Ease the Stress of Procrastination

The owl, often associated with wisdom and academic success, reveals a lofty view of a typical college student struggling with the all-too-common problem of procrastination. Learn valuable lessons from the mistakes described in this story so you can start your academic year on the right foot and head toward your goal of graduation.

It’s the beginning of the fall semester at college. During my first World History class, the professor hands out the course syllabus. I sigh with relief that the reading assignments don’t seem too overwhelming, and there are only two exams, a midterm and a final.

Then my mouth drops. There on the syllabus appears that most dreaded of assignments, a RESEARCH PAPER . . . a 15-page typed RESEARCH PAPER. . . formatted in MLA style . . . with a minimum of five academic references (no blog posts or Wikipedia entries) . . . due on the last day of the semester at HIGH NOON.

Impending Doom

Overwhelmed by such a demanding assignment, I start to hyperventilate. The longest paper I ever had to write was ten pages, and I copied most of that from an old essay my sister wrote for an English class. As I read the school’s policy on plagiarism found on the syllabus, I realize that I best not try that strategy again.

The professor mercifully dismisses class early. He must have known that we all suffered from a bit of syllabus PTSD. Outside in the fresh air, I lament to one of my classmates about the term paper. She sniffs coldly as she casually comments, “No big deal. I had to write 20-page research papers in my honors courses last year”.

The Challenge

Feeling a bit deflated, I challenge myself to the task. I WILL write this research paper, and it will be an excellent paper. No, it will be the best research paper in the history of this school!

Fortified with a new sense of bravado, I read the rubric for the term paper found in the course syllabus. No sweat! Then I reason I still have 16 weeks before the paper is due. Of course, I dismiss my professor’s suggestions that we could be surveying our textbook for paper topics now. 

Kept busy with multiple extracurricular activities, a part-time job, and active social life, I took little notice of the weeks that passed by . . . until my history professor announced that our research paper was due in a mere four weeks. “That can’t be!” I exclaimed, “I was certain I had more time.”

However, a quick review of my planner reveals that not only is my research paper due in four weeks, but I have other assignments due the very same week. 

As I quietly breathe through a mild panic attack, I resolve to cancel my social plans that weekend to hit those books. However, a nasty case of the flu renders me far too queasy to focus on my reading. As I grab a tissue and a swig of flu medicine, I calm myself with the assurance that Thanksgiving weekend is approaching, and I will have four full days to work on my term paper. I firmly proclaim, “This coming Thanksgiving weekend will be the most productive weekend in the history of my school!”

The Thanksgiving Challenge

On the day before Thanksgiving, I follow through on my promise to pick up my sister from the airport. Naturally, her flight was delayed for three hours, and I forgot to bring my textbooks, so I failed to use that time productively.

No worries, I inform my family on Thanksgiving morning that I am too busy with school work to help with dinner preparations. Of course, my sister reminds me that she is also in school as she prepares turkey stuffing and bakes pumpkin pies.

Paying no mind, I head into the basement, where I will not be disturbed. I outline a study schedule that includes a one-hour break to eat Thanksgiving dinner. Mmmm, but the smell of that turkey keeps distracting me, as do the sounds of relatives arriving. They all seem happy while laughing and indulging in my Mom’s delicious appetizers.

After reading the same textbook page for the fifth time, I recognize the futility of my efforts, and I join my family in the festivities. As I plop down on the couch stuffed from all that turkey and pie, I rationalize that I am entitled to enjoy the holidays. There are still three more days.

Early on Friday morning, I ignore my family’s discussion about bargain holiday shopping and headed to the local library. After a few hours of productive reading, I pat myself on the back. Just then, I run into an old friend whom I haven’t seen for years. We start chatting, which leads to a movie followed by dinner.

Later that evening, I assure myself that tomorrow’s plans to attend a football game shouldn’t derail my mission too much. I resolve that I will wake up at 5 a.m. to work on my paper – which I don’t do. Of course, who would have guessed I’d be stuck in post-game traffic for over four hours? Exhausted, I plop into bed late that night, having accomplished nothing all day.

On Sunday morning, the last day of my Thanksgiving break, I race to the local library again. Closed! I hadn’t counted on that. As I head to the basement at home, my sister informs me that her friend can’t drive her to the airport and asks if I will. I reluctantly agree because I don’t want to hear again how she cooked, baked, and washed dishes on Thanksgiving Day while I did nothing to help. My favorite holiday movie is on TV when I get home, so I sit down and watch. This next week will be the most productive in the history of my school.

Final Countdown to “High Noon”

Major drama with my friends distracts me for several days early in the week, and I have to cram for a couple of quizzes at the end of the week. After my disappointing quiz performance on Friday, I realize with horror that my research paper is due on Monday at HIGH NOON. I only have 72 hours to complete it, and I haven’t even selected a topic yet! Of course, that doesn’t stop me from attending a party with my friends that night.

On Saturday morning, I ceremoniously open my textbook and decide whatever prominent topic appears on that page will be the subject of my research paper. Okay, The Fall of the Roman Empire. Armed with my paper topic, I recall that my history professor never said we couldn’t use our textbook as a reference. Now, I head to the school library to find two encyclopedias and two more textbooks containing information on the Fall of the Roman Empire.

Typing my textbook chapter verbatim (in quotes, of course), I complete the first ten pages of the research paper. Whew! I hit the pillow on Saturday night, very relieved. The next day, I utilize my other four references similarly. However, a lot of it’s a repeat of the information I already have. By Sunday night, I have completed 15 pages.

I get up at 5 a.m. on Monday to finish my term paper. After exhausting all my references, I restate all the reference information (in my own words of course) and ditch the MLA formatting, which only yields another three pages. So, I widen my page margins, enlarge my font size, and restate my own words again. Finally, I reach the middle of the 15th page. “Close enough!” I proclaim.

As I email my paper to my professor at 11:59 a.m. (one minute before HIGH NOON), I resolve that my NEXT term paper will be the best research paper in the history of this school.

Image is under license from Shutterstock.com.

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