What Is Procrastination?

Everyone puts things off sometimes, but procrastinators chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions. Procrastination in large part reflects perennial struggles with self-control as well as the general human inability to accurately predict how we'll feel tomorrow, or the day after. "I don't feel like it" takes precedence over goals; however, it then begets a downward spiral of negative emotions that deter future effort. Perfectionists are often procrastinators; it is psychologically more acceptable to never tackle a task than to face the possibility of falling short on performance.

Procrastinators typically contend that they perform better under pressure, but research shows that is not the case; more often than not that's their way of justifying putting things off. Procrastination also involves some degree of self-deception; they are at some level aware of the truth of their actions.

Unfortunately, the contemporary environment abets procrastination by supplying an endless array of distractions literally at one's fingertips. The bright side? It's possible to overcome procrastination—with effort. Changing behavior consumes a lot of psychic energy, and engaging in highly structured cognitive behavioral therapy is one approach.

Still, successfully changing behavior doesn't necessarily mean one feels transformed internally. There will always be times when tasks have to be done whether one feels motivated or not.

The Three Forms of Procrastination

Approximately 20 percent of people are chronic procrastinators; for them the behavior cuts across all domains of life. There’s more than one flavor of procrastination. Arousal types, or thrill-seekers, wait until the last minute in order to reap a euphoric rush. A second type, avoiders, put off tasks because of fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them.

Then there are decisional procrastinators, who are unable to make a decision; not making a decision absolves them of responsibility for the outcome of events. There are big costs to procrastination: It is internally troubling, leading to such problems as insomnia, immune system and gastrointestinal disturbances, and it erodes personal relationships and teamwork in the workplace.


Decision-Making, Motivation

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