Procrastination: The Effect On Students

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The best time to start was yesterday. According to the American Physiological Association, a survey done by psychologist Piers Steel shows that 80 to 95 percent of college students postpone their course work (Novotney). I am part of that percentage even though I was not surveyed, and I know this because I have been experiencing procrastination now more than ever. 2020 face-to-face classes were changed into online classes due to COVID-19. Now that I stopped working and all my classes are at home, it seems that I have enough time to do everything, but instead I find myself getting distracted all the time. I frequently found myself trying to start this essay numerous times, but first I had to clean, organize my desk. I ended up hungry and checking the fridge at least ten times to see if there was anything to eat. As college students, we are such a vulnerable group in society because we must deal with deadlines all the time and face many distractions. Procrastination often causes us to lose focus in school and gradually impacts our academics.

First, what is procrastination? According to the University of Cambridge, the student counseling services defines procrastination as ‘the avoidance of doing a task which needs to be done'(Rielly). We know procrastination is a problem when it leads students to suffer stress for unnecessary delays.“Procrastination is not a time-management problem, it’s an emotion-management problem,” says Tim Pychyl, an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University and blogger at Psychology Today. Emotions have a big influence on how we are going to act. For example, positive emotions make us go into activities. If we expect a task or activity to make us feel good, we go for it, like, playing video games, watching new series on Netflix, or just spending time on social media. On the other hand, negative emotions will make us do what we can to avoid feeling bad. We procrastinate about things that make us feel uncomfortable like preparing for a presentation or just starting this essay. “Medical imaging studies have shown that mathphobes, for example, appear to avoid math because even just thinking about it seems to hurt,’ explains Barbara Oakley in her book A Mind for Numbers. ‘The pain centers of their brains light up when they contemplate working on math.” In the end, the natural human reaction to dealing with pain is avoidance. However, it is not worth replacing responsibilities with activities that only provide momentary pleasure because deep down we know that guilt, stress, and anxiety live under that pleasure. Tim Pychlyl of Carleton University in Canada says ‘procrastination is the most serious problem in education today.’ The truth is that procrastination does not help students to perform the best of their abilities. I used to think that after postponing all my schoolwork, working hard to finish all was an efficient method. By postponing tasks, students only increase stress and anxiety that could be avoided by planning or prioritizing activities rather than piling up all the work at the last minute. This is where procrastination becomes a problem because students also begin to experience sleep difficulties, muscle aches, headaches, and ultimately all of this affects academic grades at school for not performing well due to excessive tiredness. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need at least 9 hours of sleep to function best (Teens).

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A clear example of a first-class procrastinator was Leonardo da Vinci who couldn’t stay focused on anything. He would start several projects and end up getting distracted and never finish them. Da Vinci was hired on a contract to create a painting in seven months. Twenty-five years later, he finally finished up the “Virgin on the Rocks” (Steel). This only proves that even successful people in history have procrastinated in life. Some people think that like Da Vinci, procrastination brings benefits to creativity and that being successful takes a long time. Others think about the number of things they would have done in 25 years would have been a better result of making good use of their time. I believe that procrastination is not beneficial because damaging and altering the time frames in which activities must be done. For example, in the article ‘Why did I Teach Myself to Postpone Things?’ written for the New York Times, the author explains how to overcome pre-crastination which was the urge to start a task immediately and finish it as soon as possible, he had to procrastinate a little bit. Pre-crastination only discouraged the author’s creativity but not his productivity over his school projects in the past. For the author, procrastination wasn’t to avoid activities all, it was to take enough time to organize his ideas as part of a creative process. He opted to procrastinate in a way that only helped him to improve and innovate his ideas over time. ‘People who wait until the last minute to begin their project are not as creative either because they had to rush to implement the easiest idea instead of working out a novel one'(Grant). As a college student, I have been creatively affected by procrastination in the past as well. By postponing my essays until the last few hours before the due date, I ended up presenting poor quality work with boring ideas. Procrastination can be destructive to the learning of those who leave everything until the last moment.


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