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Active procrastination can push the stress away

By Andrea Schneck

Aug. 26, 2010 10:09 p.m.

My procrastination only grows as my time at UCLA passes. Apparently, it doesn’t go unnoticed.

I often see posters advertising for its demise; anti-procrastination workshops seem to be sprawled everywhere around campus. The sessions advocate for time management and the use of breaks to accomplish academic goals.

However, in a world crammed with exams, readings and a rapid quarter system, scheduling breaks doesn’t always fit in. Procrastination can be a way to get some of the same benefits as taking a break, while allowing for the impromptu fun that planned breaks just cannot provide.

A study published in the Journal of Social Psychology in 2005 differentiates procrastination into two types ““ passive and active. Passive procrastinators fail to achieve their goals, inhibited by indecision and the ability to get back to work.

Active procrastinators choose to procrastinate, deciding to take unplanned breaks , but manage to prevent their procrastination from spiraling out of control. These procrastinators perform more similarly to non-procrastinators than to passive procrastinators in terms of academic outcomes.

Last quarter, I had broken down from the stress of an impending exam and two papers due. I didn’t feel like I knew the material, let alone why I was studying. So I looked around for anything to distract me.

My roommates and I spent 15 minutes that night doing voice-overs for the boys across the street on the third floor of Rieber Vista, dubbing what they said with the wildest plot lines. Through tears of laughter we determined that two of the boys had Hugh Hefner-like ambitions, and one had an eternal, unquenchable love for his computer.

Of course, when the laughter from my creeping adventure finally subsided, I still had all of my work to do. The stress, the larger questions about why I was studying ““ they were still there. What was different was that I had a chance to relax and regroup, to be in a better mindset to accomplish my tasks.

Steve Castro, a peer learning mentor for UCLA’s Academic Advancement Program, describes procrastination as a big problem where students sometimes allow Facebook, friends and a fear of the material to keep them from doing their best work.

And according to Casey Van Dyck, program representative of UCLA’s Academics in the Commons, anti-procrastination workshops last 50-70 minutes with the goal of increasing participants’ awareness of why they procrastinate and how to prevent and mitigate it from interfering with their lives.

However, procrastination doesn’t always need to be viewed in a negative light.

Procrastination, then, does not need to inhibit academic goals. Balanced procrastination can allow us to maintain academic success while easing stress and giving us fun.

Through procrastination, I’ve had some of the most ridiculous and hilarious conversations with friends, watched countless hours of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and have been fated to inevitable doom in Rainbow Unicorn Attack. Procrastination allows for unplanned fun, raw expressions of the inner 5-year-old ““ moments scheduled breaks cannot offer.

Amid the stress of exams and the 15-page papers that pile up, it can be difficult to see past the mounds of work and expectations that come with a UCLA education. But when balanced, procrastination forces us to have just a little bit of fun, to put things into perspective and live in the present.

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Andrea Schneck
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