procrastination“It’s past 11:00 pm on a Tuesday night and I’m sitting on the couch staring at the 4 different stacks of papers I have yet to grade – and them staring right back at me, judging me, sensing my guilt – I wonder why teachers procrastinate to this extent.”

Whether you are a language student or teacher, you are all too familiar with the concept of procrastination – or the action of delaying something by doing something else that gives you temporary gratification.

I mean, think about it; For some of us doing literally anything else sounds more fun than writing a 5000 word essay the night before it’s due, or grading the pile of student assignments you had promised to give back by tomorrow. Perhaps if you do a few loads of laundry, read the last few pages of your book, make coffee, FaceTime your mother, etc, THEN you might magically muster up the power to start on your actual work.

You might even like to show Tim Urban’s “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator” TED talk to your students/friends, and nod your head or smile and point to the screen every time he mentions a procrastinator’s traits that you relate to.

Yet, we constantly put ourselves through this agony. How many times have we found ourselves feeling guilty and anxious because a deadline was fast approaching and we felt nowhere near finished? Have we ever stopped to think about the root cause of our procrastination, and how we can possibly overcome it? Should we overcome it, or do we work better under pressure? Should we embrace our procrastinating skills?

Procrastination could have various roots and it definitely depends on the individual, but for the most part here are the main reasons.

We are usually:

  1. easily distracted
  2. lacking a proper workplace
  3. more efficient workers under time pressure
  4. feeling overwhelmed/facing anxiety due to the amount/difficulty of work
  5. not sure where to begin (see last point)
  6. simply hitting a wall (mind block)

But unless we enjoy short-term gain and long-term pain, it might be a good idea to start working on ourselves, and create a habit of avoiding procrastination altogether. After all, staying focused and having our eyes on the prize can go a long way in our journey of language learning/teaching:

  1. the first step is to recognize that you are in fact procrastinating
  2. give your days structure – make a small to-do list every day, and reward yourself when you check off each “done” task (I’ll watch an episode of my show on Netflix if I finish this task)
  3. take small steps; set achievable goals
  4. prioritize! Don’t leave the most important tasks for last. But don’t forget to take breaks between each task
  5. minimize distraction by all means necessary (put your phone away, listen to relaxing music, do whatever “not distracting” means to you – we’re all different).
  6. recognize that what you need to be doing will bring you happiness in the long run
  7. think of what needs to be done – and just do it!! (okay this one is hard, but totally doable!)

Bottomline is, being mindful about what you’re doing, gaining control of your life, and ultimately defeating procrastination (at least to some extent), will have a tremendous outcome on the level of your effectiveness, happiness, and how you look at language learning (not as a chore – but as something pleasant that you enjoy doing).

To tell you the truth, I could talk about this topic all day, but I think I need to go check if there’s anything new in my fridge since 20 minutes ago. 

To learn more about procrastination and how to overcome it, check out these links:

1- Tim Urban – “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator” https://www.ted.com/talks/tim_urban_inside_the_mind_of_a_master_procrastinator?utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare

2- How to Beat Procrastination: https://waitbutwhy.com/2013/11/how-to-beat-procrastination.html

3- The Real Reasons You Procrastinate – and How to Stop: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/04/27/why-you-cant-help-read-this-article-about-procrastination-instead-of-doing-your-job/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.2ce4a4b350d1