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Study Skills Library Procrastination
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is the thief of time." - Edward You ng (1683-1765)
Procrastination is a complex psychological behavior that affects everyone to some degree or another. With some it can be a minor problem; with others it is a source of considerable stress and anxiety. Procrastination is only rem otely related to time managem ent, (procrastinators often know exactly what they should be doing, even if they cannot do it), which is why very detailed schedules usually are no help.
The procrastinator is often remarkablyoptim istic about his ability to complete a task on a tight deadline; this is usually accom panied by express ions of reass urance that everything is under control. (Therefore, there is no need to start.) For exam pie, he may estimate that a paper will take only five days to write; he has fifteen days; there is plenty of tim e; no need to start. Lulled by a false sense of security, time passes. At some point, he crosses over an imaginary starting time and suddenly realizes, "Oh no! - I am not in control! There isn't enough time!" At this point, considerable effort is directed towards completing the task, and work progresses. This sudden spurt of energy is the source of the erroneous feeling that "I onlywork well under pressure." Actually, at this point you are making progress only because you haven't any choice. Your back is against the wall and there are no alternatives. Progress is being made, but you have lost your freedom. Barely com pleted in time, the paper may actually earn a fairlygood grade; whereupon the student experiences mixed feelings: pride of accom plishment (sort-of), scorn for the professor who cannot recognize substandard work, and guilt for getting an undeserved grade. But the net result is reinforcement: the procrastinator is rewarded positively for his poor behavior. ("Look what a decent grade I got after ali!") As a result, the counterproductive behavior is repeated over and over again. Positive reinforcement for delay (a good grade) is a principal contributor to continued procrastination.
I Low Self-Confidence
- The procrastinator maystruggle
with feelings of low self-confidence
and low self-esteem.
and I am sure that I know how to do The simple cure? Do everything opposite.html 2/6 . . Four Complex Reasons for Procrastination • Perfectionism or self-imposed." .Study Skills Library . I A perfectionist I The words I The desire maydelay in starting a project because he feels overwhelmed by the sheer amount of energy it will take to criticize and nitpick something. "They cannot start if I am not there. Everything must go completely right. Time-consuming . to delay.22-05-12 Procrastination .Cal Poly insist upon a high level of performance even though he mayfeel inadequate or incapable of actually achieving that level. competent.Procrastination is often truly difficult to eradicate since the delay behavior has become a method of coping with day-to-day pressures and experiences. I must do everything right the first tim e. The perfectionist nitpicks it to death. long. should.no one wants to make mistakes. You will experience increased personal freedom! Four Simple Reasons for Procrastination • • • • Difficult . itwon'ttake it. Victim . That is why I am late. I will do it when I'm good and ready.unrealistically high expectations or standards. Obviously if one is cured. and healthyfeeling of makes you feel weak. taking charge of your life will make you feel strong. or that I can learn while I'm doing it. and large blocks oftime are unavailable until the weekend. and capable. others will put new demands and expectations upon you. and all the frustration itwill generate in the process. "Obviously I cannotdo such and such because myaffairs are so complicated and so demanding." to have everything absolutely perfect maymask problems of self-esteem and self-confidence. etc. It's easier to have an excuse. and helpless.edu/ascJssl/procrastination." The procrastinator may even spend considerable time justifying his reasons. don't do it at all. . It may either imposed The perfectionist is long on criticism and short on praise. Benefits of Overcoming Procrastination What are the benefits of overcom ing procrastination? being in charge of your life. I I'm Too BusyI Stubbornness I Manipulation I Coping with I A Frustrated Procrastination maybe used to call attention to how busyhe is. The reasons for his behavior are hidden from him. useless. a feeling of strength and purpose.) "If you can't do it right. time that could be spent doing the work. (I should get straight A's. Fears .The procrastinator often feels like a victim: he cannot understand his behavior or why he cannot get work done like others.the task will take large blocks oftime. to put off.everyone will know how you screwed up. so wait until you learn how before you start. The whole thing is a frustrating mystery. Pressures . etc. How to resolve: I Try self-reassurance that this effort or version will be good enough I Make an effort to praise what you have done I It's impossible to eradicate all mistakes www. have to occur frequently in the person's conversation." Let's face it: deliberate delay drives others crazy.the task seems hard to do. Lack of knowledge or skills .calpoly. a high degree of dissatisfaction and frustration because seldom is anything accom plished that is I It creates com pletely acceptable the very fi rst time.Procrastination may be used to control or manipulate the behavior of others. Tell yourself: this isn'tso hard.Procrastination may be used as an expression of stubbornness or pride: "Don't think you can push me around. we naturally tend to avoid difficult things in favor of those which seem easy to us.sas. While procrastination Peace of mind. ought. And no one else really cares because they are all so busy with their own problems. must.
