Picture the scenario: You were given an English essay on Friday that’s due exactly one week later. Not wanting to work on it right away, you decide to use the weekends as an opportunity to take a break and write the essay during the last four days. But when Monday comes, you decide to start working the day after because of your desire to rest after school. On Tuesday, the day that you promised you would start, you find an album by your favorite hip-hop group and neglect the paper completely. You find yet another excuse on Wednesday to delay the essay even further, and on the night before the due date, you realize in horror that you didn’t even start yet. You spend the whole night working on what you had a week to complete, curse yourself for your laziness and failure to act, and vow that such a thing would never happen again.
But a short time later, you end up sleeping on the job yet again, and you can’t help but think, “What’s constantly stopping me from doing what needs to be done?”
Procrastination is nothing short of a phenomenon. On countless occasions, we have fallen victim to it, and whenever we try to overcome this weakness, we seem to always go back on our own word and end up trapped once again. Procrastination is also known for its detrimental effect on health and academics. A 1997 study conducted in Chase Western Reserve University showed that procrastinating students temporarily had lower stress levels than the others because they delayed their work to “pursue more pleasurable activities.” However, the procrastinators received lower grades than their peers by the end of the semester and were more prone to stress and illnesses. Psychology Today reported similar results, noting that the students “had such evidence of compromised immune systems as more colds and flu, more gastrointestinal problems,” as well as insomnia.
Many people believe procrastination is linked to laziness, lack of motivation, or simply not wanting to “face” the problem itself — but there is also a scientific explanation for how it is caused. When given an assignment, the prefrontal cortex (where information-processing and decision-making occurs) and the limbic system (which controls mood and instinct) engage in a contest. However, the limbic system also contains a “pleasure center” that produces dopamine, “a feel-good chemical reward” (as described by Huffington Post). If the assignment that was assigned doesn’t really yield any “reward” right away, you’re far more tempted to procrastinate, as doing so gives you a small dose of dopamine. The prefrontal cortex will kick in right before it’s too late: the night before it’s due.
A possible solution to procrastination? Work hard and reward yourself later. Procrastinating can be more trouble than it’s worth.