PBL-The problem with being lazy: procrastination, putting things off and pulling all nighters

So it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything. With holidays, assignments and exams out the way I could finally write about a topic I’ve wanted to for quite a long time: procrastination. It’s something we all do a lot, and it’s something we should all do a lot less. But it’s hard. The truth in that lies in the fact I’ve been trying to write this post for over five six weeks…but every time I come to write it I get distracted and procrastinate. Maybe you could say I’m doing research for the post, more likely you could say I’m lazy…

spongebob procrastination

So a little bit of procrastination can be quite healthy, it helps you relax from the work you have to do. However before long that procrastination can quickly make a simple task seem like a huge one as you put it off more and more.

When you apply to Medial School a common thing they ask you is how well you manage your time or how motivated you are. The final week of last term it became painfully obvious why this is. Deadlines.

Second term, like first term, was pretty easy. Very little to do for most of the time. But then, two weeks to go, and BOOM. There it is. 4 Assignments. A lab report. PBL.

pbl ermagherd


And when the meme says ermahgerd PBL, it’s not the kind of excited, omg kind of ermagherd. It’s a scary, get out of my face kind of ermagherd.

Being honest, if you’re organised and keep on top of everything, it’s very manageable. You can do it. You’re gonna have a bad time, but you can do it. The biggest problem with that is ‘IF you’re organised’. ‘If’ is a very big word and procrastination is very good at destroying it. Most of these assignments give you weeks to complete, but often that creates a false sense of security.

procrastination dog

Eventually before you know it the night before the deadline has arrived and somehow you’re yet to make a start. You know exactly how that somehow happens, procrastination, a build up of excessive youtube, twitter, facebook and netflix usage has well and truly screwed you over.

spongebob screwed

It’s 6 30am. You’re in the library. It”s freezing. You feel a little ill from the pizza you got delivered and nonchalantly snook into the library. And, you’re only halfway through PBL.

So hold up, for the non-medics, what the hell is PBL? Contrary to the title of this post, PBL stands for problem based learning. Essentially, it’s a much more involved approach to learning. It consists of you working together in a group through a clinical case.

When applying to medical school I wanted to stay clear of courses which centred heavily on PBL. To me, PBL seemed like a waste of money; you essentially spent most of your time teaching yourself the curriculum. However, I’ve really enjoyed PBL at Imperial this year. Although there wasn’t a huge amount, around 6 cases over 2 terms, I felt really involved in the material and could see the clinical significance of each case. It doesn’t feel as if you’re being drip fed information but rather you are in charge of your own learning. I’d say I misjudged PBL. However, how much you enjoy PBL is largely determined by the group you’re placed in. Luckily I’ve found myself in a very motivated group where everyone works off each other to get the work done.

Although PBL sessions are not assessed, the final PBL assignments contributes 20% towards the overall year. And  this year PBL culminated in a 4 page piece of coursework detailing the clinical management of asthma. And asthma is boring.


What seems to be quite a mundane condition of the surface, actually has a huge lot of research and science surrounding it. And although the Medical School is insistent we cite and reference every source we use, they had no qualms with lifting the PBL assessment case directly from an article in the journal Nature and changing a few details…cheekily without referencing.

asthma case

The prospect of a quickly approaching deadline still isn’t enough to stave off procrastination. You think listening to music will help you get through the work, but then realise after 30 minutes of music videos that this is not the case.Similarly you find other medics in the library, just like you, desperately trying to churn out their assessments before 2 pm, and you distract each other. There’s one person who thinks they’ve finally finished and can leave the clutches of the library and go to bed only for everyone to point out they’ve done the error bars wrong on their lab report, forcing them to stay and finish.

patrick lab report

Procrastination is something that most of us have been doing since we were young, but surprisingly it’s only grown more since moving to university. I would say that for the majority of sixth form I was very motivated and productive, but I feel I’ve lost a lot of that over the past year, and most of my friends feel the same way. At uni there is so much more temptation. We have to adapt to a new life and to new people. We’re surrounded by our friends. There’s so much more going on and we have so much more freedom. Not only do we change but the idea of procrastination itself changes.

When thinking about why I’ve had such a sudden change in productivity, I’ve realised that procrastination plays a big part. But it’s not straightforward. Firstly, adapting is difficult, courses are more demanding and challenging in comparison to sixth form. Secondly, motivators are less clear. When applying to university, the end product (a place at uni) was more clear, but now as a first year med student, that job as a junior doctor 6 years along the line just seems so far away.

The demands of a degree really feed procrastination. For many people at Imperial, until now they had never failed an exam, but now the reality that might no longer be the case is very strong. Many of us felt stretched or pushed during 6th form, but never like we do now. Add to this the pressure of running your own life and the pressure mounts up. So why are we procrastinating more?

to do list

One explanation I think is quite valid is self-sabotage. We are looking for excuses. Failure means that you weren’t intelligent enough. For most of us, we don’t want to accept this, so we come up with a reason otherwise so that this is no longer the reality. Through procrastination we are subconsciously preparing to make those excuses. If you gave it your all and you fail, then you feel really bad, you think there’s nothing you could have done better. But when you don’t give it your all, when you procrastinate, then it’s different. You can say “well if I’d been more organised” or “well if I’d started earlier” or “if I hadn’t watched 6 series of anime” and then the failure doesn’t seem so bad.

So rewind back to last terms assignments. Week after week we’d be pulling all nighters

modern tragedy

And then we’d tell ourselves this wouldn’t happen again.

And next week it would happen again.

And the cycle would repeat itself.

Ironically during the weary hell of one of the all nighters, we were sent an email inviting us to a ‘procrastination workshop’…we never went. I really just wanted to go to sit at the back and look through instagram on my phone, just to add to the irony.

But at some point it needs to stop. With exam season quickly approaching, it finally seems time to crack down on procrastination. I seriously don’t want a repeat of last term… after weeks of all nighters my wake up alarm was set to 8pm. Most Fridays the sleep deprivation from the previous night was so great it would make me hallucinate every time I tried to reclaim my sleep.

Procrastination is bad kids.


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