. So the reason for my failure will be my laziness, and not my intelligence”

I can really understand that- because pouring your heart and soul into a project and having it fail is not a great feeling. However, there’s obviously a paradox in that logic.

There’s no way you can succeed at something if you don’t try. By using that logic you’re being a defeatist. If you think that you’re guaranteed to fail, you end up asking yourself, why not do it on your own terms? Well, that’s fine I guess, but I personally think you should never accept defeat before it’s happened. There’s always a chance that you could win, but by procrastinating and blaming your laziness you’re throwing away any chance you have. There’s no harm in trying and failing, even if it’s one of the worst feelings you can have, because that’s how you learn in life. You’ll also have less regrets when you look back on your efforts, and everyone knows that regret really sucks.

When I look back at my school days and think about how little work I did for some of my exams and some of my coursework, I really do regret how lazy I became. Sure, there were plenty of other factors that resulted in me losing almost complete interest in a few areas of my school work, but I know that if I had tried more, I could’ve done so much better for myself. Then again, I’m happy where I am now, and so should I really regret the things I didn’t do? I think you should approach regret using the “forgive but never forget” philosophy. Forgive yourself for what you did and didn’t do, but never forget why those things did and didn’t happen (There you go, kids. You’re set for life now).

But before this becomes an article about my failings in life (which I’m sure you’re all really interested in…), I’ll quickly sum up my ramblings.

Basically, everyone procrastinates, so you should never beat yourself up about it too much. But if you begin to fall into the mindset of “If I don’t try that means my intelligence isn’t to blame”, just remember that if you don’t try you can’t win. As the old saying goes, “If you think you’re going to lose, you will”. So the next time you’re avoiding that essay or revision, or maybe you’re sitting at your desk at work and you ceaselessly find other things to do, just remember that you’re going to have to do it eventually, so it might as well be now.

But hey, what do I know?

-Lewis

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