Letters from the Editor: Making good time

I can recall three times in the last year that my own procrastination held a knife to my throat: when I didn’t file my FAFSA until the day it was due, when I waited until the deadline to file for my PFD, and this last week when I had two important assignments to work on until Saturday. On each day of each aforementioned deadline, my internet was cut off for 24 hours.

I’m not one for thinking the universe is speaking personally to me. However, I do think that when your first thought in the case of these events is “I shouldn’t have done that, considering what happened last time,” then it’s probably time for a lifestyle change.

Recent years have led to articles arguing that procrastination is a roundabout type of perfectionism, but psychologists have debunked that assertion as myth. In one article for PsychologyToday Piers Steel, a psychologist specializing in the study of procrastination, wrote that perfectionists actually tend to procrastinate less than other people and seek help more often when they do have trouble with deadlines.

“People can almost become paralyzed over the work they left themselves for tomorrow, knowing that they should act,” Steel wrote, “but remaining immobile with anxiety. But this is an expression of having procrastinated, not a cause of procrastination.”

My personal style of procrastinating tends towards a warped sort of self soothing. If I’m stressed and terrified of messing up on an upcoming deadline, I tell myself that it’ll be easier once I take a break to breathe. But then the break lasts a week and I’m writing a discussion board entry in my phone’s memo pad with three minutes to a midnight deadline in a panic.

In those moments, the earlier fear doesn’t matter; it’s no longer a case of whether or not I’ll do well, but rather a case of whether or not I’ll finish. Then there’s the relief after an assignment is turned in, barely on deadline, that further soothes me. So the cycle continues, but only until the day when I inevitably run out of luck and the internet goes out right before I press “submit.”

Regardless of what procrastination really is, I’m attempting to see it for what it isn’t: a plausible excuse.

In this latest bout of internet loss, I’m left having to face a negative part of myself—the part that doesn’t always live up to my own standards. Fear of failure or not, the result of doing nothing is that I put nothing forward. ‘I didn’t do it’ is not a valid explanation for missing work. I can’t justify myself when I miss a deadline if the answer is ‘I waited too long and couldn’t finish.’

To all my fellow procrastinators out there, I understand the anxiety, the trouble, and even the strange panic-relief-repeat cycle. But none of that is going to matter when we wait too long and something big—a job opportunity or a chance to meet up with that friend who’s only in town for a day—passes us by.

Maybe it’s about time to start thinking of deadlines in terms of those opportunities instead of a cutoff. They’re a chance to do something, so why not take the chance?

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