Procrastination: Cause and Cure
Flora M. Brown, Ph.D.
All rights reserved
Procrastination is a problem that plagues student and executive alike. For many it is a nuisance, but for some it is a chronic problem. No matter which group you’re in the results of procrastination are the same: lost opportunity, frustration, increased stress, poor job or academic performance, lower self-esteem and, of course, wasted time. What is it, what causes it and what is the cure?
Procrastination is putting off a task until the last minute. It is more than just poor time management. Few of us have trouble getting things done that are fun or easy. We usually procrastinate with projects that are difficult, frightening, complex, and distasteful. In some cases we put off these tasks so long that they never get done.
What causes us to procrastinate with important tasks and projects? There are at least five reasons or causes of procrastination.
First, fearing success or failure. The anxiety that sets in at the onset of a project causes some people to foolishly put off getting started. The discomfort is heightened when you feel incompetent or not up to the task. Some worry so much about producing a perfect product that they wait until every drop of research has been done or every avenue explored. Others engage in elaborate preparatory or avoidance activities before beginning a task, such as deciding that all the dishes must be washed and put away before you start your paper. The urge to tidy up always hits me before a big project. Luckily I recognize this procrastination tactic.
Second, overestimating the time left to complete a task. When your teacher assigns a research project the first week of school do you begin on it right away or wait until the week before it is due? Many students see that long semester stretching ahead of them and believe they have plenty time. They fail to take into account the pile of other homework and life tasks they must manage during the semester.
Third, underestimating the time required to complete tasks. Many students don’t have a realistic concept of how much time it will take to look up sources, take notes, extract the information and formulate a paper. When they run into snags and time delays, they often feel the universe is working against them, when in fact it’s their own procrastination that is the enemy. People with a poor concept of time also think they can drive a 30 minute trip in ten minutes.
Fourth, believing that they must be in the mood to do a task. Delaying the start of a task until you are in the mood is a favorite among many students. What wise students discover is that when they get started on a task well ahead of the deadline, their mood brightens and self-esteem is increased.
Fifth, relying too much on time-saving modern technology. If you’ve ever seen a procrastinator kick and scream at a copy machine or printer that’s moving slower than they wish, you know what I mean. I find that the day I’ve waited until the hour before a meeting to run copies is the day the copier is down for repairs.
Did you recognize yourself among these five causes?
Look for the cures to procrastination in Part 2.