Reasons behind procrastination: Is it always a bad thing?

By PAIGE FLANAGAN

Stressed and anxious, a student rests her drooping head against her limp hand, preparing herself for a few more hours of last-minute, late-night studying.

Procrastination is her middle name, but has it always been? How many of us live with this studying habit? Do some of us feel as she does, or do we actually thrive off of this sort of studying?

There are many different reasons for procrastination. Whether it is due to a lack of time, a poor choice, or a conscious choice, people continue to procrastinate. There are pros and cons on both sides (procrastination versus non-procrastination). It boils down to the preference and productivity of the individual.

Photo by PAIGE FLANAGAN
Mount Mary student, Michelle Argenzio, appears stressed when faced with all the homework she procrastinated on.

However, students do not necessarily procrastinate because of a mere lack of motivation. Instead, it could be a lack of confidence that makes students discouraged — not in themselves but in their ability to complete what’s been assigned, according to Jody Kolter, a tutor at Mount Mary.

“The idea of seeing a blank screen or a blank piece of paper is really daunting or intimidating for them [students who are procrastinating],” Kolter said.

Non-procrastinators, however, have little to no problem focusing on the task at hand.

According to a post on www.apa.org entitled, “Psychology of Procrastination: Why People Put Off Important Tasks Until the Last Minute,” by Dr. Joseph Ferrari, DePaul University psychology professor, “They [non-procrastinators] have a stronger personal identity and are less concerned about what psychologists call ‘social esteem’ – how others like us – as opposed to self-esteem, which is how we feel about ourselves.”

There are reasons beyond lack of motivation and lack of confidence that could drive a student to procrastinate. Sometimes there is a whole psychological process behind the conscious choice of procrastination.

“Procrastination takes place because we are experiencing stress and anxiety regarding something we ‘have’ to do,” Joscelyn said.

The natural stress and anxiety of assignments may be reason enough to delay tasks.

Although “there is a relationship between anxiety and procrastination,” Joscelyn said, there is an upside of procrastination. Stress does not always have to be negative stress. Procrastination does not always have to be negative procrastination.

According to The Journal of Social Psychology, 2005,“Rethinking Procrastination: Positive Effects of “Active” Procrastination Behavior on Attitudes and Performance,”  by Angela Hsin Chun Chu and Jin Nam Choi. “Active procrastinators…a ‘positive’ type of procrastinator…prefer to work under pressure, and they make deliberate decisions to procrastinate.”

Michelle Argenzio, a sophomore fashion merchandising student at Mount Mary, said that she has been a procrastinator for as long as she can remember, and she makes it work.

“Procrastination is not something you can get rid of … I’m always going to have procrastination nagging at me, even when I am managing my time wisely,” Argenzio said. 

For some procrastinators, procrastination and worry sometimes go hand-in-hand.  When Argenzio worries, she loses more time, but she usually gets the assignment done at the very last minute, even if it sometimes means staying up until six in the morning.

When procrastination is practiced, “it is very stressful, because you start counting down the minutes until it’s due,” Argenzio said.

“Apart from stress, there is guilt: students think ‘If I had done this earlier, I wouldn’t be going through this,’” said Christel Taylor, director of Mount Mary University’s learning services and self-titled “queen of procrastination.”

No matter how far in advance a task is started, there’s going to be stress, but there’s an additional amount when dealing with panic and lack of time, Taylor said.

A pro to procrastination may serve to relieve pressure briefly. Cons may follow. As the pressure rises, there is “less time is available to do the task,” Joscelyn said. Furthermore, a tight time restriction leaves little room for procrastinators.

“Sometimes the pressure helps or forces me to work on a project,” Argenzio said.

Effects of college procrastination may be negative for some and positive for others.

“For some students, they need some stress in order to get through it [their homework assignments],” Taylor said.

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