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Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, and Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada share with us their findings
- Twenty percent of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators. For them procrastination is a lifestyle, albeit a maladaptive one. And it cuts across all domains of their life.
- It’s not trivial, although as a culture we don’t take it seriously as a problem. It represents a profound problem of self-regulation. And there may be more of it in theU.S. than in other countries.
- Procrastination is not a problem of time management or of planning. Procrastinators are not different in their ability to estimate time, although they are more optimistic than others.
- Procrastinators are made not born. Procrastination is learned in the family milieu, but not directly. It is one response to an authoritarian parenting style. Having a harsh, controlling father keeps children from developing the ability to regulate themselves, from internalizing their own intentions and then learning to act on them. Procrastination can even be a form of rebellion, one of the few forms available under such circumstances. What’s more, under those household conditions, procrastinators turn more to friends than to parents for support, and their friends may reinforce procrastination because they tend to be tolerant of their excuses.
- Procrastination predicts higher levels of consumption of alcohol among those people who drink. Procrastinators drink more than they intend to—a manifestation of generalized problems in self-regulation. That is over and above the effect of avoidant coping styles that underlie procrastination and lead to disengagement via substance abuse .
- Procrastinators tell lies to themselves. Such as, “I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow.” Or “I work best under pressure.” But in fact they do not get the urge the next day or work best under pressure. In addition, they protect their sense of self by saying “this isn’t important.” Another big lie procrastinators indulge is that time pressure makes them more creative. Unfortunately they do not turn out to be more creative; they only feel that way. They squander their resources.
- Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don’t take a lot of commitment on their part. Checking e-mail is almost perfect for this purpose. They distract themselves as a way of regulating their emotions such as fear of failure.
- There’s more than one flavor of procrastination. People procrastinate for different reasons. Dr. Ferrari identifies three basic types of procrastinators:
- arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush.
- avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.
- decisional procrastinators, who cannot make a decision. Not making a decision absolves procrastinators of responsibility for the outcome of events.
on the Academic Joy Web site . On this site, you will find a pointer to “The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things off … “