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The 5 Stages of Procrastination in Essay Writing

Are you experiencing the five stages of essay procrastination? We've mapped out the progression of this all-too-relatable occurrence and have provided some helpful tips on how to stop waiting and start writing!

Stage 1: Denial

The student denies the existence of the deadline at hand and focuses on matters of much greater importance:

"This paper isn't due until Friday, and it's only Monday! That means the deadline practically doesn't exist. Allow me to continue my Breaking Bad marathon until that deadline enters my reality."

Depending on the assignment and the amount of boxed television sets or Netflix access available to the student, the denial stage can last anywhere from hours to days or even months. 

Tips for avoiding denial: Work in public. Do not bring headphones, and do not access the Internet unless absolutely necessary.

Stage 2: Anger

The student realizes the error of his or her ways, thus resulting in an ire-driven tirade:

"What was I thinking? How did I ever think I was capable of writing a 10,000-word paper in one night? I knew the whole time that Breaking Bad wasn't just going to disappear, and yet I just had to know how it ended before I attempted to accomplish anything else."

This form of anger is usually self-directed, although students may occasionally lash out at the assignment, their professor, their friends, their family, or even their pets. (Curse you, Fluffy! You’re just too cute and distracting! How will I ever get anything done when I love you so much?")

Tips for avoiding anger: Give all relevant passwords—social media, Netflix, and otherwise—to a friend (a trustworthy one!), and allow that friend to temporarily change the passwords. If nothing else, you will be forced to read a book to procrastinate, and it's difficult to regret a good book under any circumstances.

Stage 3: Bargaining

After the rage has subsided, the student makes an attempt at logic:

"Okay, okay. For every five pages I write, I get to watch one episode of Game of Thrones."

This stage can sometimes lead the student back to Stage Two, as students virtually never keep the deals they make with themselves.

("Five hours later, and I've written two paragraphs . . . and watched four episodes! How can this be?")

Tips for avoiding bargaining: Instead of making yourself accountable to yourself, make yourself accountable to another person. If you can't finish something when you've promised a friend or classmate that you would, you have bigger problems. 

Stage 4: Depression

When logic fails, emotions rule once again. The time for anger has passed, and the time for excessive eating and self-hate has begun:

"I should just quit school. I obviously can't write papers, and I'm far more adept at binge-watching Netflix shows. I'm just not cut out for this essay-writing stuff."

Much like the anger phase, the depression stage often involves a large amount of self-loathing and possibly a few pepperoni pizzas. At this point, students may begin to question every single life choice they have ever made (other than signing up for Netflix, obviously—there is no time wasted when watching an entire season of The Walking Dead in one night).

Note: Depression may or may not also present as anxiety. This may or may not result in the student stress-crying, hyperventilating, or throwing up the aforementioned pepperoni pizzas.

Tips for avoiding depression: Drink some tea. Meditate. Listen to calming music. Write your darn essay. It's up to you, really.

Stage 5: Acceptance

A feeling of eerie calm, often accompanied by a feeling of becoming separate from one's body, comes over the student. Suddenly, the student can think clearly and logically:

"So I can probably assume that I'm not going to get the best grade on this paper, but at this point, handing it in on time will be an accomplishment."

Somehow, miraculously, when it seems like all is lost, the student finds the motivation and focus to complete the essay and hand it in on time. Why the student can't skip steps one through four and start with acceptance, we will never know. 



Image source: ronstik/

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