By Anastasia Howland
What’s one habit we all struggle with breaking? Biting our nails? Maybe. Eating too much Halloween candy? Perhaps. But I was thinking of a different habit. That’s right… procrastination! It’s a nasty thing that often piles up on top of itself to such an extent that we have unfinished assignments piled up on top of ourselves. A simple definition of this complex problem would be: “the act of delaying something,” such as if I were to go make myself a nice cup of tea right now, instead of telling you the definition of procrastination.
One reason college students procrastinate is because we’re unsure how to even begin an assignment. Perhaps it involves a presentation on a piece of modern art that just looks like a broom to you, or a paper that is to compare a book of the Bible to the newest Leonardo DiCaprio movie. Listen up, my friends: putting assignments off to the last minute isn’t an efficient way to complete them. If you’re confused, ask for help—from a friend, tutor, parent, professor, or a variety of others. If you don’t, it will likely involve something like a last-ditch effort to slap together a PowerPoint about how you were really “swept away” by the broom art, or frantically typing up a comparison between 1 John and an online summary of Leo’s latest flick. Instead, I suggest you ask for help, and ask early. Your friends, tutors, parents, and even professors have needed to ask for help before too, so don’t be shy.
Another reason we often procrastinate is because the thing that we should be doing isn’t what we want to be doing right that moment. For example: I would prefer to curl up with my warm cup of tea now, and enjoy writing this later. And that’s often the problem with procrastination: that five-letter word “later.” It’s an abstract concept that doesn’t quite become reality until “later” has become “too late” and you are now staying up late and arriving to class late because you were hurriedly finishing the assignment you put off doing. Now, how do you fix this all too familiar issue? It’s simple: You just stop procrastinating.
Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging there—I know things are easier said than done. It sounds counterintuitive to say that you learn to stop procrastinating by stopping yourself from procrastinating, but it’s true. Practice doesn’t make perfect immediately, or even ever, but it does make you better. Try setting a timer, working on your assignment for that amount of time, and then taking a short break to reward yourself before going back to work. Rather than trying to write the entire paper two hours before class, start earlier and take breaks in between. It’s not easy, but it’s the best way and the least stressful. However, it’s not going to work unless you’re determined to cease procrastinating. You can’t cheat your diet by sneaking a Snickers with every meal and still expect to get good results. You’re not cheating the diet—you’re cheating yourself. Similarly, you can’t set a timer, and then just scroll through Facebook for twenty minutes. You must put in the effort to get the results.
One motivating phrase that has often gotten me on my feet and moving is Colossians 3:23, which says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” As clichéd as it sounds, this reminds me that I am to do everything for God’s glory. Completing assignments well reflects my attitude as a Christian, and how important God’s Word is to me. If I look at an assignment from my perspective—a 5-page paper that I’m not interested in—then I won’t be particularly motivated to complete it. However, if I look at it from the perspective of this verse—an opportunity to work at something with all my heart, for the glory of the Lord—I will be much more motivated.
It’s difficult to overcome procrastination. In your efforts, you will fail every so often, or perhaps very often at first. You can’t let this discourage you, however, or your assignments will just begin to pile up again. If you find yourself procrastinating, don’t say, “Oh well, I’ve already wasted an hour, so I might as well just start later.” This is not the time to give up. This is the time to rally against the procrastination! Ask for help, set that timer, repeat Colossians 3:23 over and over; do whatever it takes. And as you do this more frequently, you will discover the ways that are most effective in defeating your procrastinatory habits. So, while it may be difficult, it’s worth it. It’s worth it to know that you have done your absolute best—ultimately working for the Lord—and to finish with enough time to enjoy whatever activity you consider to be your cup of tea. In my case, it’s drinking a literal cup of tea, which is what I’m going to enjoy now—now that my work is done.