Nov. 4, 7:27 p.m.: received e-mail about story assignment on topic of procrastination. Nov. 4, 7:29 p.m.: closed e-mail browser and shopped online for shoes. Was fascinated by black and white pumps on Nine West site. Nov. 9, 6:42 p.m.: realized had not started article about procrastination and did nothing about it. Instead, went to dinner. Enjoyed bagel sandwich and corn chowder. Nov. 11, 2:15 p.m.: discovered editing for the procrastination story was later that evening. Nov. 11, 2:18 p.m.: ironically thought that the subject for the story was the story of my life.
As evidenced through the dawdling approach to the completion of this article, procrastination creeps into life with a deceptive charm. By putting off that paper — or article, in this case — for just for a few more minutes, life becomes momentarily perfect. Those patent leather pumps, the quick bite to eat or even the latest episode of “Oprah” lure us away from our economics problem sets and English papers. But the ramifications of those delays can often turn into last-minute hustling and shoddy workmanship. Yet, do most Yale students avoid the passing pleasure of procrastination?
“In general, Yalies perform great feats on little sleep and lots of caffeine,” Kate Block ’04 said. “Balance, health and sleep are apparently overrated.”
Block’s declaration of “Yes! I love to procrastinate,” has become quite familiar to nearly all students. The manner in which this is done, however, is unique to each individual.
“I watch lots of ‘Oprah.’ The great thing about ‘Oprah’ is that it is self-improving procrastination,” Block said. “I also do a lot on the Internet. Friendster is a terribly exciting form of procrastination. Sometimes I will even do work for one class as a procrastination method for work for another class.”
Block is not the only person who seeks effortless distraction from the mundane. The Internet’s widespread accessibility is conducive to inactivity all over campus.
Pavlo Chikosh ’05 said that at times he obsessively checks his e-mail. Unfortunately, his desire for an urgent or important message rarely delivers during procrastination, but his hope allows for repeated distraction from work.
“I check my e-mail every 10 minutes telling myself I am waiting for some important message,” Chikosh said.
In fact, any aspect of the Internet can provide relief from a pressing workload.
“Most of the time, I have to write a paper, but I get caught up in checking my e-mail or online shopping, all the while telling myself I can not close the browser because I am really doing ‘research,'” Erica Davis ’07 said.
And to add to the multitudinous options for diversion, there is “downtime” — when slovenliness and sloth manifest themselves in the act of staring blindly at a flickering television screen for an indeterminate period. Through America’s favorite pastime, Yalies’ attentions are drawn away from the host of wholesome, intellectual activities offered by the University.
Kathy Brozina ’04 cited a desire to relax as her reason for turning on the tube.
“I watch ‘Dr. Phil’ because it is on right after my classes, and it is a good opportunity to just zone out,” Brozina said.
Certain weekly scheduled television programs also provide an impetus for procrastination.
“I watch ‘Friends’ religiously and ‘Less Than Perfect’ every Tuesday,” Lauren Abendshien ’06 said. She said she also prides herself as a connoisseur of fine comedy, indulging in reruns of “The Nanny” multiple times a day.
The real question, however, is not how to find creative options for procrastination, but how to avoid them. Some students develop systems that enable them to buckle down and be productive.
Setting aside time as a working period is how many Yalies keep up with their work.
“I am only truly productive between 7 and 11 a.m. I know that is crazy, but if I psych myself up for it, I can be incredibly productive in this time. It is quiet, I am thinking just enough to focus on the task at hand, and I am not distracted by everything going on,” Block said. “It is when I start to think about what they are serving for lunch, what I should wear that day, what will be on ‘Oprah,’ that is when I begin to procrastinate.”
Block’s advice to restrain the fierce forces of procrastination: “Everyone has that four-hour chunk during the day when they are most productive. I say guard that chunk as your temple, and then watch ‘Oprah’ with a clean conscience.”
Instead of using a definite period every day, Davis offered a more lenient policy to evade distraction.
“If you use the little free time you have here and there [between classes, at meals], it makes it easier. At crunch time, you have less work than if you had to start from the very beginning,” she said.
Or perhaps the most viable option is Chikosh’s suggestion to ignore any anxiety over procrastination at all.
“I do not feel there is something terrible about procrastination,” she said. “I am going to work for the next forty years, I might as well procrastinate a little.”
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