Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, January 25, 2013

Using "Positive Procrastination" in ASP

An essential part of ASP is dealing with students who have problems with procrastination.  There are two types of procrastinators; positive procrastinators and toxic procrastinators. Toxic procastinators are easy to spot; they just don't get the work done on time. They have a million excuses. Toxic procrastinators usually have psychological issues, like an intense fear of failure or issues with perfectionism, that are beyond the scope of a typical ASP, and need the intervention of a mental health professional. The New York Times has a wonderful article on positive, or productive, procrastinators. Positive procrastinators, according to Robert Benchley, "can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.” In law schools, we can also break this down further: positive procrastinators who limit themselves to law-related work, and positive procrastinators who do everything possible to avoid law-related work. The first group are remarkably productive, if always stressed out. Their outlines will be done a month in advance, but only because it allowed them to avoid writing their law review note. In my experience, most of these positive procrastinators see us in ASP because of stress. Their grades do not suffer from this form of procrastination, but their sanity and close associates suffer a great deal.

The second group of procrastinators are common in ASP classes and workshops; they will do anything, as long as it is not law-related work (I am defining law-related work as reading, homework, outlines, resumes, cover letters, and other essential tasks). They will  take on leadership roles in every law school club or team sport. They will initiate fundraisers and chair student committees. They will often have significant, out-of-school commitments that they insist they must oblige. Superficially, these students seem to be the most productive students on campus. Underneath all this productivity is an intense desire to avoid doing the work that needs to be done to succeed in law school. These students need to stay involved, but also need to be persuaded to drop some commitments. They need to make to-do lists, and they must include law-related work. It also helps if these students can share why they feel like they need to overextend themselves; ask them to discuss what is most important to them. Law school is usually one of their priorities, but they don't know how to succeed academically, so they try to succeed in extracurricular. These students can become positive, productive procrastinators if they modify their schedules; they can also become toxic procrastinators if they feel they can not succeed academically.


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