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When I first started looking for a definition of procrastination for my website, I had no idea I would find so much information. Understandably, people are very interested in researching and understanding procrastination. There is even an entire conference dedicated to it! It is a speciality area of study. That's because it is a big problem. You should know you aren't the only one struggling with it.
We all know that procrastination is putting off what you should do today, but for how long? And what things? And what are the consequences? And in what settings?
It seems that researchers have been fighting over what procrastination means, and they can't seem to agree upon a definition. This has made it hard to do good research and hard to figure out how to help people who procrastinate (Murphy 2017).
People who procrastinate do need help. It's a behavior that has terrible consequences, and the person doing it knows deep down it is not in there best interest, but they can't seem to stop.
Further complicating things is the fact that procrastination is different in different groups, and there seems to be different kinds of procrastinators.
Some people struggle only a little with procrastination, for example in one area. They may procrastinate making doctor appointments or doing housework. Chronic procrastinators, on the other hand, have more areas of their life affected by this habit, and impacted seriously. People with ADHD may procrastinate because they have trouble with motivation and staying focused. Someone else may procrastinate because they have issues with perfectionism. The reasons vary with each person, and so the antidote must vary as well.
Curiously, in almost all countries, procrastination researchers have found the numbers of true chronic procrastinators hover around 20 percent ( Murphy 2017).
Let's take a look at some different areas where procrastination might manifest itself.
Some definitions are:
Putting off tomorrow what one means to do today( Klingsieck, K. B. 2013).
Putting off intended action( Beutel 2016).
To voluntarily delay the intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay( Steel 2007).
The best definition I have come across in reading many articles on procrastination is this one:
The purposive and frequent delay in beginning or completing a task to the point of experiencing subjective discomfort, such as anxiety or regret. (1) This is as is defined by Dr Joseph Ferrari, the chairman to of the procrastination research conference ( Murphy 2017).
In school up to 95 percent of students report procrastinating, 75 percent label themselves as procrastinators and 30-60 percent do it regularly. Clearly this population differs from others in that it seems more prevalent and widely accepted. However the costs are still severe. Students who have the most serious procrastination are more likely to have lower GPA's and take longer to finish college. They are also more likely to struggle with negative emotions and self blame.
While procrastination in school usually means consequences for the student, procrastination in the workplace is not the same.
Procrastination in the workplace is a serious issues because it impacts the entire organization. When one employee procrastinates all of the others feel the consequences and have to pick up the slack for the procrastinator. Procrastinators make more errors, show poorer performance, miss more deadlines, and the research shows, feel badly about themselves (Skowronski, M., & Mirowska, A. 2013).
They aren't good employees and aren't happy people.
Procrastination influences health in a negative way. It has been related to digestive issues, headaches, colds and flus. Additionally those who procrastinate are less likely to exercise regularly get enough sleep and manage their stress. The procrastination health model posits that because procrastinators are likely to avoid, they are more likely to experience stress and chronic stress in general and less likely to seek help and preventative medical care ( Sirois 2015).
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Klingsieck, K. B. (2013). Procrastination in different life-domains: Is procrastination domain specific? Current Psychology, 32(2), 175-185. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12144-013-9171-8
Beutel, M. E., Klein, E. M., Aufenanger, S., Brähler, E., Dreier, M., Müller, K.,W., . . . Wölfling, K. (2016). Procrastination, distress and life satisfaction across the age range – A german representative community study. PLoS One, 11(2) doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0148054
Murphy. H. (2017, July 21) What We Finally Got Around to Learning at the Procrastination Research Conference. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/21/science/procrastination-research-conference.html?_r=0
Skowronski, M., & Mirowska, A. (2013). A manager's guide to workplace procrastination. S.A.M.Advanced Management Journal, 78(3), 4-9,27,2. Retrieved from http://nclive.org/cgi-bin/nclsm?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1465064146?accountid=13217
Steel, P. (2007). The nature of procrastination A meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure. Psychological Bulletin, 133, 65-94.
Sirois, F. M. (2015). Is procrastination a vulnerability factor for hypertension and cardiovascular disease? testing an extension of the procrastination-health model. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 38(3), 578-589. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10865-015-9629-2