Have you ever seen those infomercials where everyday tasks are turned into momentous chores? I remember one from a while back — it was for this pot that had a locking lid that doubled as a strainer. It’s a good idea; my grandma bought one and it worked like a charm. The part that really got me, though, is when the actors were straining pasta the old-fashioned way: they dumped water all over the place. The noodles slid down the sink and the camera then turned to a family at the dinner table, reeling with disappointment because they would now starve. Suddenly, the scene went from black and white to color—the woman who was cooking could then magically create delicious meals, all because her pot has holes in the lid. It’s a miracle.
I’ve always thought these commercials were funny. Do I really need a pot with holes in the lid? Is it really that hard to just get out the dang colander? Of course it isn’t. But that just seems to be the way things work. We look for miracle diets, miracle stain removers, miracle acne-banishers—it seems like we feel that all our problems are worthy of quick, easy, miracle solutions.
We do this in college too—or at least I do. Fade to black and white—now we see the college student struggling under a mountain of homework, drinking gallons of coffee to stay awake, cramming every last second of fun that they can into their day before they do their homework, and studying frantically the night before a test. Then we pan over to the student, who monologues about the difficulties of last-minute homework.
It’s interesting to me that we spend so much time doing this when the solutions are relatively simple. Start writing things ahead of time. Go to bed at a decent hour. Do your work before you play. Why do we turn our problems into disasters? What is the deal with procrastination?
Dr. Joseph Ferrari, a professor at DePaul University in Chicago, once said: “Non-procrastinators focus on the task that needs to be done. They 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.” Maybe procrastination is a way of fitting in socially—certainly, when you complain about only having one day left to do an assignment, people generally respond. Maybe we procrastinate because that’s what we’re expected to do as students. I will admit that I have actually bragged about how long I’ve been able to put off assignments. And then I complained about how much work I had to do.
Last year, when I was a senior in high school, I wasn’t expecting to start slacking, but soon I found myself afflicted with a full-blown case of senioritis. Every assignment was pushed into a corner until the day (and sometimes the class period) before it was due. It was sad, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care. And try as I might, I couldn’t snap out of it. I tried and tried again to figure out how to break that cycle—but I was hoping to put in as little work as possible. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work. The truth I found was simple, and yet, I think it is worth reiterating here: put in the effort. I learned this the hard way.
The cycle of procrastination may be difficult to break, but we are not in an infomercial. There will be no magical moment when our world fades to color and the homework is done. But wait! Do not despair! There’s good news —for the low, low price of a little elbow grease, we can come to terms with the fact that procrastination is actually not a good social move, and solve all of our problems. Hey, it sure beats paying four installments of $19.95 plus shipping and handling.