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Procrastination and You

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There is an epidemic sweeping the nation, an unseen killer of productivity and study habits. Lurking in the pages of the internet, thousands of web pages await your click as you put off your work for yet another hour.

As college campuses plunge into finals week and offices rush to meet their holiday deadlines, let us talk about the problem: Procrastination.

Procrastination is a horrible reality to all working adults and students, causing the final days before an exam or project deadline to become a flurried mess of stress and panic. But how real is it? Aren’t we all procrastinators?

Well, the short answer is no. Research shows that roughly 20% of the American population can be classified as chronic procrastinators, and that is the the cream of the crop. These self-admitted chronics consider procrastination pervasive in all aspects of their daily lives.

But chances are even if you aren’t a chronic procrastinator, you are least a moderate. Have you ever hit the snooze button in the morning? Went on a Netflix season binge instead of studying? Decided to take a nap instead of run errands? Yeah, that’s what I thought.



So what exactly is procrastination? Psychologically it refers to the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of lower priority, or doing something from which one derives enjoyment, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time.

Yes, most of us already knew that, but it’s a formality nonetheless. Doing things you like in place of things that you should be doing, that is what it is all about.

And the thing is procrastinators are made, not born. Whether it be learned from a strict parental guardian as a form of rebellion, or a coping mechanism for supposed failure.

Joseph Ferrari Ph.D, a psychologist at DePaul University in Chicago, states that “Procrastinators are not different in their ability to estimate time, although they are more optimistic than others”.

Procrastination is a very real issue too, and finding help to combat the problem is a lot more intensive than others think.

Ferrari compares it to other conditions, “Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up”.


The Effects

In addition, procrastinating doesn’t just affect daily work loads. It can tear right into all elements of life, even financial planning for the future.

J.D Trout Ph.D, author of Why Empathy Matters and a professor at Loyola Chicago, explains the link to procrastination as a cognitive error. Humans simply fail to see the importance of future goals when compared to enjoyment of the here and now.

Consider an example, many people choose to eat delicious foods and watch television because it is enjoyable and easier in the moment. Whereas working out daily and eating right may have long term effects that are superior, but too far into the future to give priority.

In fact, procrastination in tandem with other cognitive biases such as loss aversion (thinking loss is more painful than ga gain) can be detrimental to your emotional and even financial well-being. Trout explains his findings regarding the success of a revised retirement fund plan which led to a tripled rate of savings.

“Everyone believes you have to start savings sometime, but that now is not the best time to start” says Trout.

“[We] design[ed] a plan that employees will join and then not defect from, using people’s inertia and procrastination to their advantage”

The issue was simply procrastinating savings, which the plan helped subdue by allowing participants to start the plan onths after being asked, and by taking the savings directly out of their paycheck in increasing amounts. That way they were able to procrastinate, and then didn’t consider the plan to be “taking” their money. The plan eventually led to a higher rate of savings in the long run.

Procrastination affects mostly everyone in some way or another, whether it be homework, paying the bills, or determining your financial future.

So what exactly can you do to combat procrastinating your daily tasks? Here are three basic but distinct tactics to try out, and hopefully one will work for you.

1) Set a timer for five minutes and simply start your work. Psychologists find that the most difficult part of working is lack of inertia (momentum). The five minute window provides false security that you may quit after a short time, when in reality once you begin you’ll more than likely continue. This will help “get the ball rolling” so to speak, on that project you haven’t touched yet.

2) Certain tasks are difficult due to lack of organization. Downloading and utilizing a task manager or reminder tool can help guilt trip you into doing the required work on time. Evernote, Clear, iCal and Remember the Milk are all great apps and programs to help you get organized and feel more confident about responsibilities and daily tasks.

3) For those of you procrastinators on the computer, technology should be used as tool not a delay. A free software tool is available to keep you off of your addictive social media sites. The program is ironically called SelfControl and works by completely blocking any websites you designate on a “blacklist”. Not even restarting your computer or removing the program will circumvent its effects!

If none of the above seem to work for you, try your hand at Google or seek professional as necessary. Procrastination does not seem like a huge deal, but can negatively affect you and those around you in a drastic fashion.

So whether it be hitting the snooze button an extra time, or watching just one more episode on Netflix- you need to reconsider your options. Don’t be the procrastinator on the block and fight back against procrastination, tomorrow.

by: Andrew Langheim

  • written by alangheim on December 14th, 2012
  • posted in Edit, Featured

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