Fuck! I’ve done it again, and, chances are, you’re guilty of doing it too. Nearly everyone procrastinates. We put off chores, homework and studying. We even put off watching TV shows and movies, things that are meant to help us procrastinate. And despite the consequences that we’ve faced time and time again, we still do it. Hell, I procrastinated on writing this article. But maybe procrastination isn’t all bad? It may even have its merits?
In an interview with Smithsonian Magazine, Professor Frank Partnoy of the University of San Diego, argues that our tendency to procrastinate is all too human, and that the negative connotations of the practice were created during Puritan sermons in the 1500s.
“The question is not whether we are procrastinating, it is whether we are procrastinating well,” he said.
In his book, “Wait: The Art and Science of Delay,” Partnoy says that waiting until the last possible moment often yields to the best decision. In his version of procrastinating, one must be thinking about what they’re procrastinating on, not just blowing it off.
During a presentation in Washington College, Dr. Jorge Cham, reminded everyone that procrastination is not the same thing as laziness.
“Laziness means you don’t want to do it. Procrastination means you don’t want to do it now,” he emphasized.
He adds that if you focus too much on certain problem or task, you can actually hinder yourself from finding the solution, siting a 2004 U.S. study, which used fMRI to look at subjects’ brains as they solved problems. The findings showed that a sudden flash of insight occurred when subjects were no longer thinking critically about the problem.
Cham is also the creator of a comic strip entitled Piled Higher and Deeper, which depicts the lives of college students and has many instances of the procrastinating culture of college life. This comic strip, which made him more successful than his research work on robotics, was actually a product of procrastination.
But procrastination can lead to an endless cycle of fear and euphoria. According to The Brain Bank, a group of scientist from Manchester founded by neuroscientist Dr. Sarah Fox, procrastination is due to our bodies’ fight-or-flight response.
In their blog, The Brain Bank attributes procrastination as a solution to an overwhelming amount of stress that makes one panic, and once that panic is eased, meaning we procrastinate, dopamine is released into our system and relief dominates our senses. The cycle may then repeat itself once we have to face the problem again.
So procrastination can be a useful tool in problem solving, yet it can also cause us to be dopamine junkies. But can you to rid yourself of the procrastination habit?
A 2015 study in Beijing Normal University found that both Acceptance Commitment Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy worked in treating procrastination. ACT allowed the subjects in the study to accept their emotions towards procrastination, which allowed them to focus on their work. On the other hand, CBT subjects used peer feedback and time-management tools to avoid procrastination. Both of these therapies were equally effective in dealing with and kicking the habit of procrastination.
In the end, procrastination is a difficult thing to conquer whether you’re trying to quit or master it. You’re free to try both. But if you’re anything like me, this won’t be the last time you procrastinate. Just remember to at least pass those classes.