Procrastination — the death of every dream, the curse of every college student and the excuse for every loser. We’ve all fallen prey to procrastination at some point in our lives — or perhaps during our entire lives, for some of us — whether it’s as innocent as avoiding a dreaded phone call or as self-destructive as depriving yourself of sleep for a week to study for finals.
During the school year, procrastination strikes most college kids, although it seems more excusable because many students are credit-laden part-time workers. But now it’s the beginning of summer, and classes are done. Most of us have already awoken from our celebratory drunken stupor, and now we find ourselves obligated to one or two courses or full-time work.
Despite these minor annoyances, summertime is a less demanding taskmaster than the regular school year. It indulges our sense of relaxation and allows our dreams of free time to run wild.
Everyone has, at one time or another, committed themselves to accomplishing something ambitious, fun or even crazy during these three glorious months of freedom.
“I’m going to learn the guitar!” “Let’s plan a road trip to L.A.!” “I can finally contact all those friends I’ve lost touch with over the school year.” “I’m going to set the Guinness record for the number of Britney Spears CDs I can destroy with a gallon of 10 molar hydrochloric acid!” Procrastination shouldn’t even be an issue, right?
After all, the activities you’ve planned out for the summer, unlike those during the school year, are things you want to do — in fact, have been dying to do since your last vacation.
But whatever happens to those lazy days and evenings that inevitably roll by? You find yourself zoning out in front of the tube, mindlessly surfing the net, chilling out until you’re burned out or finding other ingenious ways to procrastinate.
And all those worthy goals to which you had devoted yourself in the beginning of the summer? When September pokes its ugly head around the calendar corner, you usually realize that your precious few accomplishments involved perfecting your couch-potato figure, exercising your channel-and-Internet-surfing fingers and discovering the lost episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 on cable.
You end up kicking yourself through the fall months until Christmas-season break grants you yet another opportunity to waste your free time. Procrastination’s ability to victimize us stems from its many seductive methods of attack, and even the staunchest of us cannot resist its subtle, siren-esque temptations.
It cloaks itself in deceptively different disguises, blinding us to its presence until we’re beyond the point of redemption. In other words, time runs out and we get screwed by deadlines.
Procrastination can fall into three broad categories: preparation, mini-deeds and distractions. Preparation procrastination usually sneaks up on you during the school year and transforms you into an anal-retentive worrywart. You have to work on that take-home final due in 24 hours, but you can’t find your favorite bubble-gum-pink Gelly Roll pen and your three-hole punch.
How are you supposed to concentrate under such adverse studying conditions? Everything needs to be perfect for you to successfully study! Better go hang out at the bar with your friends and fret about how much work your professors expect of you.
Mini-deed procrastination does allow you to accomplish some things, although you never end up touching the important projects. Again, the school year is the prime season to spot mini-deed procrastination. You’ve already received a two-day extension on your 10-page literature review, but your sock drawer is in shambles, and you haven’t e-mailed your fifth-grade buddy in years!
Only after all your socks are linearly arranged according to the visible-light spectrum, and you’ve dashed off a five-page missive to a friend who barely remembers you, will you be able to begin your report. No conscientious student would be able to do otherwise.
Distraction procrastination is the deadliest and most diverse category. Television, thirst, friends, tiredness, hunger, boredom.
All of these excuses and thousands more are the conspirators of distraction procrastination and are the most difficult to defend oneself against. You really intend on picking up that guitar book, but first, you flip on the television to see what’s on. You promise yourself only a few minutes of television.
But before you know it, you’re sucked into a docudrama detailing the tragic life and death of Natasha, John F. Kennedy’s father’s aunt’s great-cousin’s ex-wife. Or, as an ironic example, I wanted to finish this column before 4 a.m. on the morning of the deadline, but after discussing the finer points of ‘Sailor Moon’ with a co-worker, calling a friend at 3:30 a.m. and writing out a greeting card, I sit here at 7:30 a.m., still searching for my motivation.
Trust me, I’m an expert on procrastination. Although most school-related work is a fair target for all three types of procrastination, a vaguely scheduled and more personal summertime goals are especially susceptible to distraction procrastination.
After all, what’s more prevalent during the summer than distractions? And when there’s no pressing deadline to meet and the proposed project can easily be sidelined for a few days. It’s so much less effort to pick up the remote than to pick up that map and plan a road trip.
Granted, the whole point of summer vacation is to relax and take a breather, and I’m certainly not a proponent of frenetic overachieving. The last thing our harried lives need is another regimented, goal-oriented schedule.
But you should muster up enough motivation to at least accomplish what you dream of and enjoy. Procrastination in any form makes such a pathetic excuse for why you didn’t achieve personal satisfaction, pride and –who knows — perhaps even immortality.
So go camping, deface Garth Brooks posters, learn fly-fishing or travel to the hundreds of places you’ve only read about. Make the most of your summer and don’t surrender to procrastination.
Maybe when you’re good enough at battling this time-consuming beast, you can start applying these skills to schoolwork and never beg another professor for a time extension.
Maybe when I’m good enough at avoiding procrastination, I can finish my column at 8 p.m. instead of 8 a.m.
Samantha Pace’s column appears on Fridays. She welcomes comments at [email protected]