Rooting Out Procrastination

With exams just around the corner, procrastination is a daily struggle for many students. David Desai looks into why we procrastinate and whether we can change.[br]WITH the exams fast approaching, a procrastination epidemic is descending on our campus, rearing to eat away at student productivity. A recent study carried out in the UK discovered that 75% of students identify themselves as procrastinators. For many students reading this, the cycle of sitting down to study but being overcome by distraction is all too familiar. What exactly can be done about it?Firstly, it must be understood what procrastination actually is. Procrastination is the persistent avoidance of necessary tasks. It involves committing oneself to low-priority tasks instead of high-priority tasks. It invokes anxiety in the procrastinator. One may think it has gotten worse in our age of distraction and instant gratification, yet there are historical references to procrastination that date back over 3,000 years to ancient Egypt.Some may argue that procrastination is simply a part of the process of getting work done, it is just another step in the process. Some believe that so long as the work gets done, the procrastination itself is not really a problem. Indeed, many students claim that they do their best work under the pressure of a deadline. Cramming before an exam often boasts good results.
“The closer a student is to the temptation of fun, the more likely they are to indulge.”
A study carried out, however, by the Warwick Business School discovered that on average students that submitted their work over 24 hours before the deadline received better results that students that submitted the work on the day of the deadline.Nonetheless, that is not to say that procrastination has no benefits. Indeed many positive outcomes may be created by such simple acts as watching a few episodes of your favourite television show, or by hanging out with a friend for a couple of hours. These activities may be low-priority on our list of tasks, but they can produce positive outcomes by making us more culturally aware and more sociable.While these things may not seem vital when you’re chasing a deadline it is in fact certainly beneficial to connect with people and engage in forms of relaxation. However, it must be said that it is problematic when we are turning to these things as part of giving in to anxiety.So, why is it that procrastination is so prevalent among students? Why are students that are presumably content with their choice of course so reluctant to hit the books? Is it caused by a simplistic, widespread laziness?Well the answer is partly biological. The prefrontal cortex is the home of the will power of an individual, and, low and behold, it is still developing during a person’s early twenties. This renders students biologically predisposed to procrastinate, and the closer a student is to the temptation of fun, the more likely they are to indulge. So we can rid ourselves of some responsibility in this respect.
“Students are anxious about completing tasks in case even their best effort is not good enough.”
One look at the landscape of the life of a college student and it is easy to see how students are vulnerable to procrastination. Consider first the increasingly dominant role the internet has come to play in the lives of young people in recent years. Combine that with the instant access to friends, activities and Wi-Fi that a college campus provides, and you get the perfect storm for procrastination - where a short break from the library can easily turn into an hour wasted.However, the most sinister cause of procrastination is actually induced by a fear of failure and the threat of evaluation. Some students are anxious about completing tasks in case even their best effort is not good enough. By spending valuable study time watching television or tidying up their desk, students provide themselves with justifications for why they did not excel at the task. It allows them to tell themselves that it was not because they were not good enough, but because they did not apply themselves.So what can be done about procrastination? It certainly seems that the odds are stacked against us, yet it can be controlled. Firstly, becoming more rigid about one’s study habits may help. For example, strictly defining the place where we work as our workplace can help to alleviate temptation because it then becomes difficult to attempt to relax in that place.The same can work for becoming distracted on your laptop. Creating a separate profile on your laptop that is specifically designated for studying can also be effective. Particularly if it is loaded up with apps that help to block distracting websites, such as the social network obstructing ‘Anti-Social’. Finally, working within restricted time-frames can be beneficial. For example, before sitting down to work, the act of making a mental contract with yourself to work for 30 minutes uninterrupted can greatly boost productivity.So while it may seem that procrastination is a major part of student life, it doesn’t have to be.