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Procrastination From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia In psychology, procrastination refers to the act of replacing high-priority or important actions with tasks of lower priority, or doing something from which one brings enjoyment, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time. Some psychologists cite such behavior as a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision. Other psychologists indicate that anxiety is just as likely to get people to start working early as late and the focus should be impulsiveness. That is, anxiety will cause people to delay only if they are impulsive. Schraw, Wadkins, and Olafson have proposed three criteria for a behavior to be classified as procrastination: it must be counterproductive, needless, and delaying. Similarly, Steel (2007) reviews all previous attempts to define procrastination, indicating it is "to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay." Procrastination may result in stress, a sense of guilt and crisis, severe loss of personal productivity, as well as social disapproval for not meeting responsibilities or commitments. These feelings combined may promote further procrastination. While it is regarded as normal for people to procrastinate to some degree, it becomes a problem when it impedes normal functioning. Chronic procrastination may be a sign of an underlying psychological disorder. Such procrastinators may have difficulty seeking support due to social stigma, and the belief that task-aversion is caused by laziness, low willpower or low ambition. Contents 1 Etymology 2 Overview 2.1 Psychological 2.2 Physiological 3 Mental health 4 Perfectionism 5 Examples 5.1 In the workplace 5.2 Academic procrastination 6 Reactions to procrastination 6.1 Justification 6.2 Improving productivity Etymology The modern term comes from the Latin word procrastinatus, which is the past participle of procrastinare derived from pro- (forward) and crastinus (of tomorrow). Though descriptions of procrastination appear in ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman texts, it first appears by name in the English language in 1548 according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Overview Psychological The psychological causes of procrastination are in debate. Drawing on clinical work, there appears to be a connection with issues of anxiety, low sense of self-worth, and a self-defeating mentality. On the other hand, drawing on meta-analytical correlational work, anxiety and perfectionism have no connection or at best an extremely weak connection with procrastination. Instead, procrastination is strongly connected with lack of self-confidence (e.g., low self-efficacy, or learned helplessness) or disliking the task (e.g., boredom and apathy). The strongest connection to procrastination, however, is impulsiveness. These characteristics are often used as measures of the personality trait conscientiousness whereas anxiety and irrational beliefs (such as perfectionism) are aspects of the personality trait neuroticism. Accordingly, Lee, Kelly and Edwards (2006) indicated that neuroticism has no direct links to procrastination and that any relationship is fully mediated by conscientiousness. For most of human evolution, laziness and short-term but fast thinking (impulsiveness) were overall adaptive. Laziness was adaptive because energy and time were much more limited than today in more-developed countries for most people. Limited energy - e.g., lack of food - meant that avoidance of labor not necessary for short-term survival was adaptive; after all, the energy invested in longer-term plans might be wasted due to unexpected disasters (very common before human control over our surroundings - technology - grew). Similarly, needing to work on survival matters most of the time meant that time had to be conserved. For handling day-to-day survival, short-term thinking was most of what was needed, with planning limited to solving immediate problems; taking time to think about longer-term plans could be a distraction from short-term survival. Today, most people in more-developed countries lack pressures for immediate survival most of the time; our motivations are more abstract. It is harder for such abstract motivations to overcome avoidance of tasks that do not give us short-term pleasure and may cause us short-term pain (e.g., due to boredom). Physiological Research on the physiological roots of procrastination mostly surrounds the role of the prefrontal cortex. Consistent with the notion that procrastination is strongly related to impulsiveness, this area of the brain is responsible for executive brain functions such as planning, impulse control, attention, and acts as a filter by decreasing distracting stimuli from other brain regions. Damage or low activation in this area can reduce an individual's ability to filter out distracting stimuli, ultimately resulting in poorer organization, a loss of attention and increased procrastination. This is similar to the prefrontal lobe's role in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, where underactivation is common. Mental health For some people, procrastination can be persistent and tremendously disruptive to everyday life. For these