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Column: The Light under the Shadow of Procrastination
[ Issue 106 Page 10 ] Thursday, April 21, 2011, 00:41:44 Paulo Kemper paulokemperfilho@gmail.com

Although I think it is really unlikely, you might have never heard this word before. Yet, if you considered searching on Wikipedia the meaning of that word, you are really prone to procrastinate even more. Hold on and let me save you a little bit of your time: according to Wikipedia procrastination “refers to the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of low priority, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time.” Moreover, among college students it is estimated that from 80% to 95% actually engage in procrastination. While many people insist that we must be productive 120% of the time, we students are doing just the opposite. Should we be worried about procrastination?

The answer to that question is both a yes and a no. I had a quick browse on the internet to investigate about the subject. Interestingly enough, I found many defenders of procrastination. Just to name one: Jorge Cham. A graduate of Georgia Tech who also has a PhD in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, Mr. Cham gives special lectures on many major universities about the power of procrastination. It seems hardly believable that he is invited to give those lectures and have a very busy agenda. He claims that despite all the myths behind procrastination and the associated guilt from procrastinating, to procrastinate may actually be a good thing. To spend a couple of minutes (or hours, in some instances) doing something that will clear your head and relieve you of the stress before proceeding to tasks in which you need to use your brain intensively may indeed positively affect the final results.

This does not mean that you have the green light to spend the whole day playing CityVille on Facebook. Excesses are a threat not only to your academic performance but also to your mental health. I do not set the best model to follow as I find myself finishing this article after the deadline has passed and I did some serious procrastination while writing about procrastination, but I can tell you that the descending spiral can get pretty bad. One of the worst possible cases is when you are stressed about something and you really cannot think about the problem; this is when you are prone to deciding on taking a break. During your break, you feel guilty for procrastinating and end up not resting nor relaxing at all. When you resume your high-priority task, the time available for finishing it has reduced, you are still stressed and you might fall into depression.

Basically, studying a lot may lead to depression just as much as procrastinating “wrongly” may lead to it. Are we thus bound to suffer depression? If you are worried about it, most likely yes. Again, I am not the best model since I also have my “emo” days, but I can tell you that perhaps to worry is not of any good to yourself. We all live in a very tense environment in which we must excel beyond our own classmates to earn printed letters on our transcript and most of us think that those letters tell us who you are and who you will be. If you have been spending the best days of your life inside a room with no social contact to guarantee an A+ over an A-, you might want to stop reading right here. Or maybe you shouldn’t. Surprisingly enough, personnel managers in Korea apparently are no longer relying much on GPAs when recruiting employees. AlbaCheongook, a South Korean job recruitment portal, conducted a survey with over 300 personnel managers; about 80% of the managers responded that they favor work experience over GPA, and 30% believe that GPAs are the least reliable metric.

No reason to panic. Don’t quit your classes and go running wildly about. All I wanted to say is that perhaps the time spent in the library is overrated, and perhaps you would like to rethink how you have been conducting your school life. Allow yourself some healthy procrastination or enjoy the weather outside and your friends. Your GPA may drop by a couple decimal points, but if you do this, I guarantee that when you look back on your school years, you will have more than just the pain to remember.

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