It’s Not Due Yet: An Anatomy of a Procrastinator

Procrastination gets a bad rap. Some of it is deserved, but if so many people do it, it must have its perks.

By Chris Budd

My freshmen year of high school was the year that I really showed off my expertise in procrastination. An example of my incredible procrastination skills is when I had to make a kite for my final project in Spanish. I still don’t know how making a kite relates to learning Spanish, but that was our assignment. It was a challenge that took careful planning, craftsmanship, and . . . five minutes. Five minutes is how long it took me to think about it and do it. Though we were assigned to make a kite two weeks before it was due, in the class before, I started to work on my final project. I took out a piece of paper. Folded it. Taped the two ends together. Made some cuts to add some character. And wrote a well-worded sentence in Spanish to prove that I know how to use Google Translate. It was magnificent. So much so that my friend copied my exact design. And you know what grade I got for this innovative flying machine? A low B. I’m still very proud of my B.

Before the exhausting five minutes of work and the triumph of getting that B, the stress from putting the project off for so long drained me. While getting to the last opportunity, you see all the other opportunities go past. There is so much time to start doing my homework, but it never feels like the right time. With the time I have, I could have written this paper days ago. But I didn’t. Instead of using the opportunity to write, I would do something else that didn’t involve work. I watched videos on YouTube like “Why you shouldn’t procrastinate” and “How to have a good study schedule.”  If my time wasn’t wasted watching “helpful” study plans, then it would be spent hanging out with friends. If my friends wanted to do anything, even if it was to do nothing, I would hang out with them rather than do my homework. Throwing away opportunities to start begins building up stress. That is the worst part about procrastinating. Having a lingering feeling that time is running out.

Sometimes the stress is so bad that I lose all hope and would rather not even do it than see me fail. It is like there is a gap that I have to jump across. If I do not make it, then that means death, and death to me means failing. When it gets down to the final days, I would start having these stress dreams about failing. I’m in AP Chem, and in the second to last week of summer, I would appear in Mr. Stienken’s class. Standing in front of the room, he asks for our summer assignments. I would begin looking down at my desk and see just an empty sheet of paper. Not even my name would be on it. I would feel scared because I failed. I even failed at starting to put my name on a piece of paper. For a week, I would wake up from this nightmare having relief, but also a sense of impending doom. “I don’t have to face that reality for another couple of weeks,” I thought to myself every single time.  Every second in the final days are agony. Because every moment it seemed like that gap that I have to jump across got bigger. At the last possible opportunity, though, I find the strength that propels me to the other side of the gap. The anxiety of me about to fail pushes me to just give everything I have to make it across. To succeed. But why do I still wait until the last opportunity? Why not start earlier?

There is a meme that explains pretty well how I see procrastination, “I wait until the last minute to do things, because I will be older, and therefore wiser.” Waiting for the last opportunity gives me time to think and still learn to make my work better. For this paper, I learned about setting up scenes. That helped me to write more and explain my thoughts by giving examples. Also, I learned about how to set up a quote. Instead of wasting time revising my paper every time we learned a new technique, I can wait until I have all of the knowledge and then implement it all at once.

I do my best work when I have the time to think and have a little bit of pressure from procrastinating. And the best time for that is the class before it’s due.

Photo: blank page by Robert Couse-Baker on Flickr