Need a Scary Costume? Dress as a Procrastinator!

The procrastinator costume looks something like this: It starts out as a normal outfit, maybe some jeans and a t-shirt. Now the outfit will smell a bit because you never got around to doing the laundry this week. There are a few holes because you delayed fixing the rips when they first happened. You can make a hat out of the essay assignment sheets, the essays you haven’t even started on yet but are due next week. Make a belt out of the bills you’ve neglected to pay. Perhaps also wear the pair of glasses that are two prescriptions out of date.

For those of us who work with freshmen writers, the end of October is one of the scariest times of the year because it starts the research paper countdown. And those deadlines bring in the students who have delayed working on their papers until the last moment.

Consider the following conversation:

Student: I need five sources on Puritan dancing.

Librarian: I’m afraid we don’t have much on that.  But I can do an ILL request. When do you need the sources?

Student: Well, my paper is due on Monday.

Librarian and Student simultaneously scream in horror.

While the Jolly Librarian has certainly done her share of procrastinating, it is something that she has tried to warn her students to avoid. From our perspective in helping students get their projects done, it is the delaying, not lack of ability, that often results in students’ poor grades:

  • They often don’t have time to find good sources and end up picking the first ones that pop up on a search.
  • They plagiarise because they don’t have time to work on the paraphrasing and summarizing necessary.
  • Their works cited pages are poorly done because they are written with only moments to go before the paper’s deadline.
Of course, students are not the only ones who suffer from procrastination. It is a sneaky condition. We often fool ourselves by saying we work best under pressure. We make excuses that we are making progress towards our goal when we are doing something entirely unrelated. (During my dissertation, I often convinced myself I’d be in a better mood for writing if I just reorganized by closet.) Ironically, we  feel stressed and rushed because, always delaying means that we always have some deadline due.
I speak from experience when I say that learning to stop procrastinating can go a long way to making your life more enjoyable.
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