Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Let's All Wait Until the Last Minute!

Maybe we're not that much different from animals after all. You see, they say that what separates humans from other animals is our ability to conceive of the future, to plan, to use tools to get what we want. We're finding out that crows, orangutans, and other animals use tools in limited ways; similarly, predators (e.g. lions, wolves, orcas) have been shown to cooperate in hunting so as to isolate or encircle prey. One supposes that this means they share some of the attributes that distinguish us from animals.

Further support for animals not being quite so different from humans comes from the huge percentage of (fully grown) humans who insist on waiting until the very last minute to do, well.... just about everything! I mean, it's understandable when a little kid poops his/her pants because they don't realize the inevitability of what's about to come out. Little kids, like animals, essentially respond to the immediate situation rather than planning ahead. Cause and effect don't mean so much to them, and they often don't see how their actions now result in consequences later. Yet kids learn quickly, and soon figure out how to get that cookie or mom's affection, how to stay out of trouble, etc.

Amazing then, that so many grown adults exhibit - time after time - behaviors that cause them (and those who have to deal with them) grief, all because they refuse to think ahead and do some basic planning. Take for example - school teachers. Grades are due every 6 weeks. Teachers know it; they know the due dates long in advance; they know how long it takes to calculate and enter grades. And yet.... A great many of these college educated people, ostensibly intelligent, will do nothing about their grades until the night before they're due, and then complain about how unreasonable it is to have to enter them on time! Why is that?

But it's hardly just teachers acting this way. Every April 15th the TV news shows people lined up at special post offices that are open until midnight, dropping off their tax returns. Many other people don't wait until literally the last minute; they went ahead and prepared their returns as much as 24 hours before the deadline! Almost as many, however, couldn't quite bring themselves to meet the deadline; they asked for an extension, as they do every year. "Oh my God! Taxes are due tomorrow - who knew?" What are these people - morons?

And there's my friend Mark. We've been friends for 30 years now, and Mark is probably the best friend I've got. I need something? Mark's there, every time, no questions asked. But he's always late. He says he'll be over between 5:00 and 6:00, I know that means we'll probably see him sometime after 7:00. That's just the way Mark is, and we've learned to adapt, to accept him as he is. But still - why is that?

Of course, the common denominator is that these folks seem unable to do a little simple planning. I mean, just how hard is it to figure out: "hey, I'm 30 minutes away, maybe 45 with traffic. To get there by 6:00, I should leave by 5:15. To get ready by 5:15, I ought to start getting my act together around 4:30." Do you need a PhD in astrophysics to be able to work backwards in time like that? Or, "geez, grades are due on October 26th and they take me 4 or 5 hours to do. If I start them a week before, and work on them a little bit every day, it would be easy to have them in by the 24rd or 25th. If I get sick, or the car breaks down, or the surf's good, or whatever, I've still got some leeway without having to stress!" Is that kind of reasoning accessible only to, like, MENSA geniuses or something?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The "why", as in "why do they wait until the last minute?" isn't because they're so busy, as is usually the excuse. Yeah, EVERYBODY'S busy; it's just that some people deal with that reality effectively while others essentially close their eyes and hope it will all go away. And a number of people swear they do their best work by waiting until the last minute. Bull - that's just lame rationalizing. The truth is that choosing to wait until the last minute to do things is just plain stupid, and it's rude. There's no advantage to it, unless you want to count the adrenaline rush that comes from trying to beat a deadline. Your work ends up being more rushed and lower quality than it could and should be. You're stressed, and half the time you end up having to make lame excuses for why you missed the deadline, begging for an "exception", an "extension". Meanwhile, other things that need doing get pushed aside, delayed or not done at all. Where's the benefit?

Besides, this behavior is rude and childish. Suppose you regularly show up half an hour later than you tell people - that's 30 minutes that someone else has to wait for you. 30 minutes that they could have been doing something else with their time; 30 minutes of you saying, in effect, "my time is more important than yours!" It's the same general concept with last minute work, and especially work that ends up being half-assed or misses a deadline. Your message is basically that the work (which someone else is counting on) isn't that important, that it's your priorities, not the other person's, that matter. This is selfish, childish behavior.

But again - what's in it for the last minute person? Well it's not really that you "saved time", like so many claim. Had you given yourself an earlier deadline, had you broken the work up into smaller chunks to work on every day or every week, your total time invested would have been the same. It's just that you arranged it differently - earlier, over time instead of all at once at the very end. You showed the ability to look ahead, to plan, to act like a grown up human being instead of a reactionary animal or a little kid.

