Procrastination Nation

By Taylor Galla '18
Opinion Poll Columnist

Procrastination is a very adamant problem on college campuses, as is evidenced by the endless population of students in the library until very, very late each night. Many of whom, I would argue, are probably working hard on something due in the very near future. Now, I used to see procrastination as a problem- something that people need to fix by not being lazy and being more disciplined with their work. However, this week I watched a TED Talk from online blogger Ted Urban in which he discussed his procrastination machine that has carried him through his life to where he is today. He explained that, in fact, everyone procrastinates in one way or another. His system of procrastination included a “Rational Decision Maker,” a “Instant Gratification Monkey” and a “Panic Monster.” The “Rational Decision Maker” always tries to get work done when the time is appropriate and convenient, but the “Instant Gratification Monkey” grabs the wheel and steers the subject towards things that are easy and fun to do- keeping the work from being done. The “Panic Monster” is the key to the whole system- because as deadlines approach and the amount of work needed to accomplish the task remains the same, this monster wakes up and provides the much-needed motivation to get it done. The system, Urban explains, “is not pretty, but it works.”

Now, I would argue that many people in these 5C campuses would relate to this talk as it lays out the pattern very clearly and addresses an unfortunate but very prevalent reality for many people. Procrastination is exactly how he describes it- a system of getting things done. It’s not the easiest system, nor the most efficient, nor the smartest in my opinion. However it’s a system that many people have because due to the mind that they possess, they don’t really have any other options as to what they can do.

However, I wouldn’t argue that there are “procrastinators” and “non-procrastinators”- many people procrastinate in different ways at varying levels. There are people who procrastinate on homework they don’t want to do with other productive work- like working on their resume or sending emails for study abroad. There are people who procrastinate by cleaning their room, calling their parents, making a really good smoothie, washing their car or going to work out. These are tasks that yes, aren’t the most pertinent task at hand, but are being constructive in one way or another.

There are also people who procrastinate in ways that seemingly aren’t productive in the same way but I would argue that they are in their own way- you just have to look at them carefully. Take an example that Tim Urban discusses in his video- going on Google Earth and starting at the lowest point in India and spending 2 hours to get to the highest point - “to get a better sense of India.” Now, this doesn’t seem like a very interesting or beneficial thing to do for one’s career or studies. But, that knowledge acquired in that time will come up later on for something else- whether it’s chit chat with a random person on the subway or an anecdote to share in a job interview. Either way, this time is not wasted- it’s contributing to accumulative knowledge and experience that creates a person with a full life.

Procrastinators, in their many forms, are people with active, engaged minds. Tim Urban ends his talk by discussing how that “Panic Monster” works in all situations with a deadline, because he whips into action and gets the task done- delaying the need to become a more diligent worker. However, where the “Instant Gratification Monkey” performs his sneakiest trick is when there is no deadline for something. A business one wants to start, improving one’s relationship, taking care of one’s health or calling their family more often. These things have no deadline in one’s life because they aren’t things that one necessarily has to do; however, they are important and deserve attention. Everyone is procrastinating on something- in the immediate present and in the far future. However, we must keep the far future on our radar and because the “Panic Monster” cannot make those major life moves happen years down the line- we have to start now. Well, maybe not right now- but soon.