I think we’d all agree: Everyone hates deadlines. In particular, the torturous fear and anxiety associated with deadlines.
When one is tasked with a major project, the most logical approach is to start early and chip away at it until it has been completed. Theoretically, this would work and save you a lot of stress.
But not for someone like me.
I struggle to work unless there are immense amounts of pressure on me. It’s not like I enjoy it, it’s just something I do; and no matter how many different strategies I adopt to defeat it, it never works. I’m known amongst my friends as the ‘Queen of Procrastination’ and I often amaze them at my ability to complete entire school assignments the night before they are due, without handing in a rough draft and I still achieve high grades. And although I do well, these habits cause my mental health and sleep to slip down the drain.
The scenario of me, sitting in bed at 2 am trying to write a several-thousand-word research report, but drifting back to Facebook again and again, has been reoccurring way too much this year due to it being my final year in high school.
To prove my point, I began researching ideas for and planning this post over 6 months ago and then procrastinated actually writing. Furthermore, the whole reason why I started this post back then was that I was procrastinating from doing and assignment!
Believe it or not, but I was procrastinating on procrastination.
But seriously, I’ve always hated myself for this. I just wish I had a normal brain which would let me do my work like a normal person. As you would expect, I saw this aspect of myself as a disadvantage and it brought be down.
But them, I saw this video by Tim Urban on one of my TED Talk watching sprees…
and it all changed.
I began to want to learn more about why I am this way so that I could hack my brain, or at least use my situation to my advantage.
Further down that particular TED Talk rabbit hole, I came across a talk by Adam Grant called ‘The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers’:
It it, he coined the term ‘Originals’ to describe people who are unconventional thinkers , creating brilliant, successful ideas and putting them into action. Through his research of these so-called ‘Originals’ for his book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, he found that Originals exist in this sweet spot on the scale between organised and get-nothing-done-procrastinators. The way they seem to work is that they think a task through, plan it, whatever they need to get their heads around it, and then just leave it. By leaving it to brew in the back of their minds, they are concocting creativity and creating divergent ideas. Just like what Adam said in the talk “What you see with a lot of great Originals is that they are quick to start but they’re slow to finish”.
He also talks about using this time of idea incubation to observe others who may be doing something similar, and to learn from their mistakes, creating your idea to be better from the start, rather than falling for the false promise of a “first mover advantage”.
By not conforming to the ideal if ‘start and finish fast and early’ you’re actually doing yourself a favor.
Now, for a little bit of senior year psychology: The Yerkes-Dodson Law )Yerkes-Dodson Curve or Inverted-U Model) was a concept invented in 1908 by psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson.
The theory is that there is a certain amount of anxiety (arousal) required for an individual to perform at their peak. Too little anxiety and the person becomes bored and underperforms, too much anxiety and the person becomes stressed and panics and again, underperforms. It’s all about finding that sweet spot.
This can ve used for nearly any scenario like a job interview, and exam or even an athletic event. This relationship between anxiety and performance i illustrated in the graph below:
Although, the curve on the graph can look a little different depending on several factors including task complexity (more complex = less anxiety required, less complex = more anxiety required), personality (some believe that introvert = less anxiety require and extrovert = more anxiety required), and trait anxiety (self-confident = more anxiety and self-doubting = less anxiety).
The point is, you need to find what works for you, you don’t need to do stuff one way; experiment, you never know what may happen. Throughout this year, I’ve learnt that procrastination is okay, I can try to manage it if I want, but I don’t need to beat myself up over it. Sometimes it can even be a gift and allow me to produce content with a unique, creative edge.
You do you, and just because someone tells you that you aren’t doing stuff the ‘right’ way, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it’s just different… and that’s okay!
But realising is just the start, putting it into action is the next step, and that’s my challenge to YOU. Be the best, most creative, most successful procrastinator you can be!