The allure of procrastination is powerful, strong enough to draw even the best and brightest of students into its thrall. From an early age until the waning days of college, the urge to postpone one’s most pressing tasks in favor of leisurely activities or easier endeavors is identifiable to all people.
This ever-present specter fulfills human needs superficially, and on a deeper psychological level. Some of the reasons that people procrastinate are readily apparent, while others can only be discovered by examining a person’s entire lifespan.
When forced to select between completing a difficult assignment and socializing with friends, playing video games, or another alternative which provides pleasure, the decision initially falls to the nature of the person in question.
The first time a person faces the dilemma of procrastination, they may well reject the temptation. Such a choice typically arises in grade school, when a child’s basic values and work ethic are still strong and readily enforced.
Students in elementary schools do not thrive off of social interaction in the way many high school or college students do. While playing with friends is important at a young age, the fear of reprimand from parents still carries weight, as do the grades handed down on report cards.
However, due to curiosity, peer pressure, or one of the countless forces which drive people to deviate from their norms and break molds, a student will ultimately shirk his or her duties once, and so begins a slide down the most slippery of slopes.
The seeds sown when a student first procrastinates may not blossom immediately, but typically emerge during or before high school. Students who procrastinate successfully feel that they can do it more frequently, while those who failed their first attempt may lose interest in the educational system.
Herein lays the reason that procrastination appeals to people of all academic skill levels, and why it has become such a pervasive and reinforced epidemic among students, even within higher education. Procrastination works in some way for everyone, and its widespread appeal ensures that it is here to stay.
For higher-level students, coursework does not feel challenging enough, and as such can be accomplished in a smaller amount of time. For the lower end of the spectrum, procrastination allows students to put off dealing with a grading system which has shown them no kindness.
Also contributory to this widespread practice, mostly among older students, is the concept of freedom. In high school, when students have their “rites of passage” in learning to drive and turning 18, they must grow accustomed to a new level of freedom as adults.
Freedom, once gained, becomes a central point of an adolescent’s existence. The boy who was told what to do for many years by parents and teachers, now has, in some sense, more control over his own destiny.
The concept of maturation and growth in the mind of the student creates in children a loathing for tasks given to them by others. The contrast between the day’s classes and the night’s freedom and fun breeds a desire to avoid the displeasure the typically-monotonous school day brings.
Educators who would decry procrastination have, in some part, themselves, and the system of which they are a part, to blame for this phenomenon. School systems today are, by and large, unimaginative bores, imposing rigidity upon hormonal creatures programmed to resist.
Homework assignments, intended to reinforce learning, are instead interpreted as infringements upon a type of liberty which a student is only just learning to manage. At all levels of education, assignments practically beg for rejection via procrastination.
This conditioning of students to procrastinate in high school, a composite function of both the student’s psychology and environment, can ultimately create problems when the time comes to graduate to higher education.
Students who may have breezed through high school procrastinating on every assignment must adapt to a new workload and environment, something not made easy after four or more years of reinforcement of such a habit.
The adaptation may be a success, and in some cases a student may even realize the inherent flaws and self-defeating psychological trickery involved in convincing oneself to procrastinate. However, for others, the damage has been done.
Procrastination works on a circular logical cycle that only allows for the completion of tasks by arbitrary intervention. A student convinces his or herself to postpone the undesirable task and do something else, vowing to complete the task at a later time.
This vow, however, is an arbitrary condition which exists tangentially to the main logical loop, which only seeks to minimize pain and maximize pleasure in the short-term scope. Eventually, like an AI from a bad science-fiction movie, the brain will realize that the completion of this task at all is a violation of its logical loop.
As such, the arbitrary condition, the entire reason procrastinators ultimately complete their work, disappears, leaving the student stranded in a no-man’s-land, devoid of motivation. In a world where a college degree is practically necessary to land a decent job, this can cripple not only academic success, but future prospects, and must be avoided at all costs.
As with any habit, the most effective way to avoid a problem is to never let it take root. Students today must realize that procrastination is a habit, habits are enforced, and an unchecked habit of procrastination can ultimately threaten a person’s very livelihood.
This problem, which may have seemed so fleeting and minor in grade school, can become a beast, a monster which will render a person unable to comprehend the gravity of grades and success, and to realize the destructive path down which procrastination can lead the unwary student.