Racing the clock: why you should procrastinate

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Racing the clock: why you should procrastinate

Sabrina Zhang

Sabrina Zhang

Sabrina Zhang

By Lucas Oswald, Columnist

I am what you might call a professional procrastinator. Give me a deadline and I can surely push it to the literal last minute. I subscribe to Mark Twain’s philosophy to “never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well,” much to the dismay of my father, who believes firmly in a doctrine of his own creation: Never put off till yesterday what you could have done the day before.

He reminds me frequently that my procrastinatory habits will be the death of me someday, though I’m not so sure. I have absolute faith in my procrastinatory abilities — I think I would be able to procrastinate dying.

Though my father may be exaggerating the consequences of my procrastination, I can tell that he thinks the behavior is unhealthy at the very least. I, however, suspect my procrastination has healthy side effects.

I would argue that, as a practicing procrastinator, I can better pursue personal happiness. My tendency toward putting off things that I do not want to do accentuates the things that I enjoy doing. In this way, I am able to spend more time doing things that make me happy, while worrying about less exciting projects later. Prioritizing happiness is one of the keys to a full and healthy life, and if it takes finishing my math homework with five minutes and 32 seconds left to possess this key, count me in.

I am also a bit of a perfectionist. For this reason, I take much longer on certain assignments than I should, as I constantly strive for the perfect words to fit my meaning or the neatest way to write. Procrastination also helps in this area, bending my need for flawlessness under the pressure of time. This time crunch forces me to spend a significantly less amount of time on assignments that I hate doing, thus increasing my happiness.

Another benefit of procrastination again stems from time. Since I often procrastinate on large, daunting projects, I afford myself extra time to plan out and think about the assignment at hand. This way, when I do sit down and start the project (maybe the night before it is due, maybe not), I have at least the foundations of a plan and the way I want the project to turn out. By procrastinating, I give myself time to think ahead; time for forethought.

Instead of just charging right in and grabbing the bull by the horns, I wait for an opening and formulate a plan of action and thus greatly reduce my risk of being gouged by the irate bull’s swinging horns. This way, my moves are smart, calculated and prepared.

Procrastinating also helps in the decision-making process. Studies conducted at the Columbia University Medical Center have shown that response accuracy is improved through prolonging the time given for a decision. More time allows the brain to collect more information on the matter at hand, permitting a more informed choice.

So, yes, Dad, there is a method to my madness. Procrastination allows me many advantages in preparedness and overall happiness. If it ultimately leads to my downfall, I can guarantee that I’ll fall slowly.

For those of you who side with my father on this, consider coming over to the Dark Side. There isn’t anything more thrilling than a race against the clock to finish your assignments. Think of all the fun you can have while you wait until the last minute. Ask yourself: If I were to die tomorrow, can I justify spending my last day on Earth writing an English paper due next week?    

Lucas is a sophomore in Engineering.

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