Stay In the Loop

Brought to you by Open Colleges

The truth about procrastination – and how to beat it

by Sarah MacDiarmid

Do you ever get the feeling that everything conspires against you the minute you have a deadline on the horizon?

Facebook posts are unusually interesting; the kids need a ride to school, although they hate being dropped off; and just about anything from going for a run to cleaning the toilet suddenly seems more enticing than the assignment you have to finish this week.

Procrastination tends to be shrugged off as nothing more than a lack of time management skills, but new research suggests that the real problem might be slightly more complicated.

Chronic procrastinators

First of all, it’s important to recognise that although we all procrastinate, we’re not all procrastinators.

Chronic procrastination, which is thought to affect around 20% of the population, can be defined as the voluntary delay of an important task, even when we know we’ll have to pay the price later on.

Studies show that such chronic procrastination can be the cause of a host of problems, from lower grades to higher stress levels to poor health, and even substance abuse.

The justification cycle

Researchers found that chronic procrastinators got significantly lower grades, and were more likely to justify their delaying tactics by making excuses like “I work best under pressure”.

“The results show that procrastinators don’t work better under pressure, but it may be the only way they work,” said Bruce Tuckman, author of the study and professor of education at Ohio State University.

“They don’t have any idea how well they might do if they didn’t procrastinate”.

He explains that procrastinators are somewhat selective in their rationalisations, and often choose the excuses that make it seem like putting off their assignment or task is going to be a good thing for them.

“Procrastinators say they are waiting for the best time to do an assignment, but what they are really waiting for is such a high level of anxiety that it forces them to do something,” he said.

It’s all under control?

Another interesting finding is that chronic procrastinators score lower on tests of self-regulation, which is the ability to control one’s own actions to finish a task.

Procrastinators tend to actively look for distractions and are especially fond of things that don’t require too much commitment, such as repeatedly checking their email or scrolling through news feeds on Twitter or Facebook.

Researchers believe that these distractions are used to regulate certain emotions, such as a fear of failure – procrastinators would rather have people think they didn’t put in enough effort than think they lack the capabilities to complete a task.

Tips to beat procrastination

If you’re prone to procrastination, the following tips could help you beat the habit:

  • Some practical ways to counter procrastination could include breaking tasks up into smaller and more manageable assignments or setting personal deadlines.
  • Blocking access to distractions, for example, by going to a quiet place or switching off your phone while studying, can help, but this too requires self-regulation, which procrastinators lack in the first place.
  • Some research suggests that finding something positive or worthwhile about the task itself may fill the need to find short-term mood fixes and can help procrastinators focus on the here and now.

Read the original article here.

Dreaming of a new career?

Stop dreaming and make it happen! Open Colleges offers over 150 online courses for you to choose from. Enrol any time and enjoy the flexibility of studying in your own time, at your own pace.

1 Response

  1. David Lang says:

    Blocking access to distractors is very important. Email is probably the worst thing for time wasting in the office. Some chats definitely need to be documented, especially with decision making and accountability, but it is so much easier to speak in person and clarify issues.

    Quite often the office environment can also cause problems with concentrating and it is always a great idea to have “breakout” areas or allow remote work as required. I know I can still work sitting in my lounge room and feel much more comfortable that being in the office most of the time – doing it right now in fact. But it really depends on the work environment and getting it right for staff to feel comfortable and focussed.

    The nasty old “ciggie break” is one of the greatest time wasters of all that I’ve seen in business, plus it creates issues with non smokers feeling animosity for the “extra” breaks.

    With the concept that “fear of failure” is a major cause of procrastination, that says plenty about the management of staff and lack of support and guidance – also very common in business.

    Great share.

Leave a Reply