by Lily Lebwohl ’24
Procrastination is derived from the Latin verb procrastinat with “pro” meaning forward and “cras” meaning tomorrow. These roots come together to form the definition: “to put off until tomorrow.” However, when looking at the word’s Greek origin, akrasia means “doing something against our better judgment.” Procrastination may simply be putting off one’s obligations for a later time, but there are ways in which it can be detrimental.
Procrastinators can fall into several different categories, including “the performer,” “the self deprecator,” “the over-booker” and “the novelty-seeker.” Each of these groups has different reasons for procrastinating, and there are many different solutions to help them get through it.
One of the solutions high school psychologist Dr. Bill Blank supports, specifically for those who fall under the category of “the performer,” is focusing on a start date rather than a due date.
“The performer waits until the last minute because they work well under pressure,” Blank said. “The truth is, most people don’t, and trying to sustain that is really hard. Even if they can get away with it one time, they can’t do it over and over again because it takes too much energy to do it all at once at the last minute.
“For those people, getting them to start earlier is the solution.”
Additionally, motivation is a large aspect of what gets students to do their work. Sophomore Bailey Goldberg knows that when she is motivated and more interested in the subject at hand, she tends to procrastinate less.
“Wanting to learn, and knowing that what I will learn will be helpful to me makes me want to do the work more,” Goldberg said. “If I know that it’s not going to be helpful to me, when doing the assignment, I don’t have to pay attention and just care about submitting it.”
When getting assigned a project to work on, many feel that saving it until the last minute can be helpful, in order to maximize the amount of time they spend collecting, putting together and thinking about their ideas.
“I know that when I wait to do something, I tend to mull it in my head for a while,” 10th-grade Dean Joel Davidson said. “I think about how I’m going to attack it, how I’m going to process it, what I’m going to do with it, and then I clear my schedule out and work on it. In that regard, when I procrastinate it ends up being helpful, but it can backfire when I really run out of time.
“When I’m planning for something I always overestimate and over plan time.”
Unlike Davidson, Blank believes that procrastination is never beneficial; preparing for what has to be done in advance can help relieve stress and increase the quality of the work.
“I think procrastination very rarely has positive aspects,” Blank said. “Once in a while people who procrastinate are not really procrastinating as much as thinking about how they want to do something, and in those cases, they might come up with a great idea a week after the project was assigned, but if they started it on the night it was assigned, they might not have been able to do as good a job. I’m not sure if that’s really procrastination as opposed to preparation.
“Are we just procrastinating or are we really thinking about how to do the best job? In other pieces, people may have paralysis in analysis where they keep thinking and thinking and never actually get started and that’s not helpful either, so there needs to be a balance of starting at a reasonable time, but putting the thought into it first before getting started in the first place.”
Not only does procrastination affect students and teachers in the professional world, but it also affects their personal lives.
“When I have to email someone it transforms from a small task I have to do into this big thing,” Goldberg said. “When I sit down to write an email it will be a whole assignment for me and after I do it, I feel like I deserve a break even though I have other work to do. It makes me feel lazy even though I tell myself all the time that I have to do my work and other things in general, not even just for school.”
One method that many use to combat their procrastination is by organizing what they have to get done into lists.
“I usually set a schedule and a list of things to do, and it forces me to be organized because I know that the things that I’d rather do later cause me to fall back into my trap of being a procrastinator, so I make lists and a timeline of when I need to get things done, and if I stick to it, I find that I’m really successful at it,” Davidson said.
Davidson also helps make schedules, lists and timelines with students who face time management issues.
“We’ll sit together and go over the big picture of what’s going on in their life and what they want to achieve,” Davidson said. “How can we maximize the things that they have to do, the things that they want to do, and needs for themself?”
It may seem simple to implement small changes such as setting start dates and making strict schedules, however the best way to change a person’s bad habits is to change the way they are discussed.
“A lot of people think of themselves as lazy when they procrastinate but that is not so helpful because it ends the conversation,” Blank said. “For example, ‘I could do the work but I’m lazy.’ Where do we go from there? But if someone says, ‘I could do the work but I am procrastinating (instead of lazy)’ now we wonder why. It actually starts the conversation and now we can try to figure things out.”