you will eventually get what you want.") The trouble with self-downing is that.22-05-12 I You have undoubtedlyfound all the fatal errors bynow I Rem ind yourself that great writers. www. it will be • someone. professor.") How to resolve: I practice accepting compliments about your work performance by simply saying "Thank you." etc." I Figure out whyyou feel uncomfortable with success. The trouble is. if you are upset with a even. • Self-Downing .html 3/6 . ("Wow. I Get help from someone who can show you how to solve the problem I Learn how to tem porarily postpone your desires. you did so well on the exam!" "Oh. The activating event is whatever you are putting off. and soon success will fade. it seems reasonable to "put it off' until you feel better about doing the work. we'll often withhold our best efforts. and such phrases as "it isn't fair. are you? • Low Frustration Tolerance .Study Skills Library . How to resolve: the more you want something and can't have it. poets. Procrastination .Cal Poly completed their work. ("Why did they fire you?" "I told them all along I couldn't sustain the pace. You are not going to let how you feel about a particular class stand in the way of your personal future. he may also find it hard to accept praise and com plim ents for work perform ed . you find situations radically intolerable and terribly unfair. artists at one time or another okay to say that yours is done also. tests or unpleasant tasks.false modesty. A person who habitually puts himself down tends to disbelieve himself even when he is successful: it was "just dum b luck.sas. Anger/Hostility ." "this is too hard. the person will actually come to believe that he is incapable of certain levels of achievem ent.circumstances overwhelm you easily.edu/ascJssl/procrastination. you feel just as frustrated the next day. I really didn't know it all that well. Most of the time.calpoly. The Inner Workings of Procrastination A = Activating Event. such as studying. you are likely to delayin starting a demanding project as a wayof"getting How to resolve: Determine that you are the one who is feeling upset and see how your actions will actually harm you in the long run. For exam pie. therefore. I can't work at that level." and "no one else has to." But you are the one who loses.this happens when you continually minimize your own skills and abilities and express doubt about your ability to succeed. Turn in that important quarterly report late." In addition. Self-downing results in procrastination because the person who is uncomfortable with success will seek ways to become less successful and less visible. and see! I was right. given a long enough time. Frustration is characterized bywhining and com plaining.if we are unhappywith you are the one with the low grade. I just lucked out. the greater your level of frustration. Did significant others in your life often make you feel that way? Were you taughtto minimize your success? Whyis success so scary? Will it make you stand out in the crowd? Do you feel as though others will not accept you if you are successful? I Remember to compliment and praise yourselffor work accomplished. Feeling the way you do.
These reasons are the controlling influences. ("I told everyone that I was going I Use a good friend as a positive doesn't. argue against all the reasons for delay in a convincing manner. and let peer pressure push you forward. If you have negative feelings.") 1 1- I Do only a s mall part of the tas k each tim e. you will be able to start the task. you'll get involved enough to keep going. These feelings control your response. switch to something else if you want.") for just five minutes. List them.some students find that sim ply writing down reasonable starting and stopping backsliding. www. ("I've written lots of excellent papers. Against Delay" column. home.calpoly.-----2.sas. These are your "hidden" feelings about the task. Accept setbacks and start again. because Arguments Against Delay Some Tools That Will Help Make the tasks look small and easy in your mind. Be vigorous.Study Skills Library . Write down as manyas possible. It might be personal. Begin the task. 3.if you can't study at home. something. all tasks are really neutral. Don't expect to be perfect even when you're trying to get rid of perfectionism! So occasionally. or. in. If you have trouble concentrating. This is what we actually do. your study situation at and establish priorities . Exam ine your belief system. change I Plan tomorrow I Expect some times help them get going. Practice What You've Learned I Think of one thing you are currently procrastinating related.Cal Poly B = Belief System. find a place where you can study. your feelings govern your motivation. you will tend to put off or delay. Later on.22-05-12 Procrastination . but I had better get going on it anyway. This may take five or ten minutes because som e of them are really hidden from you. then change your way of thinking. your plans will not work. this is just one more paper.") I Five-m inute plan: Work on something I Advertise your plans to accomplish to finish this tonight.edu/ascJssl/procrastination. understand whyyou dislike the task. If you can argue against them successfully. school or work- I Now write all the reasons I In the "Arguments for your delay." An irrational approach is "I hate writing papers. Chances are. and write it on the line below. and even though it's due next week. role model. A rational response is "I don't like writing papers at all. C = Consequence.html 4/6 . At the end offive minutes. I'm delaying on Reasons for Delay 1. I'll glance through them ." The fact is. studyin the presence of someone who I Modify your environm ent . There are two approaches: rational and irrational. Discover the real reasons for your delay. 4. Dispute those real reasons and overcome them. ("I'll just check out the books tonight. Steps to the Cure • • • • Realize you are delaying something unnecessarily. I'll start it later.
