Earlier, I listened to a Ted Talk my cousin sent me, Tim Urban: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator, and I found it funny for more reasons than just the delivery. It is because I could relate. Urban talks about how he had his senior thesis to complete, and he wanted to work on it over time so that he would not have to pull an all-nighter right before it was due. Although he carefully planned out how to tackle the task, he still ended up having to write 90 pages in 72 hours.
There were two papers that came to mind while listening to him describe his situation. The first happened my junior year in college after the professor assigned us a country, and told us to write a paper using facts found about the country. Two hours before class, I found myself starting the assignment and cranking out 12 pages and then rushing to class. Now, you are probably thinking, “that had to be a horrible paper”. That is a reasonable assumption, and you would be somewhat correct. When papers were handed back to us with the grades, the comments on the back of mine read
“Karl: I have never in my 42 years of teaching assigned an A grade to a paper with so many grammatical errors. But, you have put so much creative imagination into a powerful and engaging story that the grade is fully deserved. You may have a writing career ahead. Just clean up the syntax. JPP”
I was on cloud nine, but as I read through the errors on the page, I was also grateful while thinking “I hadn’t proofread a paper that was due for a class in three years, but I probably should have proofread this one.” It had everything from run-on sentences to missing punctuation marks, but I probably only went to the writing clinic to get a paper proofread once after that.
The second time was the capstone paper I wrote to complete my Masters degree. Like him, this time I came with a plan. I had been putting aside research and information I had found in preparation to start the paper. This paper was supposed to be at least 50 pages, and we had little assignments here and there to get approval for the paper, which amounted to about a six page head start for me. Fast-forward to two weeks before the assignment was due, and I had a total of six pages completed. The way my concentration was set up, I really had four days because I only worked on papers starting early morning on the weekends. On the final day it was due, that Sunday, I managed to complete 20 pages for a whopping 30 page capstone. For the topic I wanted to cover, and the length it needed to be, I just did not give myself enough time to get my thoughts together for this task. I received a C+ with the following:
You have made an acceptable attempt to investigate the issues regarding interagency cooperation. Your cases studies were pertinent, and your covered culture and financial issues.
However, one of the issues identified by the 9/11 commission was the legal line generally barring the sharing of information between law enforcement and intelligence activities. You didn’t address that here.
You used a lot of quotations in this piece (approximately 25% of all your text!); probably at the upper limits of what is acceptable for a research paper. That wouldn’t be too much of a problem, except that your paper is already very short for what is expected for a Capstone project (40-50 pages)
Otherwise, your writing skills show that you have graduate level competence and are able to articulate your position.
The panic monster inside me told me to end the paper gracefully, before I start inserting things that did not make sense for the topic. Unfortunately, I still left a lot that I could have covered, but was unable to recognize it at the time. Procrastinators learn lessons over time, but not all change their approach.
If a task pertains to getting something done for somebody else, I get those completed rather quickly. When it pertains to something for myself, I tend to wait until the last minute, or sometimes it just does not get completed. Being the reliable person that I am, I like to make sure that people are not waiting on me to proceed with tasks. I had to change the approach when it comes to things that I want to get done. In order to accomplish this, I try doing the following:
- Just Do It…like Nike says
- Surround myself with goal oriented people
- Turn off all distractions (includes closing unnecessary internet pages when working online)
- Plan a time and schedule a reminder
- Stop overthinking
Eliminating procrastination will not happen overnight, and there will still be times when you procrastinate on completing task. The sooner you start taking the small steps towards accomplishing goals, the better off you will be.
“Procrastination is the thief of time.” Edward Young
How do you handle procrastination? Do you have any tips to avoid procrastination? Comment below…