Louis Ashworth

I’ve never been one to self-proclaim talent, but if procrastination was a sport, let's just say I’d be a world champion. Pair this, my most abundant attribute, with the tight deadlines that Cambridge demands, and I’m left with a frantic weekly sprint, fuelled by copious amounts of caffeine, the night before an essay is due. Yet, I feel like the work produced is never my best, and falls very short of the finish line.

One of the main things that has led to my immeasurably high levels of procrastination is the fact that, despite being five weeks in, I don’t really know what is expected of me. Part of me feels silly for feeling this way since my mind immediately offers up the answer:  the very best of your ability is what is expected, consistently, week-in week-out, obviously it is… you’re at Cambridge.’ And this sort of self-imposed pressure, pressure to live up to the expectation I have of myself, is why it is so much easier to occupy myself with mindless tasks to distract from real responsibilities.

Starting fifth week of term, I have found myself still completely unaware of where I stand. As much as I recognise the teaching-style here is amazingly individualised and academically unparalleled, it intensifies and magnifies the repercussion of my incessant procrastination. This is because time here seems to work differently, something I have had to come to terms with very quickly. Time has become my most valuable commodity.

The lazy days of summer where I was lucky enough to have all the time in the world, to do whatever I wanted, I know label as some of the richest of my life. And I am now very much poor (both figuratively and literally) with a weekly payment due in the form of an essay submission. It’s a constant cycle of meeting one deadline only to be slapped in the face with another. This is why I wish that I could effectively eradicate my apparent need to procrastinate.

Perhaps it’s bred from the shift to more independent study. I suppose the structure of registered hourly periods at school forced me into at least some sort of productivity, compared to only six fixed lectures a week now. But regardless, by now, it is increasingly obvious that my procrastination is pretty endemic.

I think it adds to this lingering feeling of, do I deserve to be here?

It’s a massive slippery slope. As soon as I submit one essay it leads me to think I need a well-deserved break. A couple of nights off at least. But it has come to my attention, very quickly, that ‘a couple nights off’ is just further self-sabotage in relation to meeting academic deadlines. It again leads to an internal conflict. On the one hand, I want to be the best student possible, submit all my essays in on time but, simultaneously, I want, and need, time to relax. This conflict is why I feel procrastination is so thoroughly detrimental.

Not only is it incubating stress, when I have to write a coherent essay in a matter of hours, but the time I have spent procrastinating also isn’t mentally or emotionally beneficial because in the back of my head there’s the constant trickle of guilt which builds into cascading regret. It leads me to question what the rest of my time at Cambridge will look like. Will it be that, in every moment I'm not being academically productive, I'm incessantly envisioning the pile of books I should be reading?

Last week, the levels of my procrastination reached new heights, leaving me and my essay feedback at an all time low. I spent 2 hours arranging and rearranging the photos stuck to my pin board which then led to a further hour of reliving those memories through automated iPhone memory slideshows. All that achieved was making me wish I wasn’t in such a dark, miserable and cold climate.

Then there of course, is the inevitable pit of social media, countless hours scrolling through Twitter and Instagram feeds and not to mention watching Youtube videos. Seriously I am ashamed of the amount of time I’ve invested into aimless but addictive videos such as ‘Exploring a haunted mansion’, ‘X-factor’s angriest contestants’, ‘10 things in the Harry Potter films you missed’- to give a very minute sample. Then, without realising, it’s somehow dark again outside and the entire day which seemed like such a large, boundless entity of time this morning has dissipated into a scarce evening and I’m suddenly too hungry to think of anything else but eating dinner.


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Mountain View

When self-care becomes self-sabotage

My attempts at addressing my procrastination have ended in self-recognition but so far no means of practically addressing it. Maybe it’s impossible. Maybe I’m just immune to coloured study timetables and motivational quotes. And let’s not mention the library. A space where there is the constant background tap of keyboards, a smug mutter of productivity which might as well be shouting in my face “look how much work I’m doing”.

It all culminates to make me wonder whether my peers are naturally better at managing their time, being more productive and making more out of their time than I am. I think it adds to this lingering feeling of, do I deserve to be here? Would someone make more of this opportunity than me, when I’m wasting hours at a time?

All I seem to know is that no-matter how hard I try, I’ll always run into procrastination. And yes, I can fully appreciate the whole-hearted irony in the fact I have just written an article as a means of procrastinating when I have an essay due in the immediate future. But they do say, stick to what you’re good at...

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