Stop. Procrastinating.


Illustration by Stephan Xie

Originally published on May 22, 2015

It’s 12 in the morning, and behind me I have a mess of Geology, Advanced Placement United States History and Honors Pre-Calculus homework, strewn all over the edge of my bed, waiting to be completed. In front of me is my laptop, but I don’t have it opened to School Loop to check my homework or even Facebook to ask friends what page we need to read for English. Instead, I’m busy mashing buttons as lights flash and colors whirl across the screen from the game Elsword. If you haven’t noticed, I am definitely procrastinating.

Procrastination has been my most recent vice — it has led me to pull multiple all-nighters and prevented me from applying to any summer internships (sorry, Mom). In fact, I did not even start this draft until the day it was due to my editor. Truth be told, it has often gotten on my nerves that I cannot finish anything until the last minute, but I just have not been able to break this bad habit. And so, I have recently been thinking about exactly when and why this procrastination cycle began.

I remember times in my adolescence when I did not procrastinate. I practiced the piano immediately after dinner and finished all of my homework before bed time. In fact, I never even knew of the word “procrastination” until fifth grade, when my sixth grade English teacher Ms. Ernst came to give us our summer homework. It was perhaps a week or two before summer break, and she walked in with an aura of command, giving us our assignment with grave seriousness. Then she spoke of procrastination, and told us specifically not to wait until the last month to finish the homework. With her tough demeanor and my shy nature, I was terrified, but her message stuck. I finished the work within the first month of the break and spent the rest of it relaxing. Truth be told, sixth grade was perhaps one of the most productive years of my life — I finished all my work on time, found class interesting, and had fun all along the way.

I remember times in my adolescence when I did not procrastinate. I practiced the piano immediately after dinner and finished all of my homework before bed time.

And yet, after sixth grade I dropped my good study habits, partly because I wasn’t worried about Ms. Ernst all the time, and partly because I gained the freedoms of young adulthood — curfews being at 10 p.m. instead of 8 p.m., and having a computer in my room, with less nagging from my parents (though not by that much). With more leniencies and liberties, I felt like nobody could stop me from living my life the way I wanted to. And thus, my room became more disorganized, arguments between my parents and I were more frequent, and my studying abilities proceeded to digress slightly — though I still managed to pass middle school with flying colors.

The first incident of my diabolical delays was my seventh grade science fair project. Although I have always loved science, when time came for me to propose my own question and create a science project out of it using scientific inquiry, I was reluctant. Always favoring group work, I was terrified by having to do all the research, talking to at least twenty individuals about conducting the tests on them, and constructing a poster board with significant analysis of what I had done. I soon found myself trying to push all thoughts about my project into the recesses of my mind so that they would not haunt my dreams. Consequently, I began my project, a work that we were given around three months to fine-tune and complete, only a week before the science fair. Although I miraculously finished the project, the rush led to covering my board with line paper as the background, writing a conclusion that was in no way related to my results and having to improvise a speech on the spot during the fair. Thus, my project lacked the brilliance and grandeur that I had envisioned. When the following year’s science fair rolled around, I found myself rushing just as much as I had the first time. I swore to myself that I would never procrastinate again, but promises made with little heart are very easily broken over time.

I found myself sitting in front of my computer watching YouTube videos about building a TNT launcher in Minecraft rather than hunting down a current events news story regarding ethnic conflicts in East Asia.

When I first got to Lowell, I got all of my work done early and planned out every project and assignment in my trusty planner. However, I did not stick to my middle school resolution for long, for the Lowell lifestyle soon sank in and I found myself sitting in front of my computer watching YouTube videos about building a TNT launcher in Minecraft rather than hunting down a current events news story regarding ethnic conflicts in East Asia.

At this point I became a chronic procrastinator, which makes up 20 percent of our current population, according to a recent study by a group of psychology professors at DePaul University ( While this is a significant minority of people, I’m not sure how proud I am to be in it, as it proves somewhat tricky to deal with. For example, I would be able to complete homework and projects on time for a few days at a time, but I always ended up relapsing into long periods of procrastination, playing Starcraft 2 and Tetris Wars instead of writing lab reports about an entropy experiment and finishing drafts about The Woman Warrior.

Matters only worsened when the all-nighters came. I had never pulled an all-nighter prior to a fateful freshman English project on Prometheus and other Greek myths, consisting of a thirty page packet requiring hours upon hours of research. With about half a section done the day before it was due, I knew I was in for a rough night. And so, with my laptop on the desk, my notes on my bed, and perhaps a few of those handy Costco madeleines nearby, I set to work. Time crawled by slower than molasses, disturbed only by the small clicks of the keyboard, the turning of pages, and a few stomach growls. Soon, it was time for school, and I was finishing up the last few touches of the picture I had to draw. And while the project felt like taking off a 15-pound backpack after getting home, the rest of the day was worse than climbing Mount Diablo from the base — I was drowsy all day, struggled through my seven classes and strained through a vigorous dragon boat practice half awake.

Despite my hardships, I apparently have still not learned my lesson, seeing that I pulled another all-nighter recently for an AP United States History project. It was in the middle of the night, when I had just managed to dish out half the project, wolfing down madeleines, that I started to think about why I was staying up so late. You may think the reason is that homework is boring or mind-bogglingly difficult. However, neither of these hypotheses are true, for I actually find homework quite interesting and fun when challenging.

Part of me wants to just point at myself and say it’s simply my mindset. However, I noticed that many of the times I’ve procrastinated was during a large-scale project that requires at least a few weeks to complete. I also have to admit that my forgetfulness and pridefulness in being able to work at the last minute has affected me as well. In short, my reasons for procrastination are a mixture of mental attitude and influences from the assignment itself. Yes, I do acknowledge that procrastination has been a hindrance in my life, and I could probably learn to live without it. By dropping this habit, I would also reduce a lot of negative side-effects, such as higher acute health problems, practicing fewer wellness behaviors and higher stress, according to Dr. Fuschia Sirois of the University of Windsor ( However, I feel that perpetually working at the last possible moment has made me who I am. The stress that has built on me from procrastination is now all too familiar to me, and the lack of sleep is now a nightly routine. Even so, the stress and lack of sleep has not stopped me from being a good athlete, nor prevented me from participating in after school activities like Boy Scouts. Overall, I plan to slowly get work on getting rid of this practice by trying to write daily schedules of the homework I need to do and attempting to sleep earlier when I have no work, but until then, I think I’ll go distract myself with Hearthstone. Oh hey, got my Legendary card!