Receiving a degree in procrastination

By Harbor Partin

All my life I’ve heard from teachers, principles, parents, and clergymen that if you write your goals down you’re something like twice as likely to reach them. I still haven’t gotten around to doing that. That’s because I am a procrastinator. It doesn’t matter the situation, I wait to the last minute to do everything. If I finally ever wrote my goals down, I would probably achieve them the next day, not because I’m ambitious, but because I would wait until the day before.

Procrastinating is something I’ve done since I was little. Some parents make their kids do homework right when they get home from school, but somehow I had convinced my parents that there are much more important things for an 8-year-old to do after school. In high school I had the same mentality. Afternoons weren’t for studying — they were for surfing and causing trouble. My teachers would tell me how much potential I had, how I should really put more time into school, and stop doing just the bare minimum. But I liked doing the bare minimum. Doing the bare minimum meant that I could do as many non-school related activities as possible without failing. Somehow I graduated with decent grades and got accepted to this school. It seemed like whatever I was doing was working, but I knew that if I was going to do well in college, I would have to change my ways and actually put school-work first. I thought, “I’ll change … later.”

Fast-forward to today and I’ve become a procrastination juggernaut. I never fixed my problem. I just let it grow. My procrastination has gotten so bad that I can’t even do homework before midnight anymore. It just feels unnatural. I can’t count how many times this year that I’ve started a 5-page paper at 1 a.m. the day before it is due. It’s just gotten ridiculous.

Last year my grades were reflecting my bad habits, and I wasn’t doing so well, but this year something happened. I actually got good at procrastinating. Even though I was giving myself less time everyday to finish assignments, they always came out fine. I was staying up later, wasting more time, and pushing the limit of how long you can wait to start an assignment and my grades were actually getting better. Instead of trying to cure my condition, I just got used to it. It doesn’t matter how late I start on something, I always turn it in, and I always do it right. Procrastinating is actually working for me.

I started thinking about what it means to be a procrastinator and I’ve concluded that the same people who teachers say aren’t putting forth enough effort are actually the hardest working people around and have their priorities straight. Think about it. I can write a research paper that should take a week to write in six hours. I can write it in six hours with no sleep and only fueling off of Mountain Dew and Hostess Cupcakes. I work in the worst possible conditions and still do fine. In a way, procrastinating is just a way for me to show off. Here’s a question: If I start a paper at two in the morning the night before it’s due while I’m extremely tired and someone else writes the same paper, but takes a week to do it, and we both get the same grade, who’s the better student? Years of waiting until the last minute has conditioned me to do my best work at the last minute. Maybe I don’t need to procrastinate. Maybe I’m just doing it because I can. Imagine what I could do if I actually used the whole week.

When someone decides to avoid homework at all costs, there has to be something that fills that huge void of what would be study time. That’s how I’ve found that putting off homework has actually made me more productive. The mistake that many procrastinators make is instead of doing what they are supposed to do, they do nothing. Instead, I’ve found that doing what you want to do instead what you have to do is more fulfilling than just putting off a paper to spend hours on MySpace. I’ll get to my homework after I go surfing, go skateboarding, do laundry, clean my room, alphabetize my CDs, go shopping, take a walk, hang out with friends, play racquetball and do my taxes. When I put my homework off I usually get even more things done than I usually would.

Some may call procrastination a bad habit, but I think it’s prepared me for the professional world. Multi-tasking, working under pressure, meeting deadlines and managing time are all qualities I’ve been able to achieve by putting things off. Procrastinating isn’t irresponsible. It’s a crash course for the real world where everything needs to be done now and a week is too long to work on a project. I’m practicing for when I do have deadlines that are tomorrow, or even in a few hours. When that day comes, I’ll pass with flying colors because I know just how long it takes me to get work done.

Procrastinating isn’t for everyone. Either you can do it or you can’t, but since I can, I will always have the satisfaction of knowing that I can do everything tomorrow, and that’s a good feeling.

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