I’m watching Gossip Girl again. Low moments in my life like this can only mean one thing: I don’t understand the work I’ve been set and I can’t convince myself to try.
The guilt of ignoring an important task is something we can all relate to, whether our procrastination prevents us from skimming through notes or cramming for an exam.
Time-wasting isn’t purely academic. It’s present in almost all parts of our lives. Task evasion is a trap easy to fall into, but is it something we should be worried about? We’re all affected by procrastination to some extent, but many are more susceptible to avoiding tasks. This, unsurprisingly, leads to greater stress levels and deepened anxiety.
“But if you’re so stressed, why don’t you just do the work and get it over with?” asks yet another ‘helpful’ voice.
Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.
Joseph Ferrari, a pioneer of modern research into the subject, states that “to tell the chronic procrastinator to ‘just do it’ would be like saying to a clinically depressed person ‘cheer up’.” Ferrari’s studies suggest that 20% of the population meet his definition of a ‘chronic procrastinator’.
This percentage sits too high for comfort, begging two questions: “What’s causing the addictive habit of ‘doing it tomorrow?’” and “how can it be stopped?”
It seems that procrastination is commonly perceived as a non-issue, demonstrating the way in which it’s overlooked. Whilst it seems daft, task avoidance is in our evolutionary nature, a “fight or flight” reaction to protect us from stress and anxiety.
Ironically our mechanism for avoiding these, itself piles a ton of anxiety on us. In under 0.05 seconds of being given a job, our subconscious can cause the task to feel out of control, sending our stress levels into overdrive.
There’s more of a problem to be addressed than there first seems. The typical solution of removing distractions no longer looks sufficient, as it appears that it will take more than turning off a mobile phone and logging out of Netflix to resolve the issue.
It’s not uncommon to hear the results of procrastination being blamed on new technology. With over 1.5 million mobile apps to choose from, this is hardly surprising. But, in reality, people have struggled with procrastination since ancient civilisations. Even the Roman consul Cicero knew this, titling procrastination “hateful” regarding conduct of affairs.
If not hateful, ‘harmful’ seems a more suitable word. Procrastination isn’t a modern problem, nor is it one to be disregarded. People with a history of task-avoidance are prone to miss, or fail to organise, medical meetings, job interviews, and endure an inflated sense of stress within everyday choices.
Still, there is no viable method to help with procrastination. It’s worrying that this is true of an issue responsible for massive amounts of anxiety, and for no reason other than an ignorant misconception.
I implore that the task of finding a valid solution is one which we finally stop putting off.
-- Dana Penistone is a student at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds