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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The delayed joys of procrastination

    Procrastination is an ugly concept. Not simply because I can attribute countless failures in my life to it, but because I hasten to accept the culturally pejorative nature that the term insinuates. Although it may be illustrated by me putting off studying for the next test, procrastination may be more a function of wanting too much and never quite knowing where I am going in life.

    In some sense, I believe that procrastination may just be the fear-imbued, anxiety-ridden cover-up for the realities of being young in college. The reason to present procrastination in this context? Apparently, college students do it significantly more than the rest of humanity.

    According to survey work by Joseph Ferrari, a researcher at Duquesne University, “”75 percent of students are chronic procrastinators.”” This is a shocking assertion, especially since “”only”” 20-25 percent of the population, according to the same research, fit this description. I think there are huge implications from this difference. Primarily, it calls into question how procrastination for college students is different. If procrastination is truly a supposed evil left unpurged from our country’s puritanical psyche, then our future employers are truly inheriting a motley crew.

    Of course, this is assuming all procrastination is equivalent to boozing instead of hitting the books. According to Paul Graham, all procrastination is not created equal and accordingly. He designates three main types: the decision to work on nothing, something less important, or something more important. The latter two forms give pause to the traditionally banal “”suggestions”” I occasionally receive from parents or professors to “”quit screwing around”” -ÿi.e., quit procrastinating and do your work.

    Under the law, most of us being over 18 (except Doogie Howser) are considered adults. Adults are rational and adolescents are getting there. However, a college student’s decision making is incredibly difficult, especially when most of us do not know what we truly want in life. I believe that the propensity of our age group to procrastinate has less to do with putting off “”work”” and more to do with acting on what we decide is most important in life right now.

    For some, this means studying every waking hour; for others, this means taking a walk. And for the sake of being a little more realistic, any alternative over schoolwork probably means participating in much more “”collegiate”” activities.

    Although we are all “”supposed”” to be full-time students, obligated to the standards and expectations inherent in our decision to attend college, this may be too simplistic a measure to gauge our actions and decision-making. And just as there is a definite cost to procrastination, such as lost sleep and poor grades, we cannot forget that the term is conceptually void of the costs inherent in not procrastinating.

    Like most things in life, there are trade offs, opportunity costs if you will, to everything we do and decisions we make. From a definitional standpoint, procrastination means to put off or to delay, and usually in the sense of some activity we are “”supposed”” to do. However, as soon as we allow and acknowledge some objective measure of procrastination, it breaks a cardinal rule of scarcity.

    The reason college students procrastinate is probably more correlated with the options and uncertainty each college student confronts each day. Similarly, the extreme from this reality is that we often become over ambitious and take on more than we can truly finish. College students may not “”truly procrastinate,”” even though our kind are often charged with the stigmatizing connotations inherent in such an observation. Although we ideally have fewer responsibilities, a world of opportunity and little hindering our daily goals from point A to B, there is no road of destiny. Least of all, not one that procrastination will someday lead us down.

    All the facts, figures, and stereotypes surrounding the propensity for college students to procrastinate may in fact be more truly the reflection of us learning how to create order from the lives we wish to lead. If we haven’t decided what we want with our lives, then the decisions we make each day are more a walk of faith than any true deference of responsibility.

    Of course, with each coming May comes an inflection point for the fruits of our labors or the consequences from our inaction. And equally, it would be unbecoming to ignore the realities and unambiguous nature that is inherent in what we have done or failed to do. This year, more than others in recent memory, all I can think of and mull over is that my last finals are only a week away. Just maybe, this time I swear to it, I’ll consider studying today.

    Paul Cervantes is an accounting senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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