Now that my student days are gradually drawing to a close, I think I’ve become a bit of an expert on being a student. I’m reasonably good at drawing up schedules, meeting deadlines and that kind of nonsense these days.
Yet even now there are times when it all gets a bit too much for me and I can’t resist the urge to take a break for a few hours and lose myself in sweet nothingness instead: watching Netflix, viewing vlogs on YouTube, endlessly checking out Humans of New York and eating entire boxes’ worth of chocolate chip cookies out of sheer boredom. In short, I still suffer from the odd bout of procrastination – or, as experienced Dutch students like to call it, ‘study-avoiding behaviour’.
As it happens, I just watched a documentary on procrastination. Among other things, it showed that procrastination is a well-known phenomenon (not just among students) and that people suffering from procrastination tend to be pure and unadulterated hedonists. They are proponents of joie de vivre, carpe diem and YOLO-type ideologies.
According to this documentary, procrastination is due to a wish to avoid pain and to experience as much joy as possible. It refutes the idea that procrastination can be remedied by means of proper planning, time management and goal setting. Generally, the solution is more likely to involve self-regulation. The mere thought of one’s huge to-do list often causes people to experience negative feelings, which makes them want to do something fun for a little while, just because it will make them feel a bit better. And if you do that often enough, it will eventually grow into a habit.
It should be noted that the documentary links poor self-regulation to unbridled money-spending, problem gambling and over-eating. The average student is a little too impecunious for the former two, but most of us know how to overindulge food-wise! Thankfully, the documentary also offers the means to break these habits.
The main (and most successful) self-regulatory strategy used to get people to stop procrastinating is the so-called ‘implementation intention’. These are specific intentions (e.g. ‘once I’ve finished my yoga on Sunday afternoon, I will go to the UL, read two articles and write up a summary of them for my seminar’), as opposed to vague intentions (e.g. ‘I’ll do a little studying on Sunday’). The crux is that your environment will act as a cue that will help you act in the intended manner.
As I write this, I’m supposed to be working on an assignment that is due soon. But first I’ll watch another documentary on procrastination.
Pooja Guptar is taking a Master’s degree in Media and Business