Too often, society sees the person who gets stuff done early and expects the same of others as unrealistic, an over-achiever, or just a plain old prick. That childish view is unlikely to change anytime soon, just as it's unlikely that most procrastinators will ever choose to do a little simple planning that shows that they are, in fact, intelligent, grown humans and not little kids.

31 comments:

Warren said...

It's true! I agree with everything you said. I believe it all has to do with habits. There are good habits of making plans,thinking things through and bad habits like waiting until the last minute and hoping that everything goes smoothly!

Jay White said...

I thought that a lot of what you said made since to me. By waiting to the last minute you are not being a responsible human being at all. By being responsible you plan out what you are going to do and do a bit every day. So by reading this blog what i could take is that this is the right way of being responsible.

Jay White Per.3A

Nikole Benjamin said...

Everything that was mentioned, I truly agree 100 percent with. Not only adults but teens as well seem to find the time to wait until the very last second to get something started. It's irresponsible but then again, it is also a habit in which is very difficult to break. Planning ahead makes a huge difference in any outcome. If everyone would realize that then the amount of stress that's put into procrastinating would be decreased by a ton.

maya_0109 said...

I agree with a lot you said. People don't take the time of day when they have free time to just plan ahead so that way everything goes how they want but nope they just won't do it. I know out of bad habit cause i can be lazy no doubt. But i see that by being organized it just helps and doing little by little.

mayapapaya said...

I found everything in this paper incredibly true. Ironically I agree with everything stated, yet I honestly have some of these bad habits. I realized how much being late and procrastinating can effect you and other people. I can say from experience, procrastinating is not a huge benefit. Being on time is also very important, which I also know from experience, my parents get really mad when I am late. I will definitely take everything in this essay into consideration!!!

YiQiu Hu 4A said...

I have never learned psychology so I cannot explain the phenomenon with correct terminology but when I have a week for an assignment, I make a pretty plan first what to do every day but when I am actually doing what I have planned for myself, I tell myself: “you are tired today, today was a damned day, it’s okay not to feel motivated, you have a lot of time, you can do it tomorrow. Don’t be too harsh to yourself.” I keep repeating this everyday till the 8 p.m. night before the assignment is due and I tell myself: “Ohhh… shit”.



“You know you are in IB when the due dates become do date.”
- an IB diploma student from Europe

Natalie Mason said...

I thought your blog was very interesting, but I disagree with what you said about all procrastinators being "selfish and childish". Some people have brain functions that cause them to procrastinate as seen in my paper. I agree with YiQiu, that IS kids are super procrastinators, and add, "I think, therefore I BS.
Am I a procrastinator? Absolutely. Will I change my ways? Nooot likely.

Anonymous said...

Procrastination will never change, and everybody will do it. Maybe it is a bad habit, but once one is accustomed to something, it is hard to change it. My question is,

Procrastination, is it humanly natural?

Jon Strebler said...

I almost never procrastinate, and bet there are a lot of people like me. Y'all procrastinators are just idiots.

Alyssa Bybee said...

I agree with what you had said in your essay. Procrastination is another bad habit that peopel have just like bitting your nails. However when people aid that bad habit it just gets worse. I have numerous teachers you let us turn things in late, or don't have a set turn in date. And I appreciate that extra time, as im sure many do, but it just aids me to procrastinate more.

Dana Garcia said...

Hmm, well this blog has really opened my eyes to how badly I procrastinate.When you said that even grown educated adults procrastinate, I sunk a bit. I really don't want to get old and still procrastinate because even at this age it's horrible. I do agree that it's a bad habit that's hard to break. But eventually, it'll all turn out good.

hasheem said...

Procrastination is a really bad habbit.Why does everyone do it though? I know things will never change and everyone will have their differences.

Rhiannon Monta said...

I generally agree with the ideas you outlined in the essay. There've been instances where I’ve finished essays the morning of the day they’re due and other times where I’ve finished a big assignment up to a week before the due date. So, I’ve experienced both sides of this topic. Before having read this, I would not have been able to pick out many problems with procrastinating. But, you actually pointed out a lot of valid arguments against procrastination. The part about how the message you give out by procrastinating says that the particular assignment wasn’t important reminded me of Mr. Jones. I’ve heard Mr. Jones say so many times before “You didn’t do the homework? Why not? You were busy doing English homework? Well, math should be just as important as English!” I think it’s disrespectful, as you pointed out, to Mr. Jones and people in his same situation for you to show up, empty-handed. It’s basically telling them “You’re not important to me whatsoever”. Now to address the other side: I know you said the argument that some people do their best work by waiting until the last minute was bull. But, in certain circumstances I would agree with that argument. However, I'd modify it slightly to say that people do their quickest/most efficient work by waiting until the last minute because it’s more believable.

