An Open Letter To Procrastinators From a Procrastinator
I get it. I really do. You put things off. I’ve done it my whole life. I put off writing this letter for a week, and I put off doing things I enjoy. I get it. Procrastination, contrary to popular belief, is not a life choice. Anyone who procrastinates has at least eight people in their life who, on a daily basis, give them the stellar advice, “just do your work earlier”. Trust me, if procrastinators had the capability of doing things before the literal last minute, they would do it in a heartbeat. My life would be infinitely less stressful. Procrastination, however, is not so much way of life as it is a harsh reality of it.
Procrastination is kind of like a poison that paralyzes you. You’re motivated to do something and you’re working it out in your head all different ways but you just can’t get your body to move. You’re stuck still, and once you aren’t seized up anymore you’re kicking yourself because now the stress weighing down on you is enough to make your bones snap.
This doesn’t stop you though. Procrastinators have an uncanny knack for getting by by the skin of their nose. We’ve learned to work with this hindrance; it’s easy. At least, when you were younger and all the work could be done in two hours before you went to bed the night before. Sure, you definitely could have gotten a better grade, but the grade you got is pretty impressive for how little time you spent on the work. You’ve got a system.
And the system used to work really well. You got to college doing it no problem. But college, unfortunately, is an entirely different ball game. Professors grade like bulldogs, stubbornly unwilling to let things fly. Papers are suddenly abstracts and bibliographies and hours of research. Sundays, the nationally designated Homework Days, aren’t enough time. Procrastinating, something that you’ve done for years and years and years, is now backfiring on you.
So, you’re back to the age-old shtick “just don’t procrastinate”.
I’ve done this a million times. I have looked up countless articles and tips to try and stop my procrastination. There’s the famous turn-off-your-phone-and-lock-yourself-away tip. Something about eliminating temptation so the only thing left is the work you need to do. This never works. I can find anything to distract me. If there’s no television playing, I’ll think about a show I haven’t seen in ages and actually it’s super good, maybe I should watch it soon, that’s a great idea, you know, I’m going to go and watch it now!
You get my point.
There’s of course set goals for yourself and then punish yourself if you don’t complete them. This tip is just silly. I’m never going to willingly set myself up for failure by giving myself more tasks, even if they’re smaller ones. And I definitely won’t punish myself, whatever that means.
Focusing on success is another tip I always seem to get, and this one just seems like a cop out. I can’t tell you how many cumulative hours I’ve spent in my lifetime, staring at an empty Word document telling myself I’ll feel so much better once it’s done. It doesn’t work out very well.
The problem is that procrastinators are stubborn. If there is a later time that I can do something, I am not doing it now. End of story.
The only thing that a procrastinator can do is accept that they are one and work around it. There will never be a reformed procrastinator. Once you’re in, you’re in for life, there’s nothing that can be done. You can, however, eliminate stress by knowing that you’re going to get an assignment done on time. Stress is the worst thing you can do as a procrastinator; it eats you alive, it’s why we hate being procrastinators. The best thing you can do is motivate yourself by reminding yourself just how good you are. You’ve written ten pages in three hours. You’ve studied for a test thirty minutes before class because you forgot you had one (and got a good grade). You’ve stayed up all night to write a piece for your eight thirty class. You are a boss. And you’ve got this.
Picture courtesy of theodysseyonline.com.