I was always one of those kids who waited until the last minute to study for a test and still got good grades. I waited until the last minute to do my homework and did fine. In fact, I seemed to thrive on the stress procrastination caused me. The stress and pressure and fear of not getting everything done on time forced me to focus. If I tried to do things ahead of time, I was unfocused and less likely to accomplish much or to do well. Since procrastination didn’t seem to cause me any negative consequences, and in fact seemed to help me achieve positive results, I continued being a procrastinator as I grew older.
As an adult, procrastination has become a problem for me. I still perform well under stress, in the sense that I can write a paper for school much faster if I know I have to turn it in the next day. If my boss tells me something is especially urgent and needs to be done in an hour, I will get it done in an hour rather than spending the three or four hours a similar task would normally take if I wasn’t under a time pressure. But now that I’m an adult and am more aware of the way stress affects me, I can better see how the stress of procrastination negatively impacts me in ways I had not been aware of as a child.
The stress of procrastination sometimes makes me more productive in the moment, but that stress lingers and festers long after I have accomplished the task. I’m more likely to meltdown or shutdown on the nights that I’ve spent a good portion of the day being stressed out because I procrastinated on something.
I’ve also found that I have more bad days when I procrastinate. For example, I have a paper due every Monday. I typically try to get the paper finished on Friday so that I can enjoy my weekend and don’t have to rush to get the paper finished on Monday. However, I sometimes procrastinate. Last Friday, I didn’t feel like writing my paper. I was having one of those days when I just didn’t feel like doing anything that didn’t absolutely have to be done. So, instead of writing my paper after work I watched movies. I didn’t work on the paper all weekend. Instead, I watched movies and read a novel and did household chores; this would be fine, except that I didn’t really enjoy my weekend since I was worried about my paper.
Every time I started to enjoy myself, I would start thinking things like “I wish I had written my paper on Friday. What if I have so much work to do Monday that I don’t have time to do a good job on my paper? This paper is 30 percent of my grade. Maybe I should work on my paper now. But nah, I don’t feel like it. I want to enjoy my weekend.”
Then Monday morning came (yesterday), and I slept later than I meant to. I woke up to various emails from my boss about a project that needed to be redone asap because, through no fault of my own, the project had been done incorrectly the first time. In addition to this project, I needed to do a long list of other things at work. Suddenly I was completely stressed. It wasn’t a motivational stress but one that felt overwhelming. I considered emailing my boss and saying I wouldn’t be able to work Monday. But I didn’t. Instead, I got the work done as quickly as I could so that I could write my paper.
Then I started having computer problems. After I got my computer working again, I ran into a new problem: the online library for my college, which I needed to access to do research for my paper, was down for maintenance. Meanwhile, I could have been writing what I could of my paper from the research I previously did. However, since it is my routine to do all the research before I begin writing, and I didn’t want to break my routine, I ended up waiting a few hours to access the student library.
By this point, I had wound myself up into what I call a stress-rage. This is when I become annoyed by every little thing. If I’m completely stressed out and someone speaks to me or otherwise interrupts my train of thought, I snap at them. If my computer freezes for a moment, I want to punch something. If my phone rings, I want to throw it at a wall. I call this my stress-rage mode, because it is basically a rage induced by stress. While I’ve found that any type of severe stress can cause me to go into this mode, procrastinating causes me this type of stress frequently in recent years. If I’ve procrastinated and then too many other things go wrong, the stress snowballs and I’m in a stress-rage.
The only way I’ve found to get myself out of a stress-rage is to stop attempting to do anything productive, turn off the technology, put on my noise-cancelling headphones, and engage in a relaxing activity like playing with sand or coloring. But when I’ve already procrastinated and am stressed just at the thought of not getting everything done, I’m less likely to be able to relax even by doing these things. At this point, I usually shut down or melt down — neither of which are good options when there are things to be done.
I ultimately got my paper written, although I rushed and didn’t do as well as I could have. Then I shut down and didn’t get anything else done last night. I woke up this morning feeling hungover, although I don’t drink. I was in a bad mood this morning and could easily have just shut down and gotten nothing accomplished today either. All I felt like doing was playing iphone games or messing around on Facebook. Fortunately, I was able to turn my mindset around and had a fairly productive morning. I hadn’t thought I would blog today, but I decided to do so on my lunch break to keep my productive momentum going. Although I don’t always learn from my mistakes, I hope to learn from this one. Procrastination is bad for me.
Do you have a problem with procrastination?