I am the queen of procrastination. I even Googled the term… just to be sure. Wikipedia quotes psychologist Piers Steel’s 2007 definition of the behaviour as being characterised by ‘voluntarily delaying an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay’.
Yes, that’s me. Whenever I have a pressing task to complete – exciting or otherwise, it really doesn’t matter – I always seem to find something else less pressing, but equally important, to do – did I put the washing machine on? It’s time to hang the clothes out to dry. And that’s if I don’t get side tracked by the next episode of Game of Thrones (or even the washing up). It is indeed extremely counterproductive behaviour and I get stressed out and suffer bouts of anxiety when I have so little time left to finish the assignment that’s actually of importance.
But I also find that procrastinating psychs me up to complete the task at hand, even if it does completely waste the time I have to do it. And the lack of time spurs me on to finish a project to a high standard at breakneck speed. It happened when I had to write my journalism MA thesis. It wasn’t a particularly long dissertation. I had to write just 4,000 words – shorter than some newspaper or magazine articles. I’d selected my topic, done all my research and planned the structure of the essay meticulously. All I had to do was write it down. I felt that I needed to do this in a more studious environment than my living room with the TV on, and decided that making the hour-long trip to my university library was the way forward.
On the way, I remembered I needed to pick up some supplies for dinner that evening so made a detour to a supermarket en route. And since that supermarket was so close to one of my favourite department stores (and that I needed an outfit for a night out later that week, and also to replenish my make-up bag) I decided to go shopping and get a makeover. I ended up with bags so heavy (and a lot less time) that continuing the journey into university seemed pointless. So I went home. Needless to say I wasted an inordinate amount of time with that particular procrastination.
But it’s also a known fact that some people work best under pressure and therefore (deliberately or not) postpone tasks to the last minute. Which is what has happened with writing this column. My deadline is fast approaching and I need to think of something witty and entertaining to write. But I’m procrastinating again…
Melanie Smith is our chief sub editor. How she gets this magazine done on time is a wonder.