Productive Procrastination

In light of the end of the semester, and the long-dreaded exams, papers and projects that it brings, I have coined a new term: “productive procrastination.”

I don’t consider myself a procrastinater, at least not compared to most people I know. I get stressed out if I’m not keeping on top of things, I don’t miss deadlines, and I prefer to stay ahead of schedule. During the week, if I get my work done for one day, I just start on whatever’s due next, in hopes of saving myself time or stress later on.

Some of my friends just don’t do work when they’re overwhelmed because they just shut down. Some can take breaks when they have piles to do because otherwise they’ll be too crazy. I don’t operate like that; I can’t relax until my work is done, so I prefer to just power through.

That said, I definitely dread some items on my to-do-list more than others, and I have my own means of coping with that: I do the less stressful and less time-consuming tasks first and put off the others, hence the term. I’m both being productive and procrastinating.

In high school, this meant doing things like worksheets while putting off studying for a test. In college it has meant getting all my readings done rather than working on a story. This semester, even cleaning the house or cooking dinner have been used a a means of putting off the research or writing that I didn’t want to do.

So yes, productive procrastination. Everybody does it. So many of my friends have affirmed that they will clean their rooms or go to the grocery store or catch up on e-mail as a way to avoid doing their homework. These things all do need to be done, but we all know that the exam or paper next week should really be a priority.

It works because we’re still getting things done and the to-do list is getting shorter. The problem is we’re not prioritizing, really, and in my case, I’m not addressing what it is that’s truly stressing me out, so the overall stress level doesn’t really decrease.

But I do it anyway. It’s my coping mechanism. Everybody needs one, especially in college.

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