Procrastination nation

Jonah Beinart, Opinion Editor

The end of the weekend is supposed to be a time to rest and recharge for the week ahead. For me, it is a mad rush to finish all the assignments I neglected for the last 48 hours. That familiar feeling of all my muscles tensing when I realized how much work I need to do is crushing.

I know I’m not the only one who procrastinates with schoolwork; many of my peers joke about how they only study for tests on the day of or have a large number of missing assignments that they finish at the last minute before the semester ends.

After experiencing a full year of in-person high school following a year on Zoom, I’ve come to realize that virtual school is a key cause of this habit. Online school resulted in a lack of motivation for me because there was a reduced workload. Additionally, lax late work policies removed some of the incentive to complete work on time.

After most COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and school went back to normal, I still procrastinated like the year before.

It is difficult to reverse any habit, and it is especially difficult to stop procrastinating. However, there are things that you can do to help you manage your time better. 

In middle school, one of my teachers gave me a great tip. He told us that after we were assigned a large project, we must start right away. Even five minutes of work, he said, would stimulate our brains enough to help us move forward and conquer the project.

Educational Support Services Chair Susan Zuckerman also advises her students to utilize a similar routine.

“I tell them to think, ‘You know what? I don’t have to do all of the assignment right now, I just have to get started,’” Zuckerman said. “‘So how about if I take that first little piece, and that might mean typing my name and the title of the assignment, and now I know I’m in the mode to focus.’”

I’ve found that doing this helps me estimate how long a certain task will take, which teaches me how to budget my time. Even skimming through the content of the work gives me a better sense as to how much time I should spend on that assignment.

Keeping assignments organized is easier said than done. I find that having a list of things to do each night gives me a sense of accomplishment when I can cross tasks off my list, which keeps me motivated. 

Zuckerman also likes to keep a paper planner with her wherever she goes. 

“It tells me everything I need to tell me what to do, and it makes me feel so good to check something off … for students too, checking items off the list gives you that hit of dopamine when you actually finish an assignment,” Zuckerman said.

Having a list helps, but being able to consistently make that list every day is much harder. 

According to the Harvard Business review, people who procrastinate tend to lack good working habits. Without these good habits, people instead choose to do activities that make them happy, rather than the work that is required. 

“Strong habits reduce our need for self control,” Harvard Business Review said. “They make it easier to stick to effortful behaviors and resist distractions. But the process of establishing a habit that confers such benefits usually takes a few months.”  

Whatever those habits may be, whether it’s making a list or removing distracting electronic devices from the workspace, will only make an impact if you stick to them for a long time. 

There will always be circumstances that prevent students from completing every single assignment on time, but using strategies that stimulate our brains can help reduce procrastination and late work.