Procrastination

Procrastination represents the avoidance and postponing of certain tasks. Dictionary definitions refer to the concept as to put off till another day or time; to defer action; to procrastinate until an opportunity is lost and to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.

A common feature in most people, procrastination does not depend on gender, race, culture, occupation or religion. People recall procrastination behavior as early as primary school. In a study on Procrastination, deadlines and statutes of limitation (2008), Andrew J Wistrich presents his research, which shows that 80 percent to 95 percent of college students engage in procrastination. Of these students around 75 percent defined themselves as procrastinators, while nearly 50 percent said that they procrastinate consistently.

When a person procrastinates he or she deliberately looks for distractions, which in the 21st century are numerous. A common way of postponing a task is acting extremely busy and doing other things that may be useful but do not contribute towards the main goal. Some people can do mundane things that he or she dislikes, such as cleaning or washing the dishes, just to keep away from the main task.

Procrastination can negatively impact on an individual both emotionally and physically, as well as affecting their performance at school or work. The results may be innocuous, such as a library fine, or as severe as being fired from your job. There are several ideas that put procrastinators into what can be referred to as a vicious circle. Among these are promises and questions such as "I will start early this time," or "I have to start soon." It can be argued that the final stage of this personal monologue might involve questions such as "To do, or not to do?"

Procrastination can result in physical symptoms such as anxiety, tension and fatigue. It can also provoke feelings such as irritation, guilt, depression, stress and even self-disgust or despair. There are many people for whom procrastination is a part of their lives without any significant consequences. Procrastination for these people is usually limited to actions that are not regarded as important. For example, being late for a party or a delay in sending Christmas cards could be seen as a form of procrastination.

The reasons for procrastination are many and varied. These include poor time management, being bored by the task, low achievement motivation, difficulty in concentrating, having too many things to do in a short period, or the inability to prioritize. Additionally, people can also spend a lot of time thinking and worrying about a task instead of actually doing it. Not knowing what exactly to do, feeling overwhelmed by a task or being scared that one might fail to meet the requirements can also result in procrastination. Other more surprising reasons include fear of success and its possible consequences - and perfectionism, which can result in unrealistic standards.

Discovering a way to overcome procrastination is strictly personal and there is no universal method. An important stage of the process is the realization that the task has to be done, even if the person does not feel like it. Another factor to take into consideration is that having to do something in most cases is a result of personal choice. This is especially true for research jobs and language courses.

Improved time-management skills can significantly help a person fight his or her behavior of postponing. Self-defeating behavior should also be recognized and changed, as it is a key obstacle in completing a task. Outside help is usually available when an individual cannot deal alone with procrastination. Tutors, directors of studies, supervisors and managers can assist in that mission. The counseling service can help to confront the personal or emotional aspects that fuel procrastination.

There are many anecdotes referring to procrastination as well as cultural prejudices and clichés. There are lots of jokes around the Spanish word mañana, which can mean either ‘tomorrow' or ‘in the future'. It can also be used to describe a task that will never get done. There is an anecdote that states that if a task is too urgent, someone else will take care of it. Another famous saying is "No time now! I will procrastinate later."

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do about It
Jane B. Burka; Lenora M. Yuen.
Perseus Books, 1988
Procrastination and Blocking: A Novel, Practical Approach
Robert Boice.
Praeger Publishers, 1996
Life Coaching: A Cognitive-Behavioural Approach
Michael Neenan; Windy Dryden.
Brunner-Routledge, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Overcoming Procrastination"
Coping with Stress: Effective People and Processes
C. R. Snyder.
Oxford University Press, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Getting Things Done on Time: Conquering Procrastination"
Your Own Worst Enemy: Understanding the Paradox of Self-Defeating Behavior
Steven Berglas; Roy F. Baumeister.
Basic Books, 1993
Librarian’s tip: "Procrastination" begins on p. 102
Counseling and Psychotherapy of Work Dysfunctions
Rodney L. Lowman.
American Psychological Association, 1993
Librarian’s tip: "Procrastination" begins on p. 82
The Bad Attitude Survival Guide: Essential Tools for Managers
Harry E. Chambers.
Perseus Publishing, 1998
Librarian’s tip: "Procrastination" begins on p. 209
Patterns of Academic Procrastination
Day, Victor; Mensink, David; O'Sullivan, Michael.
Journal of College Reading and Learning, Vol. 30, No. 2, Spring 2000
Motivation and Learning Strategies for College Success: A Self-Management Approach
Myron H. Dembo.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000
A Question of Procrastination or Ineptitude (an Analysis of the Case Study "It's Due Tomorrow: Tutoring under a Deadline")
Rafoth, Ben.
Journal of College Reading and Learning, Vol. 32, No. 2, Spring 2002
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