by Summer Randolph
“I can do it later.” That thought has run through everyone’s mind—whether you are starting an essay, doing chores, or making a big decision, procrastination can get the best of people. In life people procrastinate for many different reasons, but it all leads to the same thing: being forced to complete a task last minute, which increases stress levels.
When four people were asked if they knew the science behind procrastination, not one of them did. Some had ideas about why they procrastinate but did not know the neurological explanation. Simply put, your brain consists of many parts including the limbic zone and the prefrontal cortex. The limbic zone makes unconscious decisions, while the prefrontal cortex plans for the future and gets things done. The limbic zone wants to keep the brain calm and happy all the time and perform non-stressful tasks such as watching tv or going on social media. Procrastination is caused when the limbic zone overpowers the prefrontal cortex in attempts to avoid feelings of stress.
As stated by the University of Rochester Medical Center, “The rational part of a teen’s brain [prefrontal cortex] isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so.” This explains why teens often have impulsive behavior and procrastinate a bit more than adults. When asked if she has learned to procrastinate less as she has gotten older, Ms. Ginsberg, a Las Lomas health and English teacher stated, “I would say I don’t necessarily get things done earlier than I used to. I just have…better planning skills in general.”
There are many different reasons why people procrastinate. Some include a fear of failure, overestimation of time, distractions such as technology, not enough time due to extracurricular activities, or an overwhelming feeling of the tasks ahead. When asked why she procrastinates, Allie Pilcher, a sophomore at Las Lomas, knew the answer right away. “I struggle with anxiety, so when I am faced with projects that…there is room to get a bad grade on… I don’t want to start it because I am scared of failure.” This seems like a common theme amongst most people because Ms. Ginsberg expressed a similar idea. “A lot of people will procrastinate because of a fear of failure or a fear of what would happen if I actually tried my best on this and it didn’t work.”
The reasons that people procrastinate differ, but often times procrastination may backfire and cause more stress. Ashton Marks, a sophomore at Las Lomas, agreed that procrastination can create more problems. “If you wait to do an assignment, then other assignments stack up on top of it and you have way more work to do than you had to do in the first place.” Students may procrastinate schoolwork, but eventually they will have to complete that assignment last minute, all while more assignments are being added to their to-do list.
According to Psychology Today, a term called the “procrastination accumulation effect” occurs when, “you feel stressed, put things off, and then feel stressed thinking about what you’ve left undone.” This negative effect is widely known, and Mrs. Lewis-Hampton, a school counselor at Las Lomas, remarked, “I’m one of those humans who will wake up in the middle of the night and think about all of the things I should’ve done, didn’t do, and that totally messes with me, so I try not to procrastinate.”
However, there are many distractions prevalent for teens, and it is difficult to not procrastinate and waste time instead of doing something productive. With social media, Netflix, sports, and much more, writing that essay or doing math homework isn’t appealing. Yet there are many strategies to help you not procrastinate and make the most out of the little time you have in a day to get work done.
One idea to help you avoid procrastination is to set aside a certain day or amount of time to get work done. Additionally, it is important to steer clear of all distractions that would fuel procrastination, such as a cell phone. If fear of failure is what causes you to procrastinate, continue to have confidence and try your best on the decisions you make and the work you produce.
There are also some advantages to taking a 10-15 minute break while performing a boring task. Pausing what you are doing for a short period of time can refresh your brain and help avoid procrastination. The short break will only be helpful if you get back to work after the set time.
It is important to find what works for you. Maybe you are the kind of person who likes to procrastinate because the pressure of getting an assignment done on time is helpful. As stated by Ms. Ginsberg, “Some people can do fine with procrastinating. They can leave something until the last minute and then they feel some time pressure and they get it done quickly and they get it done well.” If procrastination helps a person succeed in life, then it can be beneficial.
Unfortunately, for the majority of people, procrastination is negative and leads to stress accumulation. Although it may be hard, not procrastinating will generally be very helpful. Try to make that big decision, write that essay, and do your math homework because in the end, you will feel more successful by achieving your goals rather than being unproductive.