The instinct to procrastinate can hamper your academic life and later, your career as well.
We’re all familiar with the feeling. We put things off till we can put them off no longer. That date on the calendar has to be practically upon us before we are able to summon the energy and motivation required to begin work. We need that sense of overwhelming pressure in order to put all of ourselves into a project and get it finished before the point-of-no-return.
Procrastination must be a basic human instinct. Why else is it so pervasive, so inherent to so many classes of human beings, irrespective of culture or, anything else? When faced with a task, the first instinct is to put it away till later. During our school days, we don’t have as much control over our schedules as we might like — our hours are quite tightly regimented, and we usually have a vigilant adult looking over our shoulders to make sure we are sticking to the time-table both at home and at school. Besides, there are immediate consequences for not doing something on time, such as getting a bad grade on our report cards or a note being sent home to our parents. And depending on the school and the teacher, we might suffer other minor humiliations in the classroom.
Come college and our skin seems to suddenly grow several millimeters thicker and we develop our very own logic of prioritisation. Some things now come first, such as responding to the huge volume of chatter on social networks. Apart from those of us who go on to join colleges with a very strict regimen similar to the school environment, we find that we have more control over our own time. There are expectations, of course, but there is also an assumption that we know how to manage our time and that we will do what we need to do in order to get good grades.
An important step in dealing with deadlines is to take the time to take stock right at the beginning. There’s probably a point early in the semester when we have a pretty good idea about what the expectations are and how much we need to work to meet them. This is precisely when we need to carefully estimate how to plan our time so that it all gets done.
Some teachers are better than others at spelling out their expectations, giving us periodic reminders about what needs to be done and when. And then there are those of us who have a very strong internal compass, knowing how to manage our time and meet academic requirements. But for many of us, the procrastination instinct kicks in, and before we know it, we are putting off things, we shove those assignment sheets under the growing pile of paper on our hostel desks, we let the dust gather on the library books that were meant to be read, digested, and reported on, and as the deadline gets closer, we begin to imagine ways in which we can negotiate our way around and out of it. Sometimes we are able to pull ourselves out of the hole in the nick of time and make good use of the pressure to finish the work.
Actually, deadlines are a good thing. We wouldn’t be able to function without them. Some of us need the pressure of deadlines to make ourselves think and work in a focused manner. Others need the time-marker to help organise and prioritise work. As a student, it is important to understand that assignment deadlines in college offer an important lesson in self-management. They give you excellent practice for the professional life. No matter how you work — last minute or paced out — the important thing is that you get the work done within the assigned deadline. This is true no matter what the field. In some fields, missed deadlines can lead to loss of money or business opportunity; in others it can even be more serious (getting medicines to a place in time, or communicating a diagnosis in time, for instance).
True, some teachers will be willing to negotiate on deadlines, but when you think about it, there is little that is really gained by pushing a deadline. Whether you have a week or two days, you find that you spend exactly the same amount of time and energy on a project.
Stretching a deadline only takes time away from something else you could have been doing in the time lost. Teachers generally extend deadlines only out of a sense of resignation, because they realise that the lesson has not been (and, maybe, will not be) learned in any case.
In the real world, deadlines are very rarely extended. When they are, it is usually because of a variety of mitigating circumstances. And when the extension is given because you have not been able to plan sufficiently to get a job done on time, your reputation (and sometimes more) takes a bit of a beating.
In the real world, deadlines are very rarely extended. When they are, it is usually because of a variety of mitigating circumstances.