individuals, procrastination may be symptomatic of a psychological disorder such as depression or ADHD. Therefore, it is important for people whose procrastination has become chronic and is perceived to be debilitating, to seek out a trained therapist or psychiatrist to see if an underlying mental health issue may be present. Perfectionism Traditionally, procrastination has been associated with perfectionism, a tendency to negatively evaluate outcomes and one's own performance, intense fear and avoidance of evaluation of one's abilities by others, heightened social self-consciousness and anxiety, recurrent low mood, and "workaholism". According to Robert B. Slaney adaptive perfectionists (when perfectionism is egosyntonic) were less likely to procrastinate than non-perfectionists, while maladaptive perfectionists (people who saw their perfectionism as a problem; i.e., when perfectionism is egodystonic) had high levels of procrastination (and also of anxiety). Accordingly, meta-analytic review of 71 studies by Steel (2007) indicate that typically perfectionists actually procrastinate slightly less than others, with "the exception being perfectionists who were also seeking clinical counseling." Examples In the workplace This section requires expansion. Procrastination in the workplace comes in many forms, and communication can sometimes suffer from employee silence. Academic procrastination More specifically, a 1992 study showed that "52% of surveyed students indicated having a moderate to high need for help concerning procrastination". It is estimated that 80%-95% of college students engage in procrastination, approximately 75% considering themselves procrastinators. One source of procrastination is the planning fallacy, where we underestimate the time required to analyze research. Many students devote weeks to gathering research for a term paper, but are unable to finish writing it because they have left insufficient time for subsequent stages of the assignment. "Student syndrome" refers to the phenomenon where a student will only begin to fully apply themselves to a task immediately before a deadline. This negates the usefulness of any buffers built into individual task duration estimates. Students also have difficulties when self-imposing deadlines. Reactions to procrastination Justification Individual coping responses to procrastination are often emotional or avoidant oriented rather than task or problem-solving oriented. Emotion oriented coping is designed to reduce stress (and cognitive dissonance) associated with putting off intended and important personal goals, an option that provides immediate pleasure and is consequently very attractive to impulsive procrastinators. There are hundreds of identified emotion oriented strategies, similar to Freudian defense mechanisms, coping styles and self-handicapping. Those procrastinators use include: Avoidance: Where we avoid the locale or situation where the task takes place (e.g., a graduate student avoiding going to University). Distraction: Where we engage or immerse ourselves in other behaviors or actions to prevent awareness of the task (e.g., intensive videogame playing or Internet surfing) Trivialization: We reframe the intended but procrastinated task as being not that important (e.g., "I'm putting off going to the dentist, but you know what? Teeth aren't that important."). Downward counterfactuals: We compare our situation with those even worse (e.g., "Yes, I procrastinated and got a B- in the course, but I didn't fail like one other student did."). Upward counterfactual is considering what would have happened if we didn't procrastinate. Humour: Making a joke of one's procrastination, that the slapstick or slipshod quality of one's aspirational goal striving is funny. External attributions: That the cause of procrastination is due to external forces, beyond our control (e.g., "I'm procrastinating because the assignment isn't fair"). Reframing: Pretending that getting an early start on a project is harmful to one's performance and leaving the work to the last moment will produce better results (e.g., "I'm most creative at 4:00 AM in the morning without sleep."). Denial: Pretending that procrastinatory behaviour is not actually procrastinating, but a task which is more important than the avoided one. Task or problem-solving oriented coping is rarer for the procrastinator because it is more effective in reducing procrastination. If pursued, it is less likely the procrastinator would remain a procrastinator. It requires actively changing one's behavior or situation to prevent a reoccurence of procrastination. Improving productivity Procrastinators may respond with any number of methods for better time management. Piers Steel recommends being aware of one's "Power hours", when a person's internal circadian rhythms are best suited for the most challenging work (often, but not always, between 10am and 2pm). Increasing one's feelings of self efficacy (e.g. learning optimism) can also be effective. Steel says that it can be helpful to avoid too much commitment; commit only to the first step. As Steel explains: If you can't run a mile, then run a block. Stop when you've done that and the next time try two blocks... personal stories of triumph can bolster people's spirits for years.