I have an exam coming up in ten days. I signed up for it about a month ago. At the time, I was nervous about the exam. I wasn’t sure if I would have enough time to study for the exam. I had an entire study plan in front of me – daily targets, weekly targets, mock exams and review.
Fast forward a couple of weeks. I am still at the exact same spot – the same level of preparation I had a month ago. My study plan is still stuck to my work desk, but I haven’t done anything apart from staring at it once in a while. I’m simultaneously stressed out about my lack of preparation and not too worried because I manage to do well enough in all exams even without preparation. Just to be clear, I am not boasting here. I don’t ace my exams. I scrape by. That is well enough for me. But almost always, this is accompanied by a sense of wasted time and potential. I always think to myself – I probably could have aced it if I had put in the effort.
So why don’t I?
I think part of it has to do with a sense of security. I’m afraid of putting in effort because what if I try and do the best I can and the results are still the same? It gives me perverse comfort to know that whatever the result, I could have done better if I had tried. I know this sounds messed up, but it is what it is.
Another major reason is that I haven’t yet suffered any major consequences as a result of my habit of procrastination. Maybe I have low standards, or maybe I’ve been extremely lucky. But no matter how much I procrastinate, everything turns out alright in the end. You know, kind of like those memes you see online, the ones that say (or some variation of this) – “I pass all my exams even though I procrastinate, and this is the reason I procrastinate.”
I read somewhere though, that the reason almost all of us procrastinate is because this is natural for us. The idea of being productive in a single set manner – is a construct and has to be force fed to us. That we should be able to work for 9 hours straight, and take only short breaks in the middle – isn’t natural. Shocker, I know. I never really spend time thinking about such things – the way we are expected to work, what is considered ‘productive’ – but when I read stuff like this, it makes a lot of sense to me. I have never felt comfortable working for hours at a stretch. Apparently, what is more natural to us as a species is resting all the time, and working in short, manic spurts when we need to. This is how we have evolved. So, when we brush up against the current structure, it is no wonder that most of us don’t feel like working till we have to. I know I certainly don’t. Maybe, procrastination is normal, and the negative connotation attached to it is yet another unhelpful by-product of capitalism.
If you google the words, “why do we procrastinate so much” (as I have done many times), I’m sure you’ll find enough resources explaining the psychological reasons behind this behaviour of ours. I’ve read a few of those. I agree with them logically, but I still don’t think it applies to me. Side note, this attitude of acknowledging that negative things happen to others but are unlikely to happen to you is called an ‘optimism bias’. You should check that out too if you’re also one of those people who never think they can receive the short end of the stick. I’m just writing about the reasons I can identify for myself. I may not be the most self-aware person out there, but I got till three. So, that is something.