Procrastination and Time Management Skills

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Procrastination refers to the act of needlessly delaying a task until the point of some discomfort, which is a behavior problem that many adults experience on a regular basis (Ferrari, Johnson, & McCown, 1995). Procrastinators may let pleasurable activities get in the way of high-priority tasks. They may socialize instead of studying, or watch television instead of researching and writing that paper that's due next week. Most people who procrastinate do it to escape tasks that are unpleasant, difficult, or boring. For example, you may start cleaning out your closet to put off studying for an upcoming exam. People who procrastinate tend to have poor time-management skills. Let's say you have a 10 page term paper due in a month, and you have no idea what you're going to write about or how you'll do the research. You can't imagine how you'll ever finish, so you put off starting.

Psychologists believe that procrastination may be due to a combination of anxiety and false beliefs about productivity. Procrastination is not just an issue of time management or laziness. It's about feeling paralyzed and guilty as you channel surf, knowing you should be reading, or working on that investment strategy. Tim Pychyl, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, conducted a study and found that students with procrastination problems first reported anxiety and guilt because they didn't start their projects but reported more positive emotions once they began their work. Pychyl also found that procrastination is detrimental to physical health. College students who procrastinate have higher levels of drinking, smoking, insomnia, stomach problems, colds, and flu (Szalavitz, 2003). The idea that time pressure improves performance is the most common myth among procrastinators. "Many procrastinators are convinced that they work better under pressure, or they'll feel better about tackling the work later. But it seems like tomorrow never comes and last-minute work is often poor-quality," according to Joseph Ferrari, associate professor of psychology at Chicago's De Paul University. Also "the main reason people procrastinate is fear," says Neil Fiore, Ph.D., author of The Now Habit. Procrastinators fear they'll fall short because they don't have the talent or skills. "They get overwhelmed and they're afraid they'll look stupid." According to Ferrari, "Procrastinators would rather be seen as lacking in effort than lacking in ability", (Szalavitz, 2003). For example if you flunk a calculus exam, it seems better to blame it on the fact that you only had a half hour to study, than to admit that you could have gotten tutored since the beginning of the semester.

Another reason of procrastination is people who are perfectionist. Procrastinators tend to be perfectionists and they're in overdrive because they're insecure. People who do their best because they want to win don't procrastinate; but those who feel they must be perfect to please others often put things off. Self-control is another issue of procrastination. People who are impulsive may not be able to prioritize intentions, says Pychyl. So, while writing a term paper you break for a snack and see a spill in the refrigerator, which leads to cleaning the whole kitchen. Some view procrastination as thrill-seeking and enjoy the adrenaline "rush". These people find perverse satisfaction when the finish their taxes just minutes before midnight on April 15 and rush to the post office just before it closes. Task-related anxieties also contribute to procrastination. It can be associated with specific situations. "Humans avoid the difficult and boring," says Fiore. Even the least likely individuals to procrastinate, put off taxes and visits to the dentist. Ambiguous directions and vague priorities increase procrastination. The boss who asserts that everything is high priority and due yesterday is more likely to be kept waiting. Supervisors who insist on...
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