Taylor Tames

An FHS student is in a classroom on their phone rather than doing their assignment that is due the next day.

Alice Cai, Editor

The girl sits in bed, face inches away from her computer screen as she scrolls through YouTube. The sky outside her window is the dull purple of a winter sunset. The clock on her bedroom wall ticks with the slightest of noise, yet it seems to drum loud in her head, a constant reminder of the time that is passing by. She is painfully aware of these drums, and the voice inside her head listing off the projects due tomorrow.

She has a craving though, for instant gratification, for a small laugh. She finds a video: “Try not to laugh: the funniest videos on the Internet.” The sound of loud, fast-paced music fills her ears. Drowns out the tick of the clock. Spontaneous laughs are drawn out of her stomach. Her eyes glaze over. Thoughts time out. The brain empties and the instant gratification monkey within controls her fingers as she clicks on video after video. Just one more. Just one more.

Sometime, hours later, the videos start to bore her. She pauses, stretches her arms, and then realizes how much time she has wasted. That horrible emptiness in the pit of her stomach emerges once more and in the silence of the room, the tick of the clock sounds like an earthquake in her frantic brain. She does not want to think about the deadlines and searches desperately for a source of distraction.

Picking up her phone, she scrolls through Instagram posts, liking and commenting and then taking a selfie to post. Choosing the right filter, the right lighting, the right position, the right facial expression, the right caption takes her an hour. She feels a hollow sense of satisfaction at the faux productivity.

The world outside her window is a foggy black sea. The clock on her bedroom wall says 12. Her mind shouts at her, but she puts the earbuds in her ears. That night she falls asleep to the sound of hysterically laughing YouTubers, and the tick of the clock.

As many may know, procrastination is one of the most common bad habits people develop.With the advancement of technology comes a skyrocket in the availability of constant and convenient entertainment. Social media, YouTube, video games and other forms of cheap entertainment are powerful forms of distraction. Ultimately, procrastination is a combination of a current physical state, innate personality traits, and external influences. According to Motivation Grid, several main causes of procrastination include fear of failure, perfectionism, low energy levels, and a lack of focus.

Like a cancer, its roots start to grow in the early ages, and really shows symptoms around high school. During this time, one’s workload significantly increases, and students find themselves struggling to balance homework and hobbies and friends and family (and existential crises).

“I try not to procrastinate so I can be prepared and not as stressed but I find myself procrastinating especially when I am really busy and just want to relax,” freshman Lila Mays said.

Procrastination is not usually intentional. Most of the time, it is out of habit, like a second nature.

“I’m always doing essays at the last minute,” sophomore Zach Killcrece said.

Everyone does it. And its effects on people, whether physically visible in grades, or mental, are clear.

“When I procrastinate, it makes me feel like I constantly have a giant weight on my shoulders that is destroying me slowly,” freshman Emmerson Pummill said.

Along with the effects on physical and mental health, procrastination can negatively impact the quality of work done.

“Procrastination is something I say I’m really good at until I get my test scores back,” senior Eva Bogomilova said. “Then I realize it’s probably not the best approach.”

The official definition according to of the word “procrastinate” is: “to put off activities that were planned or scheduled, for activities that are of a lesser importance (but provide some sort of momentary gratification)”.

According to Brandon Gaille, procrastination rates in the United States have quadrupled in the last 30 years. Twenty-six percent of the population are chronic procrastinators, meaning they do it all the time and cannot control it. Forty percent of people have experienced financial loss due to procrastination.

Most people procrastinate, but few understand the science behind this kind of behavior.

Procrastination falls under a category of human behaviors called Akrasia. Akrasia is the Greek word, developed by Aristotle, that means the state of acting against better judgment. This describes lack of skills like self-control, ability to prioritize, time-management, focus, etc. Looking at human behavior from abroad, scientific standpoint, it can be realized that some bad habits or tendencies most people see as individual flaws actually have their roots in the processes of evolution.

Millions of years ago, in the primal ages of human existence, human behavior was much like that of animals, with survival being the sole goal of everyday life. Because survival depended on finding food, avoiding predators, and avoiding natural disasters, the human mindset was much more concerned with their immediate environment. As human society advanced, however, survival became more of a long-term concern than an everyday one. Instead of thinking, “How can I avoid freezing to death in this snow?”, people think, “How can I get a job so that I can support my family for the decades to come?” The present-focused and future-focused mindsets struggle in their different interests. In scientific terms, this is a battle between the limbic system, the unconscious pleasure center of the brain, and the prefrontal cortex, or the internal “planner”. The mind must balance out the wants of the present moment with the wants of the future. When the desire of the present self overrides the wants over the future self, people procrastinate.

Despite the fact that it seems scientifically ingrained in human nature to procrastinate, there are many steps one can take to overcome this. One of the most important steps is to change the perspective with which procrastination is viewed. Negativity often leads to a feeling of depression or frustration and ultimately more procrastination. Instead of responding negatively and blaming or criticizing oneself, keeping a calm mindset is crucial, especially because volatile emotion often leads to rash action. A useful method to improve time management skills is to prioritize and know what is most important. Also, alter the environment by taking away distractions. Cutting off internet access or putting away phones will make it much easier to focus.
Most recommend the two-minute rule. When drowning in a sea of small to-dos- simple things like doing the laundry or cleaning the bedroom, remember the two-minute rule: if something can be done in under two minutes, do it.

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