It’s midnight. and the final essay is due the next morning. Surrounded by printouts, notes, and books, he types frantically. Two weeks ago, it seemed that there was plenty of time to get the paper done. Last week, a sick child made it hard to study. Now it’s crunch time. Looking at the clock, he wonders, “Why do I keep doing this to myself? Why haven’t I learned not to put things off until the last minute?” Researchers have found that procrastination like Sam’s is common (“DePaul,” 2007). However, they disagree about what causes people to put things off and whether procrastination can have positive effects. What is procrastination?
The word procrastination comes from two Latin terms meaning to put forward until tomorrow. Standard dictionary definitions all include the idea of postponement or delay. Procrastination is rarely judged to be a positive thing. No person likes the idea that something has to be put on delay, they want it as soon as possible. Imagine if someone was told a riddle, but never told them the reason behind it. All that person would want to know was the reason behind the riddle, and that, gets their mind racing and, causes stress. The person to delay a task, also endures such stress. At the time to delay the tasks seem like the best option, but actually is far from it. Whether the significance of the task is great or small, the guilt that is there from you having to forget about it is there. The thought that all is being done is prolonging the completion of the task, is intense, and leads to stress. There are different forms of procrastination. This distinguishes between people who tend to put things off and those who described as “chronic” or “real” procrastinators: , 80% of society procrastinate, but 20% are procrastinators. The 20% who are real procrastinators, where this is their lifestyle; need therapy. There are three main types of procrastinators, based on the reason they put things off: (1) arousal types get a thrill from beating a deadline, (2) avoiders put off doing things that might make others think badly of them, and (3) decisional procrastinators postpone making a decision until they have enough information to avoid making a wrong choice. What causes procrastination?
If procrastinators are not all alike, the causes of procrastination may vary too. Several studies found that chronic procrastinators tend to have low
self-esteem and focus on the past more than the future (Specter & Ferrari, 2000). In some cases, procrastination may be a response to an authoritative parenting style (Marano, 2003) or a rebellion against external demands (Ferrari, 2005). Some researchers have found that procrastinators tend to be perfectionists (Specter & Ferrari, 2000). However, Steel (2007b) does not believe that perfectionism causes procrastination. In his view, only one theory is supported by research: the Discounted Expectancy Theory. To illustrate, he uses the example of a student who puts off writing a paper. When the deadline is far off, the rewards for socializing now are greater than those for finishing a task not due until later. As the deadline looms, the rewards for finishing the paper become more important. This theory, according to Steel, gives the most complete explanation of procrastination, because it includes smaller “piece[s] of the puzzle” like rebellion and avoiding unpleasant tasks. What are the effects of procrastination?
Most researchers believe that procrastination has mostly bad effects. Several studies, including one by Tice and Baumeister (1997), found that procrastinators got lower grades and had higher levels of stress and illness. Businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the productivity costs of procrastination (“DePaul,” 2007). However, some argue that procrastination can have benefits. Chu and Choi (2005) say that not all procrastinators are lazy and undisciplined. While “passive procrastinators” are more stressed and less efficient, “active procrastinators” can adapt quickly to fast-changing environments. They “prefer to work under pressure” and “if something unexpectedly comes up, they will switch gears and engage in new tasks they perceive as more urgent.” Schraw, Wadkins, and Olafson (2007) found that many college students use procrastination as a way to manage their time. They quote a student who felt that “I just don’t have time not to procrastinate. If I did everything the way it could be done, I wouldn’t have a life” (p. 21).
Although some researchers, such as Tice and Bannister (1997), have conceded that procrastinators may be right when they say they work best under pressure, most studies have focused on the negative effects of procrastination. Recent research (Chu & Choi, 2005; Schraw, Wadkins, &
Olafson, 2007) suggests that the standard wisdom about procrastination and its causes and effects may be too simplistic. Strategic delay can be used to manage rapidly changing conditions and meet demanding deadlines.