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Procrastination nation

What does watching the Gilmore Girls, doing the laundry, making paper cranes, filing your nails, alphabetizing your lecture notes, and scrapbooking have in common?

What does watching the Gilmore Girls, doing the laundry, making paper cranes, filing your nails, alphabetizing your lecture notes, and scrapbooking have in common?
They are all prime examples of the marginal tasks we choose to do instead of focusing on our important deadlines.
To get to the bottom of this phenomenon, I spoke with Victor Day, a PhD psychologist at Dalhousie University and an expert on procrastination.
Day says the most common pattern of procrastination in university students is called “socially focused optimism”. These optimists have confidence that they can complete the task well enough later, so they put it off until the last minute. Most of the time this confidence is warranted, he says, but not always.
If the phrase, “I work best under pressure”, sounds familiar to you, there is a good chance that you participate in this form of procrastination.
True procrastination is not simply putting things off while leaving enough time to do the assignment. It is unnecessarily putting things off even at the risk of negative effects—a gamble every time.
Day calls it an addiction: “There is a thrill to successfully completing tasks in a rush the night before.” Unfortunately, he also says he does not believe stress helps people to be more creative.
Therefore, it stands to reason that if we develop less academically hazardous but still thrilling hobbies, we could overcome our subconscious desires to rush assignments.
So I have just provided you with an excuse to add rocket boots to your Christmas list.
It’s true that this form of self-deceit often leads to poor academic standing. It’s also true that procrastination can appear in other areas of life.
And procrastination is a trait which has greater consequences as your responsibilities grow. You’re late doing your taxes, or paying bills. You put off calling back that awesome person you met. That’s right, procrastination can mean you miss out on the love of your life! Get ready heartstrings: procrastination could even mean putting off playing with your kids.
There comes a time when you must admit defeat. I admit that no matter how much I talk about the effects of procrastination, most people who read this will continue to do it. In the event that rocket boots do not end your battle with procrastination, here’s how to make this trait work for you.
1. Take small breaks often as opposed to long periods of time staring blankly at a screen. Work on something else for a few minutes and then go back to the more important task.
2. Instead of doing nothing when you procrastinate, do something else. Stay away from time suckers, i.e. going on Facebook, watching a movie, making an elaborate cheesecake. If you are going to get side-tracked, stick to the little more productive things you have to get done anyway: throw in a load of laundry, take a quick shower, or go through your notes.
3. Prioritize. This way, what does get done is not the stuff worth half a percentage point.
Jackson Byrne, a second year King’s student, sums up what’s on the table here: “Procrastination is probably the one thing between me and graduation.”
But we can overcome! Or, if we can’t, we can at least all enjoy our vast collections of perfectly sharpened pencils, clever Facebook statuses, and clean laundry.

By David J. Shuman

David is a second-year journalism student at King's, is engagement/news editor of The Watch, and a copy editor of The Pigeon. He writes on student politics, campus happenings, and school news. 

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