Everyone’s been in this situation: you’re sitting in your room, texting your friend, and then it hits you, and you sink down into your chair. You forgot to write the essay about The Catcher in the Rye your teacher told you about a week ago, and it’s due tomorrow, first period. You don’t even know if you have the book. You glance at the clock and it’s already 11:00 PM and you just know you’re going to be up past two.
Now, maybe this has only happened once or twice to you and you’re always on top of your work. But maybe you read the first paragraph and felt a familiar chill and remember the feeling.
One way to deal with procrastinating is to learn how to do it well to get away with it (if that’s possible), and the other, unpopular way, is to learn to stop procrastinating once and for all (kind of).
I first spoke to my sister Stewart who is a very good procrastinator (I would know). I’m the one telling her to go to bed at 1:00AM every night! Her best procrastinating story was finishing an essay in one hour and still getting an 87 on it, which in my opinion, is pretty impressive. I mean, one hour, geez girl. Stewart says that she’s good at procrastinating, “but it’s bad that I’m good at it.”
Still, while it’s probably not a good idea to do all of your work at the last minute, sometimes it’s nice to be able to finish the project you had a week to work on in one night. Even if I definitely don’t suggest doing that every week. And if you do end up needing to pull out some skills when you’ve already procrastinated to the last minute, Stewart recommends ”turning off songs that you get distracted by, and don’t watch Netflix!” (I bet half of the Lovett school could raise their grade by at least 3 points if internet videos didn’t exist, including me.)
However, if you are trying to get better about not waiting to do your homework right before you hand it in, there’s hope! You can get better about procrastinating, despite what you think.
Leslie Lewallen said that last year she procrastinated a lot! She said that: “I would have mental breakdowns and everything.” And sadly, the results of her procrastination weren’t that great. One time, she even studied for a really hard test in 30 minutes the night before, and as you can imagine, she “didn’t do too well on that test.” So that tells you, don’t cram, it doesn’t really work, and you basically just end up freaking out and getting about four hours of sleep the night before, which is never fun.
Ninth grader Vinay Neely said that one time she had this Spanish sheet due for homework, and at the beginning of her Spanish class, as her teacher was walking around collecting the sheets, she realized she didn’t have this homework sheet done. So, instead of admitting defeat and telling her teacher she didn’t finish, she completed the sheet right before she had to hand it in. (Smooth Vinay, smooth.)
Vinay’s strategy for being able to finish work after you’ve procrastinated so much is to just to write something down. Anything works when you just don’t have time. But, this will get problematic for any assignment that counts for more than just a completion grade.
Vinay also said that her phone distracts her a lot, but she tends not to want to get off her phone when she knows something isn’t due the next day. Which, fair enough, but at the same time, just because your big project isn’t due for another week doesn’t mean that you should wait until the last minute to finish.
Mia Pioli, a tenth grader, said that on a scale of 1-10 she would be an 11 for her level of procrastinating. But she thinks she is good at procrastinating and she always “figures it out.” And she says that she works better under pressure, giving her more of a reason to procrastinate. She also says that she likes to wait to do her work in her free period right before the class her work is due in, which probably isn’t the best idea.
I wondered what teachers think about students who procrastinate, so I talked to Mrs. Konigsmark, an English teacher, says that she can tell most of the time when people procrastinate. For essays, she says that: “either it starts out really strongly and then it falls to pieces, which means it got to be 11:30 and they were over it, or the whole things feels rushed.” And a lot of grammar mistakes means you started too late, so if you have procrastinated, make sure to check your commas.
She also said that if you’ve procrastinated, don’t say anything along the lines of “you’re going to really like my essay” because Mrs. Konigsmark says that when they do say that, she almost never does. So, I don’t know if you were trying to use that as a cover, but it doesn’t work to well, sorry guys.
She had some recommendations for managing your time better. She says making a list of things to check off throughout your day really helps, and it’s really satisfying to be able to cross it off, and know you’re finally done with it!
Finally, I went to the tutors in the ARC, who spend a lot of their time helping students organize and plan their work. interviewed the esteemed tutor, Ms. Corning. She believes that procrastinating really does affect how well you do at school “because it comes down to an issue of time management or self management. This then can create a time crunch and sometimes lead to a drop in confidence level about your ability to handle an assignment, or to think about a future assignment.”
Now, she says that everyone procrastinates from time to time, but some people are chronic procrastinators. She says that “the issue comes down to them trying to avoid difficult tasks and/or getting easily distracted.”
So, a really good way to stop procrastinating is to get a good handle on having self control. You need to get this self control to be able to hold off on giving yourself gratification. If you come home after a hard day and watch a couple episodes of your favorite TV show, you’re giving yourself instant gratification. But, what you really should be doing is delaying that gratification until after you’ve done all of your work, and to do this, it has to become a habit.
Ms. Corning says that delaying gratification gets easier to do when you create a habit of it, and you should also be creating a habit of how you manage your time, including time for breaks. Having this habit will help you get your body anticipating what you should be doing, which should help you stop getting distracted so easily.
An important thing to have is a scheduling system to find out how much work you have, and how long it is going to take you to do. And yes, you really do need one! It really does help keep you on top of your work, which is always a great feeling.
When you start your work, you should be starting with the easiest thing, or the subject you like the most because you’ll be more likely to do it and you have to start. You need to get to the “tipping point,” this will help you take action, which is another important thing Ms. Corning said needs to happen.
Because taking action will help you get your work done, it is even more of a reason to not come home and take a break because this will help you “keep the momentum you’ve had doing work all day.” When you do take a break you stop the momentum of getting your work done and it makes it even harder to start working again. But, you should still include breaks! She believes it’s important not just work all day. You need exercise and food.
Ms. Corning says that physical activity will help you get your work done, and if you don’t play a sport, you can do anything from going on a run, to walking, or just stretching. Physical activity can also help with you not feeling like you have to take naps all the time, which is good because naps take up more of your afternoon than you think. Also, having a snack when you get home from school is a good idea!
You also need to decide what your reward is, so you know you have something to look forward to, and this doesn’t always mean getting on your phone, this can also be sleep! Sometimes you can actually be in bed by 10:00 (I know, you thought it would never happen, but it can! Sometimes!)
Ms. Corning says that people procrastinate because of habits. “It has nothing to do with your intelligence level, or your skill level, it’s just a habit,” she said. And sometimes you need help, and “if you can’t trust yourself to not watch a movie, or take a nap in your bedroom, then do your homework in a public location.” It can be the library, or the dining room in your own house.
But what if you’ve tried all these strategies and you still have waited too long to start? In this case, she said, “acknowledge that you procrastinated, and you need to just start.” And don’t worry about having to be perfect, she said: “sometimes when people can’t write the perfect thesis, they will write nothing at all. However, you really need to just put be putting something down.”