Procrastination: Everything in Moderation

Peggy Li, Columnist


ou have two essays and a project due in three days time, tomorrow is your roommate’s birthday and your home team is taking on its archrival Sunday night. But today is Friday, and Fridays are for fun, not the library. As you turn it over in your mind, you acknowledge that it’s a bad decision. You try to suppress this train of thought but as you imbibe your next shot (if you’re 21), the ambivalence intensifies. You spontaneously develop psychic abilities and imagine yourself the next morning feeling bitter for opting for a raucous evening rather than a quaint night of studying, watching a movie and hittin’ the hay early. Many of us go through these motions time and time again.

This feeling isn’t exclusive to academic matters. Even in daily interactions, you might experience a similar sense of dread. For example, you might find yourself arguing with someone when your entire body starts to tingle and sweat. It creeps into your mind – the realization that you are indeed, wrong. But despite this dissonance you continue to argue. In both cases you know you’re at fault, but you choose to ignore this truth.

Now, I’m not talking about forgetting about work you needed to do, or accidentally doing something dumb. I‘m talking about knowing full well that what you’re about to do is stupid, but doing it anyway. This poor decision-making comes down to two factors: what you want to do and what you should do. You want to just eat macaroni and cheese in your messy room with sheets that haven’t been washed in three months, but you should probably eat vegetables, clean your room and improve your hygiene. Flash-forward to the next day, and you are feeling somewhat sick, your room has started to smell strange, and there are strange brown things growing on your covers. Most likely, you’re hating everything.

Choosing something you want is not actually about what you want, but probably more about how much you respect yourself. Even though I may watch five hours of TV at a time, I know no self-respecting person should be doing that on a daily basis. And the few times I’ve confined myself to staying in and being productive have given me a sense of satisfaction that far exceeds merely laughing at all the hungover people at the dining hall next day. There’s a sense of honor and dignity that goes hand in hand with doing the right thing. Weigh that against being in on what all the fun new yaks are raving about and dancing to some loud music in a crowded basement and the choice should be obvious.

Wrong choices are ubiquitous because it’s only human to succumb to intense, bodily and immediate desires. I’m a vegetarian but I ate a single slice of pepperoni two weeks ago after failing a quiz. Weak! Doing what’s good and right isn’t as immediately rewarding as a piece of fried chicken. Self-respect won’t help you meet new people on the weekends. But you do know what’s ultimately good for you. Alcohol or homework, sleep or party, funny cat video or project, the difference is clear.

If you’re chronically putting yourself in these positions, take some small steps by first combatting your need for immediate gratification. Self-respect, self-control, and good choices are all related, you see – there’s no way to improve without practice. While it might seem obvious that, despite our susceptibility to desire, we should do what’s good and right, there’s no harm in honoring your primal desires every once in a while. I know that I often choose something irresponsible more times than not without considering the consequences. But at the end of the week, you should be able to face yourself in the mirror and feel proud knowing that you made the right choices, even if it doesn’t feel that way in the moment.