As the new semester begins, millions of college students across the country are trying hard to remember how best to write a paper–or, more likely, how best to delay that paper.
Procrastination is the thief of time and a lot of students suffer from it. They can spend whole days in the library doing nothing but staring into space, eating snacks, surfing the Internet, watching videos and looking at their pretty peers sitting around them, who, most likely, are doing nothing either.
Paralyzed by their habit to procrastinate, they write micro blogs about their fears, asking their online friends if they sometimes have the same issue. But this does nothing to break the spell.
According to a recent report by the BBC, 95 percent of us procrastinate at some point and 20 percent of the world's population are chronic procrastinators, complicating their lives with their incessant delaying of tasks.
The figures are dismal. Procrastinators are less wealthy, less healthy and less happy than those who don't delay. Just look at Hamlet, who is perhaps the world's most famous procrastinator. He is also a university student, and his crippling indecision leads to tragedy on an epic scale.
Procrastinators like to find excuses to justify their behavior, but BBC columnist Rowan Pelling says they are all wrong.
Many procrastinators tell themselves they are perfectionists who work best under pressure. Pelling says this is nonsense, as work done at the last minute is more likely to have mistakes than work done on time.
She says the behavior of procrastinators often makes them feel flustered and ashamed, inconveniences others, and annoys loved ones.
Pelling also points out that procrastination feels particularly delinquent in a society that views swift action as commendable, and, at times, even as a moral good.
Fortunately, social scientists have thrown their weight behind efforts to understand this behavioral flaw and offer strategies to control it.
Piers Steel, a Canadian social scientist and author of The Procrastination Equation, believes humankind is "designed" to procrastinate. Nevertheless, he suggests a couple of good ways to get through the task at hand.
The first one is obvious: Break the task down into small pieces and work your way through them methodically.
The second is ingenious: Give a trusted friend a sum of money and tell them that if you don't complete the task you have undertaken by a specific time, they can keep it or donate it to a cause you hate.