Procrastinating makes you a better student


Parkinson’s Law shows how procrastinating can help you get better grades.

Whenever people talk about procrastination, it is always referred to as a negative. A different viewpoint exists and shows how procrastination can be a positive, helping to concentrate focus and turn in high-quality work.  How many times do people try being a good student and completing an assignment long before the due date?  How often do people just sit and stare at the computer, stressing out and making the assignment become more daunting than it needed to be.  Instead, take a different approach and procrastinate until the assignment is close to being due.  Parkinson’s Law can explain this.

While putting off important tasks to the last minute can be a scary concept, in reality we do it all the time when we are working on assignments.  Instead of stressing out and making assignments into “mental monsters,” experiment by not working on a paper until just before it is due.  According to Parkinson’s Law, procrastinating may just make you a better student.

Parkinson’s Law was recently mentioned in a book called “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss.  The author relates a story about how in college, 24 hours before his 30-page research paper is due, the company his research paper was based upon would not allow him to interview key people.  Expecting an extension from his professor, he was startled to hear he would be expected to turn in the paper by the original deadline.  After an all-night session, Ferriss was able to find a new company, interview the key executives and hand in a 30-page paper one minute before it was due.  He explains how the pressure of such an imminent deadline forced him to focus intently on his task.  He received an “A” on the paper.

Ferriss says his professor told him about Parkinson’s Law before he left class that day.  Parkinson’s Law, originally proposed as a humorous anecdote in a 1955 Economist article states: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

Ferriss expands on this by stating, “A task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion.”

The original article in the Economist uses an example of the amount of time it takes two people to mail a postcard.  The first person, an old woman with no plans for the day other than mailing the postcard, takes the entire day to mail it.  She spends an hour searching for the postcard, 30 minutes searching for her glasses, 30 minutes finding the address, 20 minutes deciding whether or not to take an umbrella on her walk to the mailbox, etc.  The second person, a busy businessman, takes 3 minutes to complete the same task.

Ferriss explains how this principle applies to completing assignments for school.

“It is the magic of the imminent deadline. If I give you 24 hours to complete a project, the time pressure forces you to focus on execution, and you have no choice but to do only the bare essentials. If I give you a week to complete the same task, it’s six days of making a mountain out of a molehill. If I give you two months, God forbid, it becomes a mental monster. The end product of the shorter deadline is almost inevitably of equal or higher quality due to greater focus.”