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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Procrastination is Not a Crime

With the semester finally coming to a slow close, most of us are busy — probably too busy to read this, or at least to give much thought as to what will be my last article of the semester. For the few loyal Statesman fans who have taken the time out of their busy schedules to listen what I have to say, I commend you; in fact, I reward you. As my last article of the semester, it feels right to write about something that’s relevant to all students. I speak of the art of procrastination. Not only is this a subject that’s close to my heart, but it’s also a skill that I’ve grown increasingly proficient in over the long years.

As an English major, I am prone to procrastination on a daily basis. Anyone who shares my major knows exactly what I mean. For those of you who aren’t so lucky — or unlucky — two of my classes don’t have traditional finals, but rather research papers, while my other EGL courses have various essays throughout the semester.

Papers, by nature, are conducive to procrastination. Some indefinable element about them just makes them so easy to put off, and off?and off. Perhaps this is because, in truth, papers are nothing more than lavish take home exams. It doesn’t help that these “tests” present no clear questions, but rather, if you’re lucky, offer vague guidelines for you to not only define a problem, but also explain how and why you decide to answer it the way you do. It’s like you’re expected not only to formulate a complex equation but then also explain your contrived analysis through supposed objective reasoning that’s based on your opinion.

These discouraging challenges are often what cause such assignments to be put off so long or until the last minute, and I mean that literally. What students often don’t realize however is that this lethargic treatment of inevitable work should be viewed as more of an opportunity than an obstacle.

The fact is that unless you’re some strangely motivated machine that derives perverse pleasure from doing papers a week in advance, then there’s no reason to worry about them. Don’t stress. Don’t fret. Just admit to yourself that you’re going to wait until the last possible chance you have to do them.

The laws of nature, after all, dictate that the best way to get stuff done is when the pressure to do so is greatest. Think about other aspects of your daily life. Laundry immediately jumps into my mind. Much like avoiding taking a bath when I was a kid (not because I liked smelling bad, but because bath time invariably meant that bedtime was soon to follow), laundry is a chore that I try to hide from as long as I can by stuffing my dirty clothes far away in the opposite corner of the room where I can’t see them. Out of sight, out of mind. Much like papers, I literally put it off until the last minute. It’s only when I need fresh clothes that I finally break down and grudgingly take the long, dark path down the creaking stairs and to the basement’s washing machine.

Of course there’s a big difference between tossing some old pants in the washer and writing a detailed analysis of the sexual-political themes in a Thomas Wyatt’s poem (check them out sometime). But the premise is pretty much the same. The fact is that you shouldn’t worry about either, because until you absolutely need to, you won’t do them.

Some of my best papers have come when things were down to the wire. Some of my best have also resulted from days of drudging drafts and revisions, but I often end up wondering if the time, effort, and resulting loss of any social life is worth the difference from B to B+, or when I’m on the ball, A to A+.

It really boils down to what type of person you are. Do you do better with weeks of preparation time at your disposal or do you thrive off of the ticking time telling that you that failure is nigh?

For most people, I think it can be both. It’s best to mix and match and see what technique works best for you. Like I said, I’ve written some of my best papers the night before, but also some of my worst.

Still, I have been trying to break out of the procrastinator’s patterns. Just this weekend, I admit that I finished a paper three days before the due date. It’s a sad and unfortunate change of events, but I suppose that we all have to grow up sometime.

I hope to never truly end my procrastination habits in the foreseeable future. I promise that wherever there’s a randomly useless Wikipedia page, I’ll be there to procrastinate. Wherever there’s a History Channel special about Spartan warfare, or an unnecessary nap to take, I’ll never give up the good fight. In fact, right now, I’m writing this article with “SNL” in the background and a pair of assignment sheets for papers due this week waiting patiently on my desk. It might be a good idea to take a better look at them now, but I’m thinking that I can make it until Tuesday night before I have to do either them — or my laundry.

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