Why I Stopped Procrastinating

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Throughout high school I had what some would call a “minor” procrastination problem. I somehow convinced myself that I worked best under pressure and finished the majority of my larger assignments the night before they were due or, if I felt daring, the due date. The comments I received from numerous teachers about an assignment “looking like it was done last minute” were like badges of approval. I could complete an assignment last minute and still manage a “B,” the procrastinator’s “A”.

Essentially, my procrastinating ways showed no signs of fading. When I started working as a barista, the hours I had for homework lessened while the supply of caffeine I had access to became endless.

Shortly after arriving at college, there were these exciting new things like girls and parties to keep my mind preoccupied. Schoolwork seemed to just stay schoolwork until it eventually became “overdue schoolwork.” Not until late in my senior year of college did I start to rethink how I did my assignments.

I always found it easy to prioritize other things above schoolwork because they were easier to do and homework didn’t give me any sense of gratification. I  found being employed was much more rewarding  than writing lab reports because I knew I was putting some cash into my pocket after a day of work. It was this same emphasis on my wallet that led me to readjust my focus. I realized that my schoolwork was actually bringing me closer to way more money than I could earn from part-time student jobs.

During my years hiding in the back row of introductory biology, I was always told that being a student was my profession that I was in the most important four years of my life, blah blah blah. After actually looking into what a college degree means for the future, I discovered what being a “professional student” really means.  With the help of the Pew Research Center and some simple math (which might just be my favorite thing to procrastinate) I realized the potential financial impact of procrastination.

The first number to account for is the average difference in salary between those with a high school diploma and those who graduated from college. For people between the ages of 25 and 32, that difference is round $17,500 a year. Most of us will be a part of the workforce from age 23 until the ripe, old social security retirement age of 67, meaning that the salary bump results in a difference of $770,000.

Now, for the most part we are expected to graduate in around four years; some students do it in less and many do it in more. I was looking to get out in four years (eight semesters) of courses, or less with good behavior, with a degree. Assuming a course load of about five classes a semester, I had 40 courses to look back on after I put on the cap and gown.

A study done by Graves, Hyland and Samuels found that most students have to type out at least two and half significant writing assignments per course every semester. For convenience, and come on, I definitely write more than that, I’ll round the number to three. You will complete 120 assignment during your time as a college student. Though daunting, considering you could be writing over a thousand pages in pursuit of a degree, the payoff is far greater than I expected.

Even if we take out a chunk of that big salary difference to pay off a student debt of, say, $200,000, that still leaves $570,00. When we divide the lifetime salary difference of $570,000 by 120 assignments, you essentially earn $4,750 for every assignment you complete. Crazy, right?

If you’re a financially driven person, a fiscal conservative or just a cheap bastard that should really get you going. Whenever I had trouble motivating myself or was distracting myself with cleaning the fridge, again, I would just think about all the money I’d be making if I just sat down and did the work. You can break up the calculated total to see how much money you are putting into your pocket per hour, or even per page if you’d like. Doing schoolwork is never fun, but getting paid can make anything more palatable.

After I began thinking of my assignments like this I was finishing assignments well before the due date and sticking to my schedules instead of spending hours in the pre-work phase. I even used the assignments to rationalize some reckless spending every once in a while because why not?

I'm a recent grad/still in school technically because I finished the last of my courses while I was traveling through Europe in the past few months before settling down. I studied International studies and am currently living in Melbourne doing odd jobs and doing a bit of writing.

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