Published on February 24, 2014 | by Caroline Clastres

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Procrastination: The eighth deadly sin

A stressed student rests her head on her laptop

With the Easter break just around the corner, many final year students are feeling the stress of looming deadlines [Tom Setterfield]

Remember the glory days of last September?

We had the whole year ahead of us, and we probably secretly promised ourselves not to mess it up this one last time.

Graduation was months away, so in the meantime we thought we would give ourselves a peaceful start to the school year.

Then December knocked and it was precisely then that the first seeds of anxiety kicked in. We vowed to take advantage of our Christmas break to at least get started methodically.

Weirdly enough, every time we were about to stick our noses into some books, a big red banner showed up in our minds stating: ‘There is PLENTY OF TIME.’

Besides, the appeal of a steaming turkey unquestionably beats our shy voice of reason with a major KO.

In other terms, Christmas break gets easily whisked away and ‘denial’ becomes our new favourite word.

Come New Year’s Day, we realise we had the whole of Christmas to do some serious research, but instead we spent all of our time eating and sleeping. Here comes the guilt and the January blues!

Which brings us to now, February.

With the Easter break approaching, we realise we can no longer be in denial. Perhaps now we should all drop the blasé attitude and act like actual final year students?

Better late than never.

UAL graduate Shelly Asquith recalls this time all too well:“I definitely had Christmas denial! Once I came back in January everything hit me. I’d definitely say structuring your Easter holiday is a good way to make sure you use that month off effectively,” she says. “It completely messed with my body clock. I’d stay up really late working on my dissertation – that’s how I discovered our flat had mice!”

Time management

Managing our time is undeniably an important aspect of our university lives and many of us have to juggle between work and studies.

If you do work it is recommended to plan some time off ahead of critical deadlines, something Shelly made sure to do: “One thing I did that helped was I booked time off work well in advance – like a week prior to each deadline when things were most urgent.”

Denial gives inevitable rise to procrastination, which is the action of putting off impending tasks to a later time – usually until the very last minute.

Sometimes, we sit at our desks with the best intention of getting some work done.

We focus seriously on our subject matter for about two minutes, but ultimately allow ourselves to get distracted by anything and everything as long as it is more pleasurable than getting our work done on time.

“The (wrong) presumption is that there is a perfect solution waiting to be found, and that if one procrastinates long enough it will just pop out.” Jeremy Till

To a certain extent, procrastination can also be associated with a fear of failure.

For instance, getting your research started for your dissertation gives inevitably an actual dimension to the whole process, which may scare some of us.

As the challenge becomes real, we sometimes prefer to deny the final objective because we are so worried to be a disappointment to our own ego.

So what can be done to cure ourselves of ‘procrastinitis’?

Professor Jeremy Till, Head of Central Saint Martins, has been observing graduates-to-be for years and seems to recognise the same symptoms over and over again.

“The most common and debilitating tension that I see in final year students is that between procrastination and committing. The (wrong) presumption is that there is a perfect solution waiting to be found, and that if one procrastinates long enough it will just pop out, and equally if one commits too early then one will miss a trick,” he says

“My advice is to accept there is no such thing as the perfect, welcome contingency. Commit early, and then refine along the way,” Till adds.

So, with that in mind, I suggest you all shut your laptops and get to those books, pronto!

 

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