The way in which students tend to approach assignments—with horror, futility and elaborate avoidance—smacks of the symptoms of certain psychological disorders such as depression or OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).
However, in an interview, Douglas Coupland, author of Generation X, demonstrated the biological nature of procrastination. While visiting a Tibetan monastery, he found himself at the apex of serenity, but was suddenly incapable of writing. He realized, once he returned home to the U.S., that all he required to get working again was a bowl of Kraft Dinner. Almost in a Pavlovian manner, Coupland had associated artistic output with mac ‘n’ cheese, proving that all he ever really required to begin writing again was the right form of procrastination. Rather than being categorized as a psychological disorder, procrastination has become, for students, a biological imperative to survive. A student’s success can be measured by how brief one’s methods of procrastination are. Although lack of procrastination is most effective, in reality (where procrastination abounds) it is more productive to discuss the most efficient methods of procrastinating. Watching reruns of Welcome Back Kotter, while an extremely embarrassing activity, can be effective since it’s only a brief distraction (a half-hour) compared to the complex, prolonged procrastination that some people follow.
Bryce Nobes outlined his usual schedule before a big assignment. He would only work during normal sleep hours (when his mind is at its least effective); claim that a slurpee and an elaborately cooked meal are required study preparations; thoroughly clean his apartment from top to bottom; and finally realize, on the night before the assignment is due, that he is too tired to work. He will sleep a couple of hours and get up at some ungodly hour to start it. The culmination of the process involves getting the minimum of said work done and sprinting to school to hand in everything five minutes late.
Although this represents a rather extreme example, numerous other students admitted a slew of bad study habits to me. These tended to include: showering, in the hopes that a clean body will result in an equally unsullied mind; lying on the bed, floor or couch complaining about one’s life being a tragedy of Sophoclean proportions; and organizing CDs, books or clothes by genre, mood or even “year bought,” as seen in the film High Fidelity.
The most drastic procrastination was unanimously agreed to be going out the night before an exam/assignment. Sarah Surly revealed that she attended a concert on the night-before. When it was over, she bought a coffee and managed to stay up all night writing. Having used the same approach myself, I am well aware of its benefits. In my first year at McGill, I studied the night before a biology exam and managed to get the best result of my undergraduate science career. This sort of procrastination tends to pay off, as its efficiency arises from the relaxed this-is-due-in-four-hours-and-I-don’t-bloody-care-any-more attitude. One could argue that the most expansive form of procrastination is the “I Now Speak Sanskrit” form. When avoiding schoolwork, ample time is made available to become a connoisseur in an area that would otherwise have been left unexplored. You thus find people who have taught themselves how to tie a bow-tie, via internet instructions, on the night before an exam. Others find it the appropriate time to start learning various Eastern languages. The free time also tends to make us intimately involved with our computers, doing things like de-fragmenting our HDDs.
With all the above “preparation,” unexpected obstacles when completing assignments may arise. Such horrors sometimes necessitate lying. For example, Gregory Captive stated that he awoke early the morning his project was due and waited outside his professor’s first class. When his professor emerged, he pretended to be frazzled and breathless and in a genuinely flustered tone spit out: “Oh, professor! I wrote this assignment for you but after speaking with—student—learned that I’ve done it completely wrong! What penalty will I face if I hand it in two days late?” His prof was so blindsided that he said not to worry about it. Andrea Nissen, a student spectre-like in her whiteness, was on her way to hand in a late assignment when she encountered her prof in the elevator. Looking at her exceedingly pale face, the prof assumed Andrea was deathly ill and told her she would not lose any marks for not completing an assignment while combating such a severe-looking sickness!
Needless to say, Andrea was not haunted by the moral imperative of setting her prof straight. It’s the ultimate plight of the procrastinator, torn between its need to survive and the guilt surrounding the double-crossing of its opponents.