The problem with procrastination

Procrastination is my nemesis in life. You would know this if you’ve ever seen how long it takes me to pack for or unpack from a long trip, or buy Christmas presents or, I don’t know, write an article for some school newspaper.

Anyway, this dilatory problem of mine became more apparent to me at the end of this summer as I checked off all of the things that I wanted to accomplish in that three-month span but didn’t. So this got me thinking about the dangers of procrastination. If I consistently postpone my short-term goals, why would anything be different in regards to my long-term aspirations? What contributes to this problem? Basically, what’s my deal?

I don’t think I’m the only one who experiences this sense of self-frustration due to procrastination. Productivity is gratifying, but it’s just so difficult to get started on things that aren’t necessarily what we would prefer to be doing with our time. I believe part of the reason we procrastinate is because contemporary procrastination feels equally important to the task we should be doing.

Modern procrastination masquerades as productivity. We’re no longer searching for distraction by drumming pens on our desks or flicking paper footballs into a trash can, consciously avoiding work. Instead, the distraction is always literally at hand or in our laps with our smartphones and laptops. However, using these devices generally doesn’t seem like wasting time, quite the opposite, actually.

We check Twitter or Facebook or Instagram to keep up with our social circles. We feel the need to catch up on our favorite shows on Netflix so that we don’t fall behind. There’s Snapchat, and Reddit, and Youtube, and Vine, and Buzzfeed, and Pinterest. and Candy Crush and whatever else constantly at our fingertips, competing for our time, waiting to be refreshed or viewed or played.

All of these applications and websites can be entertaining and enjoyable, but it is when we put them in front of our obligations or commitments that they become a means for procrastination.

I am not writing this to condemn smartphones or laptops. I think they are fantastic tools that can certainly help us be productive provided they are used properly. Sites like the ones I mentioned above can be addicting and even appear essential in our lives. Phones can simultaneously be the drug and the enabler. They help us pass the time, thereby enabling our procrastination. I’m not criticizing the technology, just the misuse or overuse of it. Moderation matters.

I must admit to my hypocrisy, because I am one of the worst offenders of procrastination by smartphone. I worry that this problem will have greater consequences as time goes by. Long term goals and career aspirations appear far away and thus seem like they can be put off until some unspecified time, but I’m beginning to realize that things don’t get done or don’t get done properly unless you start on them now.

Procrastination might be more serious than we think. The ramifications aren’t limited to a poor grade on a paper because you put it off for too long. It could mean looking back in 40 years and thinking about the things you just never got around to accomplishing. I think this may be the best way to combat procrastination—reminding ourselves daily of the finite nature of life. In other words: you only live once. I guess what I’m trying to say is #yolo.