The Seemingly Unbreakable Pattern of Procrastination

By Lisi Burciaga and Karen Rosenberg, Staff Writers

   Tick-tock, tick-tock is all that can be heard as the clock strikes 2 A.M. The house is dark except for one dimly-lit room. Textbooks barricade the doorway, papers scatter awry, and a lone soul types rapidly as the dawn approaches.

   Procrastination, which is putting off something that needs to be done, has been deemed as one of the main causes of stress for students, according to Psychology Today, a leading psychology journal.

   A “Student Psyche Report” by StudyMode, an edtech company, concluded that 87 percent of students procrastinate, making it a widespread issue.

   When students return home after a long day of school, they do not want to devote their dwindling time and energy to more school work. As a result, homework and studying become a distant priority and the pattern of procrastination kicks in. For some, postponing responsibilities becomes an unstoppable cycle.

   “I’ve always been a really big procrastinator until this year. I’m proud to say that I have kind of stopped. But that’s only because I started fresh and told myself that I would not procrastinate this year,” sophomore Clara Finch said. “A lot of people are struggling with procrastination because they’ve fallen into the same cycles as they did last year.”

   According to Acalanes Guidance Counselor Susan Martin, the temptations of procrastination have evolved.

   “The ways in which people procrastinate and the options that they have to procrastinate are increasing with the advent of technology,” Martin said.

   Many students agree with Martin’s claim that technology plays a prominent role in modern procrastination.

   The Challenge Success Survey, administered in 2015 to Acalanes students, revealed the distractions when doing homework. 44 percent of Acalanes students admitted to texting friends, 30 percent admitted they watched TV, Netflix or YouTube, and 29 percent said they used various social media platforms, all while trying to do homework.

   “With the upgrades [in technology], people often have access to things that they can waste time on instead of being productive,” sophomore Unubold Munkhbold said.

   Countless means of technology have provided society with a vast and tempting world of distractions, with which students use to procrastinate.

   While student procrastination is quite clear, staff members are also guilty of procrastinating.

   “I used to just sit and watch TV. Now I sit and watch TV, and I have an iPad on my lap, and my phone is there as well, so I’m texting while I’m watching TV while also browsing websites,” Martin said. “I’m not just doing one thing to procrastinate anymore; I’m multi-tasking procrastinating. And if I’m doing that, I know students are doing it.”

   Evidently, while procrastination is often put off as mere laziness, it should be addressed as a prominent issue in society. 

   “I do not like the term laziness. I do not think that’s fair at all,” psychologist Brian Clark, who counsels in the Lafayette community, said.

   According to Clark, there is a significant correlation between procrastination and our bodies’ executive functions, which control thinking and planning, impulsivity, self-monitoring, organizational skills, time management, and more.

   “We find that procrastination affects all of the executive functions,” Clark said. “For instance, if you are low on self-motivation, which is an executive function, you’ll say ‘I’m going to play video games until 9 P.M., and that’ll give me an hour to do the paper before 10 P.M., and I’ll still get plenty of sleep.’ So you can see how procrastination will play into those executive functions.”

   A secondary source of procrastination has to do with perfectionism and fear of failure.

   “People become convinced that they have to put out a perfect product, and that becomes very hard to follow through with, so people end up pushing it off because they’re asking an awful lot of themselves,” Clark said. “The goals are set pretty high for the schools in this area. People put a lot of pressure on themselves and it becomes very difficult to achieve.”

   While, for some, procrastination can have negative consequences, it serves as a motivator for others. Some, like Martin, believe that they produce some of their best work while under extreme pressure of impending deadlines.

   “For me, I work best when I’m under pressure, so I’ve almost embraced procrastination as a lifestyle. Like ‘I know I’ll write a great letter of recommendation for them the night before it’s due,’” Martin said. 

   While combating procrastination may not be high on Martin’s priorities, procrastination is a habit that many wish to break. In Clark’s office, he address procrastination by first identifying if the issue is stemming from anxiety or the executive function deficit.

   “If [the issue] is anxiety, then we are working with reducing the anxiety and making it known that it’s okay to do things less than perfect,” Clark said. “If we are talking about executive function deficits, we need to find other ways to scaffold, or in other words, ways to support issues with procrastination.”

   Clark also suggests hiring a private tutor to keep you on track, or studying in a group rather than alone, to deal with a case of executive function deficiency-related procrastination.

   Martin also suggests measures that can be taken to ensure that bad habits are broken.

   “In any situation where you’re trying to break down a habit and build up another habit, start small. Set up some sort of immediate reward system for yourself, and always make small, achievable goals,” Martin said. “If you’re going to really change your habits and yourself, it needs to be done in small increments over a long period of time.”

   Like Martin, many students believe setting time aside is one of the best ways to defeat procrastination.

   “I recommend setting a time to do whatever project or work you are supposed to do. Make sure it is a fixed amount of time that you can’t extend without missing something you want to do. That way you’ll have to force yourself to do it and do it efficiently to get it done,” senior Peter Candell said.

   Meanwhile, senior John Hoffman addresses procrastination head on. 

   “You combat that urge to relax and push off homework by attacking it point blank, and just getting it done. Then you can take a much needed break for the rest of the night,” Hoffman said.

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