Isn’t it fascinating that we have coined a unique word for this apparently universal habit of postponing work? And to know this habit is an object of study amongst psychologists… it surely is reassuring to know I am not alone in that struggle.
I’m not sure what drives it, but I’m familiar with how it feels. It is a peculiar discomfort, a mix of carelessness with guilt, apathy with anxiety translating into an almost automatic impulse to engage with countless distractions.
By now, I know the drill. Every new assignment is a new opportunity to not procrastinate.
What I want is to distribute each of my tasks evenly throughout the available time before my work’s due, instead of waiting until the last day and pulling an overnight. And at the outset, it seems perfectly doable. I even make a to-do list with time estimations and everything!
But the first day of working arrives, and next thing you know, you’re spiraling down into the deepest corners of the Internet. You’re purposefully ignoring an acute sense of passing-time while it chases you closely from behind.
Procrastination is such a beast. Two days before the last deadlines, I was making online quizzes. I actively participated in the most trivial discussions that will ever take place in a WhatsApp group chat. I even attempted to learn Jamaican dance steps from a Russian YouTube channel.
I tried a myriad of things to overcome that nonsense: changing back and forth the setting of my study sessions, from the isolation of my room to the public library; I stopped answering calls; I changed the display on my phone to greyscale because I read an online article which said this could mitigate your addiction to it — it didn’t.
Some actual work did manage to find room in my busy schedule of losing time. But it felt more as if the work was a break from procrastination and not the other way around.
Finally, after what felt like an endless contest for the most absurd activity I could come up with before looking at the books, I had a 14-hour session of cramming, with no breaks whatsoever, and submitted my deliverable to blackboard 5 minutes before the deadline.
What sharing this struggle with my classmates has taught me is that everybody is a procrastinator in different degrees. Some will do it occasionally when the tasks get too dull. But some, like me, become prisoners in distraction-land. I’m sure the key to this prisoner cage we lock ourselves into is hiding somewhere within the convoluted neocortex of our brains.
But the brain is such a complex organ to examine, and for now, checking my Twitter feed sounds a bit more appealing.