lördag 8 oktober 2011

On procrastination

"One of the greatest labor-saving inventions of today is tomorrow" - Vincent T. Foss

I'm responsible for the Program-integrating course this academic year (again). The last time I wrote about that course here on the blog was in June when I summarized last year's course.

This year's theme for the course (instructions for 300+ students will be sent out this coming week) is "procrastination", i.e. the habit of postponing and delaying stuff, or, more poetically, the gap between intention and action†. Almost all of us do it now and then. Students do it more often, especially concerning their studies (as shown by research). It is for example notoriously difficult to start working on your thesis when the deadline is many months from now. Many students start doing things way to late, with studying for exams being the primary example. I don't know how often I've read the words "during the next period [next quarter] I will start studying directly when the courses start" in the documents students hand in in the Program-integrating course.

So, procrastination is a relevant and timely (timeless?) topic and we have some good starting points for this theme/course. The students will start by filling out a short questionnaire. After having answered nine questions, they can find out if they are habitual or only average procrastinators. We continue by reading some popular texts and finish by having students think and write some about their own habits.

In this course, students usually answer questions such as "what did you do during the past period?" (last quarter). This time they will also get the opportunity to answer the question "what did you NOT do during the last period (what did you delay or postpone that you "should" have done)?". The students are furthermore also encouraged to make promises in the form of a voluntary "pledge", and we will come back to and evaluate the outcome of these pledges half a year later. We are also especially interested in the role of (new) media technologies and services in students' procrastination habits.

Procrastination as a topic was suggested by my colleague Björn H. who also has a good grip on the field of "procrastination research". Just talking about and planning this stuff has been fun as you can make so many jokes about procrastination. It for example turned out that me and Björn together own three books about delaying stuff and about getting things done - but that none of us had read any of these books! ;-)

† For primers on procrastination, see the Wikipedia entries for procrastination, student syndrome and cramming.

2 kommentarer:

  1. That you haven't read the books on getting things done must mean that you are NOT procastinating. Best way of not getting things done is to constantly set up new routines for getting things done (that will be implemented starting TOMORROW) :)

  2. You're right. I knew a student who treated his studies like a job; came at 8 and went home at 17 rain or shine. If he didn't finish something one day, he continued the next day - and that's definitely not procrastinating even though he didn't stay to work "overtime" and finish everything that needed finishing directly.

    So I might have (consciously or unconsciously) decided not to read that book - and that's not procrastinating either. Procrastination is deciding that I will read the book, but putting it off 'til tomorrow or next week or another year. If other books get read first - that's prioritizing, not procrastinating. ...but you can still crack a lot of jokes about procrastination.

    "I’m going to stop putting things off, starting tomorrow!" :-)