Welcome to the post-Spring-Break log-jam of large assignments and late midterm exams. I was lucky enough not to be saddled with the latter. Of course, I didn’t want to work on that project assigned two weeks ago, but lo and behold, I have arrived at the panic zone of three days before the due date without having done any of the work. I, of course, rushed to finish the project that I was certain I would do well on, only to receive a grade reflective of my effort.

This is a common procrastinator’s problem, brought on by the end-of-the-year fatigue and an overwhelming desire to fast-forward to summer, when some of us will pursue professional development, employment and educational opportunities, and not focus on schoolwork as much. While March may be a difficult time to find motivation to put one’s best effort into academic work, hopefully this column can help my fellow procrastinators find value in starting projects and exam preparations early.

No matter what your class standing is, using this time as an opportunity to either create momentum for next year or cap off a good academic record upon graduation will yield tremendous rewards (the very least of which is a solidified work ethic).

What do we lose when we allow ourselves to procrastinate? We lose the ability to get ahead on projects and develop relationships with others, but, most importantly, we lose the opportunity to develop ourselves and grow personal discipline that will serve us throughout life. We lose the chance to practice and refine our skill set. A gifted pianist who procrastinates his practice may find himself falling behind his peers. Moreover, the institution of personal discipline helps us all become better at what we do, be it writing, singing or playing basketball

A graduating senior may have the impression that he or she has little to gain from putting effort into his or her final semester. You already secured your dream job or internship? You’re not worried about your GPA dropping because you already secured a spot in graduate school? Surely, a healthy dosage of senioritis is due, right? Wrong. A slip-up in attitude and academic performance could bring significant consequences. 

If your employer sees that your effort dropped after accepting a job offer, it may tell them that you focus only on short-term goals and don’t think about trying to achieve long-term objectives. They may anticipate that once you get a promotion you want, you may decide to stop putting effort into tasks and could lose your desire to be an effective employee. Why would they want to hire someone who is only in it for themselves and is not invested in long-term projects? They wouldn’t. According to Forbes Reporter Susan Adams, GPA matters quite a bit to employers, because “it’s really one of the only indications (employers) have of a student’s technical ability or competence to do the job.” So not only do grades indicate attitude and work ethic, they also demonstrate competence, something essential in the current job market.

So how does one maintain the motivation to continue to demonstrate this competence and zeal to complete projects successfully in the latter half of one’s senior year? College admissions counselor Kat Cohen has a few recommendations, the most important of which being taking the time to relax and recharge.

Yes, you have achieved something spectacular that required a great deal of effort, preparation and sleepless nights spent preparing resumes and cover letters or studying course material. You deserve to relax. But instead of letting this become permission to turn on auto-pilot, use it as an opportunity to prepare for the next chapter, which begins now. How can you use the remaining time in the year to build your organizational skills so you are successful at your internship or job? How can you take full advantage of the opportunity to end the year on a high note, whether that means giving more of yourself to your extracurricular activities or challenging yourself to learn a new skill in your classes that may prove useful going forward?

Letting success get to your head will prohibit your personal growth by keeping you focused on staying in the same place, instead of finding ways to innovatively move forward. Complacency consequently grows out of this self-satisfaction. Former Intel CEO Andrew Grove once said, “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” So when you find success, after briefly re-charging, take the chance to ask yourself, “Now what? Where can I go from here? How can I add value and challenge myself?” Because the time we have to make productive contributions to society is inherently limited, we mustn’t lose time during the Ides of March being idle. 

Zachary Cox can be reached at coxz@umich.edu.

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