Procrastination… I’ll do it later.

1:19am: I sit here at my computer, thinking about a topic for this article that I knew I had to write for tomorrow (today) morning. It’s due to be published in approximately 7 hours (you’re reading it now). I don’t really want to be writing it now, I’m pretty tired. My bed looks awfully comfy right now but I’ve got to do it so…

Ok, I’ve obviously chosen a topic. I chose a very topical topic for uni students right now, and one to which I can strongly relate this very instant: procrastination. As it is the end of semester, assignments need to be handed up and exams need to be studied for. This is sort-of why I’m writing this article so late. I’ve been working on a Spanish assignment that is due Friday and am getting nowhere with it, due to my extreme skill at browsing beard-growth time-lapse videos and fixing myself snacks. And yet, while I knew I would regret it now, I couldn’t stop doing it. And now I regret it. So what the hell! Argh!

This is what procrastination looks like, if you didn't already know.

This is what procrastination looks like, if you didn’t already know.

Procrastination: postponing the completion of a task to the point of feeling uncomfortable about one’s delay (Johnson & Bloom 1995).

1:30am: Thanks to my University credentials, I downloaded that article!

And the article is amazing! They say that procrastination was inversely related to Conscientiousness, meaning the more conscientious I am, the less I procrastinate (Really??? – [note 3 question-marks, indicating sarcasm]). On top of this, Neuroticism plays an important role too! (Is that ‘proof’ that people who get their work in early are annoying?) Deeper analysis then goes on to suggest that ‘lack of Self-Discipline and Impulsiveness accounted for most of the variance of procrastination scores.’ Yes, that would make sense. Speaking of impulsiveness…

1:37am

1:42am (sorry, I got a little distracted)

The guys who did this study are obviously not good procrastinators or they would seemingly already know all the information that they learnt. They should have just asked me. But wait, their results come from 292 undergraduate students just like me!

While it is not surprising to find that procrastination can stem from a dislike of the task at hand, I continuously surprise myself at how good I am at forgetting about that little bit of satisfaction that arises from not having to rush an assignment. Why can’t I just force myself to do it? Apparently, the difficulty of a task, or how capable you are at doing that task has nothing to do with procrastination. But! Those who are less capable at doing said task get more upset about procrastinating than their more-capable cronies.

2:12am: But not all is bad! (I am in two minds about including this part, as it might influence more procrastination around the world, but…) Procrastinators have a lower-level of stress and better general health early on in the semester, but this decreases as deadlines draw nearer. Increasing levels of stress and health problems began right away for nonprocrastinators. Therefore, procrastinators retain good health as long as the deadline is not near (hint: keep asking for deadlines).

2:19am

2:22am (sorry again.)

Unfortunately, that is where the benefits stop. Depression, vulnerable self-esteem and high levels of anxiety are related to procrastinators. They also generally get ‘considerably lower’ grades on assignments in comparison to non-procrastinators, but this does not mean that they are less intelligent! No! In fact, this has specifically been tested and no relation was found between intelligence and procrastination.

Best tip to stop procrastinating? Thusly: merely thinking about the task in more concrete, specific terms makes it feel like it should be completed sooner and thus reduces procrastination. Let’s see if it works:

*I must finish this sentence by writing letters on the screen using a keyboard so that I can go to bed…*

2:32am

P.S. I spent about 5 hours today, writing only a few hundred words for a uni assignment. I just wrote this 600 word article in a touch over an hour. Grrr.

About Tristan O'Brien

My passions are in environmental science and conservation, but scientific interests extend into other fields. At The Other Side of Science I work behind-the-scenes, but write when I feels creative! Read his wise words @TristanAvella

Drop your thoughts here, yo!