Learn Academic English 3: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator

The purpose of the lesson is to compare and discuss two sources of information: an informal TED Talk and an academic journal article. Both sources deal with the same issue: procrastination.

First Tim Urban in his hilarious, self-deprecating, non-academic but very informative talk provides us with basic information about procrastination.  It is fun to watch such a great presenter! Still, Tim is a blogger writing about procrastination.
Can we trust his arguments?

Subsequently, the journal article summarises the research findings on procrastination.
Thus it strengthens students’ theoretical understanding of procrastination.
After reading the article students should be able to able to better evaluate Tim’s talk.
Still, the article is not without problems either.

Students should remember that evaluating evidence is a frequent task in academic settings. So the lesson can help develop this important skill. This lesson is also a great opportunity to learn how to synthesize information from different materials. Finally, according to the article, 50% of the student population are procrastinators, so the lesson might help some students solve their personal problems :).


Vocabulary needed to comprehend the talk

civil – adj. of or in a condition of social order; not rude
revise – noun the act of rewriting something; verb make revisions in; revise or reorganize, especially for the purpose of updating and improving
hypothesis – noun a tentative theory about the natural world; a concept that is not yet verified but that if true would explain certain facts or phenomena; a proposal intended to explain certain facts or observations; a message expressing an opinion based on incomplete evidence
perplexed – adj. full or difficulty or confusion or bewilderment
gratification – noun the act or an instance of satisfying; state of being gratified; great satisfaction
mayhem – noun the willful and unlawful crippling or mutilation of another person; violent and needless disturbance
dormant – adj. inactive but capable of becoming active; of e.g. volcanos; not erupting and not extinct; in a condition of biological rest or suspended animation
epiphany – a moment of sudden and great revelation or realization

Comprehension questions

Explain the meanings of: Rational Decision Maker, Instant Gratification Monkey, and Panic Monster in the context of the talk.
What is the biggest problem with procrastination (according to Tim)?

Discussion questions

Tim said that ‘he wrote 90 pages thesis in 72 hours’.
What does it say about his writing skills?
What does it say about the quality of his thesis?

Why do people procrastinate?

When is it bad to procrastinate?
What figures of speech does Tim use to explain procrastination? Why?


Comprehension questions

What is the definition of procrastination?
What theories can be employed to explain procrastination?
How does ‘Temporal Motivational Theory’ differ from Tim’s explanation of procrastination?
Can we trust the evidence in the article?
Why is the lack of RCTs and valid measurements problematic for understanding procrastination?
Do we know how procrastinators can be helped?
What is the prevalence of procrastination among the population?
What are the negative consequences of procrastination?

Comparison questions

What research evidence supports Tim’s arguments?
What research evidence contradicts Tim’s arguments?
Look for similarities and differences between the text and the video. Discuss them.
Think about how the video and the academic journal article complement each other.
What concepts in the article might describe the Rational Decision-Maker, the Instant Gratification Monkey, and the Panic Monster?


Writing task

Paraphrase Tim’s speech into more academic language