Emonye said...

I completely agree with this essay, I am not sure about the whole thing as us being compared to animals but maybe with us being compared with a child and making childish decisions. However, many people do things at the last minute, as you said, “They wait until the last minute to do, well…just about everything!” I know I do the majority of the time; I am a very big procrastinator. I can relate to most of your points, I feel that waiting until the last minute becomes a habit which is very hard to get out of. So many make up excuses to make I seem as if, waiting until the day before something is due to finish it benefits them in some kind of way. Nevertheless, in reality I am a witness that it has no benefits. Some people that are procrastinators can get things done quickly and waiting until the last minute does not harm them but I agree that it neither helps very much. In addition, with you saying how many adults such as teachers how they know when the grades are do and they do not calculate them until the last minute. I feel that with adults doing this, they imposed a big influence on children. If were seeing someone educated doing this well were going to think that we can keep on procrastinating on everything because this teacher or doctor etc. can do it and still get by why would I be able to.

Katie Whitelock said...

After reading " Let's All Wait Until the Last Minute Critique" I found myself agreeing with all of the points mentioned. Although I constantly fall into the procrastinators realm, I completly understand how it not only negatively affects you, but also the people around you. One of my favorite points of the article is how you explained that procrastinating is a selfish act which harms the people around you. Many times people only believe that procrastinating only affects themselves, but truely it affects everyone.

Elise said...

This blog was really funny, considering I know many procrastinators. I would say I'm a procrastinator too, but in reality I do my work well before its due date, or try to at least. I'm not exactly sure I agree with the comparison to animals, but I do agree with us making childlike decisions. I strongly agree with your point: "Yeah, EVERYBODY'S busy; it's just that some people deal with that reality effectively while others essentially close their eyes and hope it will all go away. And a number of people swear they do their best work by waiting until the last minute. Bull - that's just lame rationalizing. The truth is that choosing to wait until the last minute to do things is just plain stupid, and it's rude." Many people I know just push things back until the last minute as you said, by choice. They basically just tell themselves "whatever, I'll do it the night before". I don't have anything against these people; I just wonder how they do it!? I know I can't because it stresses me out so much, and I don't think the work I'd submit would be very good. I agree with mostly everything in this blog, and found it very interesting.

Bre said...

Agreed. Although the adrenaline rush is probably what most people absentmindedly 'go for,' procrastinating has been one of my least fave things about myself. Even though I always try to plan my time, it sum-how unravels, and procrastination seems inevitable. But that's no excuse, for me, teachers, or anyone. Saying, "Oh yea, I waited until the last minute because I wanted to," is like, "What the heck? That doesn't even make sense."

-Breanna Couch
Per. 3B

Breanna Couch per. 3B said...

Agreed. Although the adrenaline rush is probably what most people absentmindedly 'go for,' procrastinating has been one of my least fave things about myself. Even though I always try to plan my time, it sum-how unravels, and procrastination seems inevitable. But that's no excuse, for me, teachers, or anyone. Saying, "Oh yea, I waited until the last minute because I wanted to," is like, "What the heck? That doesn't even make sense."

Isela said...

I think that it is true when someone is late nad makes you wait they don't care about your time, why should you care about that person then. I wait util the last minute to do big projects, but i'm not hurting anyone ecxept my grade, is bad but i don't know how to change it. Sometimes it helps me to wait until the last minute to do things better.

Jorge Saldana said...

Waiting until the last minute is usually a habit. To break a habit, a new one must be enforced to break the old one. If you are always late to school, it is usually because of the bad habit of waking up late. To break it, try forcing that yourself to wake up 20 minutes earlier for about 2 weeks. After that, or possibly a bit longer depending on the person, a new habit should have formed in the place of the bad one! It worked for me. I agree with you on every aspect of your essay, unfortunately (because its true).

Madison Douglass said...

I'd have to say that I dissagree with you. I'm a procrastinator and the fact that I'm writng this the period before I'm turning it in isn't selfish or childish to me. I'm in Avid, so its not like I'm doing anything else. Its not selfish because its my grade and my work and this is just how I choose to do things. It doesn't hurt anyone else. i just don't care that I could have done this last weekend. I'm lazy and I like to do nothing but sit on my ass on the weekends.

