Procrastination: Is it really just laziness?

We’ve all been in this situation before: It’s the weekend, and you have tons of homework to do. But you put it off again and again until it’s hours away from the due date, and now you feel terrible because you’re nowhere near done. It’s a scene that’s all too relatable. Procrastination is a common part of our lives as college students, and it’s not hard to understand why. Balancing participation in student organizations, work for several classes and a functioning personal life is not easy by any means, and sometimes we fall behind.

For years, there has been debate around why so many of us procrastinate— 20 percent of people have a chronic procrastination issue, according to Association of Psychological Science Fellow Joseph Ferrari— and thinkers in the past have come up with a few reasons.

The first assumption is that we’re all lazy. You knew you had tons of work to do and you still knowingly evaded that responsibility. In some respects, this could be true. Procrastinators say they lack the necessary motivation to do a task even though they know it’s important, so perhaps they are lazy. The next reason is that procrastinators have no self-control and cannot implement the needed structure in their lives to complete tasks on time. Indeed, the absence of structure can negatively affect one’s productivity. But procrastination isn’t about laziness or bad time management.

According to a New York Times article, procrastination is a form of self-harm. That is why we always feel so bad when we do it. The more we put off important tasks, the more negative feelings we harbor. Additionally, it states that procrastination is an emotional problem, and we procrastinate to help deal with these emotions. Negative feelings— depression, anxiety, self-doubt— are all amplified by a bigger issue facing our generation: the problem of perfectionism.

In our millennial world, we’re always reaching higher and doing better. Just look at some of our high school careers. We were in tons of clubs, racked up hundreds of community service hours, took umpteen AP classes and did whatever we could to make ourselves stand out to universities and colleges. At the heart of it, we’re all a bunch of overachievers trying to survive in a world that seems to demand our absolute best at all times. We start procrastinating because we constantly have a lot to get done. The American Psychological Association reported that recent generations of college students have higher levels of perfectionism and have an “irrational desire to achieve along with being overly critical of oneself and others.” This ultimately has a negative impact on our mental health and is aided by the feelings of self-loathing and anxiety that we get from procrastinating.

The upkeep of our mental health is crucial during our time as college students. The habits we set here will be the foundation for how we live our lives. Being aware that we live in an extremely competitive landscape is important to remember, but what’s more important is understanding that our health has to prevail. Every time you continuously put off an important task, you’re keeping yourself in a bad mood. We think we procrastinate to feel better but end up feeling worse when we do. It’s a vicious cycle that we need to stop for the sake of our mental health.