The "P" Word

Share your procrastination methods with Josie at [email protected].





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Considering it's October, the weather in Berkeley has been pretty nice lately (except for that pesky fog that rolls in occasionally). It's been warm (and sometimes, disgustingly hot) and there isn't a cloud in the sky most days. It's the kind of weather that makes you want to skip class and do something outdoorsy, like go to the beach or go hiking.

Unfortunately, I've been stuck studying in the library. The first floor of Moffitt is like a dungeon-it's really cold and dark and it feels like you're cut off from the rest of the world. Down there you're restricted from some of your basic human needs, like eating, drinking and even speaking (well, speaking loudly, anyway).

The campus is a strange place during midterms. Lots of people are standing around outside of the library using their cell phones. People are wearing pajamas in broad daylight. Everyone's carrying around large stacks of paper. People are asleep in the library. They're in Heller Lounge into the wee hours of the morning, in time to see the janitors doing their early morning vacuuming. That person in your class you thought was cute shows up at the library late at night in raggedy sweats, bags under his eyes and with a little bit of drool at the corner of his mouth, shattering any fantasies you may have had about him in the past. Suddenly you're chummy with people you haven't spoken with all semester because you either need notes or want to know if everyone else is freaking out the way you are. You're awake long enough to see the sun rise.

Large amounts of caffeine, Red Bull and Vivarin make the world a scary place.

The best and most common way of dealing with midterms is one you were probably familiar with in high school: procrastination.

Procrastination starts off simple. You waste a little time on the computer. Watch an episode of Smallville. Call up one of your friends on the phone. It's OK, the midterm's still three days away. Plenty of time.

Some times it's even more subtle than that. Today seems like a good day to do laundry or give the tub a good scrubbing. Maybe you'll look for that shirt you thought you lost a few weeks ago. Anything's better than studying. Plus, you're being productive. Well, sort of.

Other times it's more blatant. "I should be studying, but ... I think I'll get drunk!"

Meanwhile, your virgin, untouched books are still under the bed, where you shoved them right after you bought them.

Soon, the guilt starts to set in. The weekend's over, there are two days left and you still haven't done anything. Time to start studying.

Nevertheless, procrastination still manages to rear its ugly head. You head to the library with four of your closest friends, some well-concealed snacks, your Walkman and your cell phone (at this point, do you really believe anything's going to get done?). You haggle with the library staff for a study room and decide you'd rather wait an hour for one instead of finding another place and starting right away. As soon as you find a spot, you spend half an hour catching up on the latest gossip (who likes who, who finally got that weird rash checked out). Then you spend another half hour complaining about the midterm, how boring the class is and how unfair the graduate student instructor is. Now you need to find your missing notes, cut up some notecards, check your e-mail, call up the fifth missing member of your group to see where she is and find your favorite pink highlighter.

All right, it's time to begin.

Wait! "I'm hungry," or, "I need a cigarette."

More shuffling around. You stop and chat with someone you haven't seen all semester at the next table. OK, now you're ready to start.

Suddenly, you start panicking. The "fear" sets in and pushes you to finally start studying. The whole time you complain, "There isn't enough time! Why didn't I start earlier?"

But you'll get through it. You'll think that you failed the midterm, but then you end up with a decent grade, thus reinforcing your bad habits. You waited until last minute, and it was OK.

Maybe you should always start last minute! After all, you do your best work at the last minute, don't you?

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