To Cram or Not to Cram?

Exhausted Student Falling Asleep While CrammingWith final exams rolling around the corner, this is about the time when students begin panicking. Without the slightest bit of hesitation, they initiate their ritual late-night cram-sessions and caffeine binges in order to catch up on their schoolwork. This is the time when students tend to revisit or even relearn concepts they should have mastered by now. I am all too familiar with this process; after all, I am a teacher…and yes, we can tell.

But why is it that more than often, students leave things to the last minute and get caught up completing other tasks instead? Is this human nature? Is it due to our fast-paced society? Prioritization? Or did we subconsciously intend on completing our work, but got sidetracked? Which leads me to the most important question…are we simply the ones to blame? Well, according to the ‘Academic Success Centre’ the top six reasons why students procrastinate are the following:

1)    Skill deficits

2)    Lack of interest

3)    Lack of motivation

4)    Fear of failure

5)    Fear of success

6)    Rebellion and resistance

Maintaining a healthy balance between social life and school life is not the easiest mission to accomplish. Given that the tools students study with (laptop, tablet, etc.) are the ones that lead them into the abyss of social networking sites and are the gateway to the myriads of other, more ‘interesting facts’ to read up about, I don’t necessarily believe technology is entirely to blame. Do I believe that online distractions are one of the top reasons for procrastination? Undeniably. However, we choose what we do with our time and focus and determination are also of the essence. Concentration and being attentive to solely one task for long periods of time is not as easy as it used to be.

Some students would argue that procrastination is a skill. Really, why dedicate an hour day to pace yourself and comfortably study for that 50 % final throughout the week, when you could be surfing the web, going out with friends or watching the latest series… when you could just dedicate 5 intense hours the night and early morning before to force feed yourself all the material right before the exam? Is procrastination a skill or is it something that can hinder our success? Difficult to say because to some people, it is literally all they know and how they live their lives relentlessly.

The problem with procrastination is…this is a habit that does not affect solely our schoolwork and grades… this is an issue that will linger and remain with us within our work environment and during goal setting and accomplishment. In a way, it is a form of cheating ourselves, because can we really retain and learn from this information that we are quickly soaking up and spilling right back out? This action alone goes against all of the principles of meaningful learning.

Nevertheless, along with the bad does come some good. Procrastination in itself is the act of quickly gathering information, attempting to have it sink in and subsequently, regurgitate it. There are certain instances where this “skill” can come in handy. For example, giving a last-minute presentation, briefing a case, rehearsing a speech, preparing a lecture, and practicing a pitch or learning new sales tactics. If we were working at a company and were informed we had to give a last minute presentation, then maybe the skill could be used effectively, but how often do these situations truly arise? You can only ‘Fake it ‘til you make it’ to a certain extent and just like an embarrassing photo, it would be a shame if your university study habits come back to haunt you one day.

Students need to avoid the temptation that surrounds them and properly define work vs. play in order to successfully rid themselves of cram sessions for good. With part-time jobs, overloaded schedules, external obligations, and so on…it is easy to see how so many students can fall into the habit of becoming professional procrastinators. But does this legitimize our actions? Stay tuned for my next article on how to develop proper study habits and tips for success in your courses and at work!

Happy Studying,

Lisa

“Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he/she is supposed to be doing at that moment.” -Robert Benchley 

“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.” -Christopher Parker

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