Procrastination: the inevitable byproduct of teenage stress

Vincent Leo

Why did I allow this to happen during finals week? These words echoed in my head as the deadline for my Art Exposition final project loomed closer. I had given myself plenty of time to finish my assignment, but I kept putting it off until it was much too late. As I found myself spiraling later and later into the night, cutting out magazine pieces and gluing them onto a large paper board, I knew I should have completed this days ago and moved on to study for my five final exams.

Procrastination is something that everyone struggles with. Everyone has blown off work at some point, telling themselves they will complete it later. Whether it be your daily math worksheets or a five page English essay, no one is exempt from its extending grasp. Let’s face it—we have all dreaded and pushed off those agonizingly long chapters of textbook reading.

But the consequences of procrastination are increased immensely for students residing in Marin. Living within an intellectual and advanced environment with high standards and expectations for success adds a large deal of pressure. The bar is set high for us: taking AP and Honors classes are the norm and the majority of students go to a four year college right after high school. The UC Fall 2017 admission trends add to our stress, hammering home the point that it is increasingly competitive to get into a UC school systemwide. The trends show the average admission rate for California residents dropping from 68% in 2016 to 63% in 2017, while admissions rates increased from 51% to 54% for non-residents, according to University of California Office of the President. Nothing seems to be letting up for us, and some of these factors are beyond our control.

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High school students seem to face more pressure now than ever before and the added stress leads to procrastination. Students are overcommitted and stretching themselves too thin with rigorous class schedules, extracurriculars, sports, jobs, clubs and other activities. All of these demands cause students to become overwhelmed to the point where everything becomes daunting. The heavy emphasis on AP classes amplifies the issue at Redwood, coupled by the fact that there is no cap on the number of AP classes a student can take. Nothing demonstrates this better than a friend I have who will have taken a total of twelve AP classes by the end of his senior year. I can’t imagine he has time to sleep, nor any downtime to recharge from all of his strenuous efforts.

Furthermore, competition seems to be making more of an impact on students. Our school is cutthroat, pushing students towards a more rigorous lifestyle. Wellness Center Coordinator Jen Kenny-Baum provides insight on this issue and compares Redwood to other schools she has worked in.

“What I do see here within Redwood is a different achievement environment—a real internalized sense of competition to achieve. This idea of higher pursuits and perfection, it’s what people are trying to achieve, and that is the cultural norm at this school,” Kenny-Baum said.

The desire for perfection also acts as one of the key causes for procrastination. With our minds set on creating flawless images of ourselves, we set expectations that can’t be met. We end up thinking everything we do has to be perfect.

“That sort of stalls you from wanting to do anything. It just stops you from even trying because you have created a standard you can’t get to,” Kenny-Baum said.

Our highly academic environment greatly increases this fear of failure. We feel the need to do the same as or even better than everyone else. We feel as if that’s the only way to succeed, and if we can’t achieve the highest standards our attitude changes for the worse.

“Attitude towards failure is one of them,” Kenny-Baum said. “No one wants to fail. When you are putting yourself out there in any way, you want to do well, you want to be seen as successful and you want to feel good about yourself. When you fail, you inevitably don’t feel good.”

In contrast, some might say that working under pressure is the most ideal environment for them. They claim that the adrenaline rush of working when there are only a few hours until the deadline incentivizes and motivates them to complete their work. That being said, procrastination causes more problems down the line when it’s crunch time: you are adding unnecessary stress to yourself, essentially creating a snowball effect. Everything builds up, like a snowball rolling downhill, increasing in momentum and magnitude until it all comes crashing down upon you.

By respecting ourselves for who we are and staying aware of our own limits, procrastination will become less of a problem within our school. Over the past three years at Redwood, I have come to disregard all of the emphasis on overachievement. The notion of “perfection” is just another way to set myself up for failure, forever trapped in the rigid grip of procrastination.