Amie Callaway said...

I agree with you. Too many people procrastinate and put things off until the last minute. Even I do it sometimes, and I shouldn't. When I do it stresses me out, makes me lose hours of valuable sleep, and basically turns me into what many people would call a "hot mess". Waiting until the last minute the majority of the time causes minor affects like getting a lower grade on work, etc. But it can also have major affects, like helath problems.

Kaili Anderson said...

High school is like one huge juggling act. You have to balance family, schoolwork, sports and friends and sometimes schoolwork takes a little bit of a back seat. I understand and agree that its basically telling teachers we dont care about their time and effort that they put into assaigning work but sometimes teachers have to understand that we have been taught to prioritize our work.

Procrastination is bad, we all know it. But it doesnt change the fact that 90% of us will keep putting off work until the very last possible moment.

Kelley Boland said...

I completely agree with the points you made. From the examples provided of teachers and their habits to rudeness, I can see how procrastination is a huge issue in society today. Although I agree with the fact that procrastination lowers work quality and increases stress levels, I am not sure how easily society can switch to looking to the future.

GabriellaReha said...

I agree with you 100 percent on this article. There are so many procrastinators in society, and I am one of those. I usually procrastinate when it comes to big assignments, depending on the subject. I tend to get distracted easily as well, so when I am trying to get my work done instead of it taking me around forty five minutes, it will take at least an hour and thirty minutes. One thing I don’t procrastinate on is being on time. Whenever I had soccer practice during holiday breaks, I would make sure to be there at least an hour early, unlike many other girls who would get there fifteen minutes late which just shows they weren’t all that committed.

Mikayla H said...

If I had learned how to not procrastinate while I was a child, then maybe it would help now, but like always, I am writing this extra credit the day before it is due. I did the same thing with my senior portfolio, my Gcws, and even my senior exhibition, but it’s a habit of mine that I cant break. I admit that I have free time for about an hour or two when I get home, and what do I do with that time? You guessed it, nothing. I may watch T.V., play with my dogs, or be on facebook. But I like my relax time, and I guess it all comes down to opportunity cost then doesn’t it Mr. Strebler? If I spend more time on facebook, and less time doing the work that I was assigned, the I’m going to end up on a slippery slope and fail my assignments, but this is when “Pro” procrastination comes in to account. It may be “lame rationing”, but I truly do, do some of my best work at the last minute. I guess it is something about the pressure of knowing that I have to get the assignment done, because that’s just the type of person I am, I do my work, but it’s the question of whether or not I will get it done on time.

Jen Dean said...

I agree with the majority of the points you make in your blog. As hard as people try to break this habit, they are unable to do so. People who are always late will always be late. However, I believe that people CAN overcome procrastination, it just takes time. I have been trying to break the habit of procrastination for quite some time now and I do, in fact, feel that I have made an imporvement. Some people just become overwhelmed when they have a lot of work to do or if they are "too busy" and think they can simply put things off until the last minute since that's when they "do their best work" anyway. But this is not true at all. How can you do your best work if you wait until the last minute if you are rushing to get the thing done on time? It doesn't make sense to me.

Sonia Asitimbay said...

I completely agree with this blog. Although we are constantly told not to procrastinate, many of us do. But even though this blog was valid in the points it brought up about the negative effects of procrastination, I don't think people will change. I feel like everyone procrastinates for something. Maybe it is not the same level of procrastination, but I think we all do somehow.

Sonia Asitimbay
Period 1B

Kristen Phung said...

I can relate to this blog completely, I personally am a procrastinator,though i always wait till the last minute to do something, it doesn't hit me hard enough to realize that i need to become more efficient. However, I do disagree with the fact that you called procrastinators childish and rude. I think that is a bit harsh, we all have our times where some things have a higher priority, then others, leaving that at the bottom of the stack.

Gabriela Peralta said...

I agree with this essay, mainly because you used a lot of examples that made sense. Such as your best friend, teachers, regular people, and most of all student. I feel like people procrastinate all the time because they like to be under pressure and hate to set deadlines for themselves in order to accomplish something. Like another person commented, it all has to do with habits and how they manage their time.

Anonymous said...

I think that it has to do with Nature vs. Nurture. Also, some things may be more important than others, and we don't always get what we want. We can't always predict the future, and as a result we simply make decisions based on what we think is best at the time that said decision is made.

BPYL