The Siren knows only too well what “procrastination” means and so does our newest contributor William Hunt. Plagued with this unfortunate disease that has thwarted many a student, he thought he should do something about it. Read on and find out how he managed to get out of bed…or just, you know…read it later?
No conscientious, forward-thinking human enjoys the feeling of having wasted innumerable hours and not being able to account for what took place during that time (except for maybe on Wednesday nights in Monkey Bar). Despite this, the vast majority of us spend an abhorrent percentage of our days scrolling through our Facebook news feeds, absorbing large quantities of useless information about people we don’t really care about, and enduring thoroughly uninspiring conversations with that girl from secondary school we never really liked anyway. Television is similarly menacing when it comes to getting in the way of productivity. There is arguably no better way to fritter away a morning (or indeed a whole day, if the mood takes you), than settling into the couch groove and watching an irate, beady eyed Jeremy Kyle judge a whole host of people less fortunate than ourselves. ‘I may not have done much today’, we tell ourselves, ‘ but at least I didn’t catch Hep C from my nan.’
Whether it’s pseudo-social networking, soul-destroying daytime television, pwning n00bs on COD or simply stewing away in the bathtub, we can all admit to engaging in (in)activities that will have no beneficial effect on our lives whatsoever. As a wise man once told me ‘If you enjoy wasting time, it’s not time wasted’. Of course, indulging in a few episodes/seasons of Family Guy after a day of being lectured, frantically essaying and painstakingly compiling bibliographies is a perfectly normal way to spend an evening. However, it is when this type of leisure activity gets in the way of our working lives and personal goals, that it becomes a problem. The name of this problem is procrastination. I’ll readily hold my hands up and admit that I occasionally suffer from this debilitating illness. What follows is the story of how I found myself in a room full of fellow Swansea University students trying to cure themselves of that same illness.
www.stumbleupon.com is essentially the internet tailored to your own interests (check it out), and is a savagely addictive medium you can use to put off being constructive. I know a man who’s love of cute animal pictures consumed his very being after discovering the site, and I have often found myself awake in the early hours of the morning learning how to make cakes out of peanut butter. Rather ironic then, that it was this site that led me to set about changing my procrastinating ways. One night, at the tail end of a lengthy Stumbling session, I came across a series of free online audio lectures being offered by University of California Berkeley on the subject of the philosophy of society. I picked a lecture at random from the list, and sank back into my mattress to allow lecturer John Searle’s soothing tones lull me into a state of unconsciousness, under the assumption that by doing so I might educate myself subliminally. On the precipice of a deep slumber, I heard Searle introduce a topic so profoundly interesting that I tried desperately to claw my way back to reality from the land of nod, to no avail. I remained sound asleep until morning, and have not yet got round to listening to the lecture again, such are my procrastinating ways. Despite this, the words I did manage to catch evoked massive curiosity in me. His words, in the form of the most plaguing of questions, were ‘What is it that allows a man to desire with all his heart to do something, and to know that he is fully capable of doing it, but to not actually do it?’.
Fast-forward a few days, and my friend and I are discussing the subject at length via the medium of Facebook, naturally. He mentions that Aberystwyth University where he studies is offering help for fellow sufferers in the form of Alcoholics Anonymous-esque workshops. To say I was intrigued would be a huge understatement. I found myself dismayed that Swansea Uni were not offering a similar service, and wondered how I would ever be cured of my affliction. Then I got the e-mail. ‘Free Procrastination Workshop This Wednesday’, and read the title, ‘How to Get Things Done.’ I was sold immediately. The 2-hour workshop session was to be held in the Digital Technium building on Wednesday Feb 23 at 2 p.m. How I managed to dredge my weary frame from the comfort of my dressing gown by this ungodly hour baffles me to this day, but after consuming several hundred cups of densely sweetened coffee, I was on my merry way.
When I arrived in plush conference suite 104, the turnout was overwhelming. I was lucky that I got there early enough to get a seat. From the outset, lecturer Sarah Hinds of Wellbeing (the organization running the workshops) was keen to distinguish between laziness and procrastination, a sentiment I was more than willing to embrace (IT’S A DISEASE!). The session was split into two sections, each lasting an hour, the first of which exploring the ways in which procrastination manifests itself, and the second intending to address the problem of overcoming it. Telling a procrastinator what procrastinating is may seem like a remarkably pointless exercise. However, when asked to discuss with unfamiliar faces the reasons why you procrastinate, you realize that the act itself makes very little sense. On paper, the negative consequences far outweigh the positives. Why then, do we so often choose procrastination over progression? Hinds suggested that in our minds we harbor complex cognitive relationships with the tasks we need to carry out, which influence our willingness to start or finish them. So how do we go about changing these relationships? In keeping with the AA theme, a six-step plan to adhere to in order to change your ways was introduced in the latter half of the workshop, including Step 1,‘Being Aware and Non-Blaming’. I.e. don’t beat yourself up, but make sure you know that not showering for two weeks is not normal. Whilst steps two to six followed suit in stating the obvious, in a room full of people who clearly needed the obvious to be stated to them for it to have any effect, the six-step anti-procrastination plan struck a chord, myself included.
The workshop concluded with Hinds asking people to suggest ways in which they have overcome their procrastination in the past. One suggestion in particular stuck in my mind, and that was to make sure you remember that you enjoy your degree. Even when your workload gets on top of you, it’s important to think that deep down you do the things you do because you want something in particular out of life, and to use a time-honoured cliché, nothing in life worth having comes easily. By happenstance, I was sat in front of a PhD behavioral psychologist (apparently doctors procrastinate too) during the workshop, who informed me that it takes 21 days for an adult to build a habit. By this logic, if I follow the six-step plan, in three weeks time I should be at my productive peak, and well on my way to becoming my idealized self. For now though, I really do have to download and watch every single episode of The Gilmore Girls that was ever made.
The next workshops being put on by Wellbeing are:
Improving self esteem and confidence – March 9th 2-4pm Grove room 347
Exam anxiety and panic May 4th 2-4pm Digital Technium 104
Coping with finishing your studies –June 15th 2-4pm Grove room 347