When first given an assignment, especially a project due beyond the end of the week, we’re often overly confident that we’ll complete the assignment in stages, so there won’t be a last-minute-panic-tear-streaked-temper-tantrum-tazmanian-devil-whirling-dervish kind of effort in the 24 hours before the deadline. We pridefully chalk up previous “all-nighters”, as “all in the past”, determined to honor all the promises we made to ourselves the last time we completed a project despite procrastinating. We plan out, sometimes meticulously, with calendars and step-by-step To-Do lists—proudly declaring our intentions to anyone who’ll listen that this is the time is different…
Puffed up on our braggadocio, we sit down the first day on our newly turned over leaf and start working on the first step of our carefully considered plan. About 10 minutes into our efforts, we run into the first test of our mettle; impatience rears its ugly-head, “THIS is going to take forever,” the forever echoing like a space movie sound effect in our minds. Now, the thoughts about stupid assignments, stupid teachers, senseless busywork, victimized by too much homework, when I’ve got too many other things to do—come loudly flooding into hearing range—further testing our resolve. Thoroughly disgusted by now, we stop working and start Pinterest-ing, under the guise of calming down.
Score: Procrastination 1, Project 0.
Our Pinterest-ing (substitute your own distraction), and in some cases “legitimate” distractions like other homework that’s due sooner than our big project are deals we make with the Me, Myself, and I Committee; something like, “I’ll finish this one other homework assignment, then I’ll go back to the project.” All fine and effective, except, one assignment leads to another and something else, then it’s time to go to bed. Hours, days, and weeks can pass in a similar fashion, until the deadline is looming sooner than the happy-go-lucky later. Once again, our initially imagined, carefully planned out, “nothing’s going to get in my way this time” pep speech was of no match to procrastination.
Score: Procrastination 2, Project 0
Now, faced with “getting the assignment done or else…” and a crunched timeframe, we can fall into a funk. Angrily chastising ourselves, bemoaning our fate to anyone who’ll listen, complaining on Twitter, we drown our sorrows in one last binge of distraction, often blasting our emotions onto whomever is closest, usually a parent (especially a parent who happens to “remind” us consistently about the imminent deadline.) Thoroughly disappointed and defeated, we slide into despondence.
Score: Procrastination 3, Project 0
As reality slaps us with its stark, unchanging facts, we slowly, begrudgingly crack the spine of our textbook, summer reading novel, open a million tabs on our internet browser in a desperate search for any related information to begin writing the 15 page research paper. Perhaps we’re fortunate enough to have a teacher who’s tried to keep us on task, asking for thesis statements, outlines or annotated bibliographies throughout the assignment completion period, which saves us…some. Once we actually get started the work may still feel painstaking, like trying to run a marathon in 100 degree heat without training, yet the starting was the hard part. In the triumphant finish of the last keystroke, with the warm printed document safely in our sweaty palms, we run up the stairs to hand the teacher our project, just as the bell rings to end class. As we turn to go back home and skip the rest of the school day (under the excuse that we’re too tired to focus), we’re already making promises about next time, I won’t…