or . so why not this time?" "If I wait until the last minute. " Music and reading ." 5/6 www. so I'm postponing all my work until the pressure builds up and then I'll get it done easily. so I'm waiting until I know how before I do it. and he seems indifferent to mystruggles." "This tas k isn't getting done because I really don't want to do it. Write a rebuttal for each one.calpoly. worrying you." Grasshopperism .html . if . there's a test com ing up soon."I need to have some well-earned fun first." Impulsiveness ."My problem will be solved if I change my major.Study Skills Library ."The professor will get sick and cancel finals!" Common Rationalizations Each of these rationalizations needs to be argued against and defeated so that you can experience success. you: • • • • strengthen the habit of not doing. In other words. Every time you put off something you dislike. I'll m iss out on a once-in-a-lifetime social event."I've got to get out for a while to clear mymind."I'll do it tomorrow. the sooner you get involved in your studies... Active participation in anything tends to give you a positive attitude toward that activity.Cal Poly An Insight Procrastination is reinforcing . avoid acquiring training and skills. practice avoidance instead of participation. The following is a list of things we often tell ourselves: • • • Mariana . you can't do the assignments. the reason you dislike calculus is because it's hanging over your head. I won't spend so much time on it." "I waited until the last moment before and it worked out okay. When winter came. and you MUST do well on it-The truth is." • • • • • • • "I don't know how to do this problem." "This job is easierto do when I'm in the mood.22-05-12 Procrastination .every time you delay.) fiddled and played all sum mer while the ants stored up winter supplies. except you know you can't. The world is n't going to com e to an end if this does n't get done." "If I do this work right now. and I'm simplynot in the mood right now. it reinforces your negative attitude toward that task. or attend a different college. • "I'm more productive when I work under pressure. And that's the honest truth" "Relax." Contingent mariana . Common Impediments to Overcoming Procrastination Procrastination is relatively hard to overcome since you can delude yourself about it so easily." (In aesop's fable."I'll do it tomorrow." Cavalry to the Rescue ."I'll relax a while and then get started. and indoctrinate yourselfwith fears.. the grasshopper suffered.) the better you will feel. Since you haven't acquires skills in it.edu/ascJssl/procrastination. so why try? Also. Suddenly everything seems terribly unfair (class is too hard) and you become angry towards the teacher (he goes too fast. the grasshopper • • • • Escapism . inactivity helps acquire an unfavorable attitude..sas.
Cal Poly • • "Circumstances beyond mycontrol prevented me from doing so." "I've worked on this for so long that I have no interest or energy for it. you'll experience more freedom and greater personal self-satisfaction. and have some fun with yourself. Rm 112 San Luis Obispo.sas. take time to savor the moment so you will remember how Bibliography Burka. William J. Lenora M.edu Site Map • Student Ef11Jloyment Last Update: 4/11/11 www. but now you'll be able to resolve the situation much more quicklywhich good it feels." Finally: Now that you understand how procrastination works. and how you can greatly reduce its influence in your life. 1983. Ellis. CP Home • CP Find It Staff· Get Adobe Reader • Microsoft Viewers Academic Skills Center Kennedy Library. and Knaus. This will help the next time you need encouragement.calpoly.756. Jane B. Reading: Addison-Wesley. When you do succeed.edu/asclssl/procrastination.. Ca 93407-0204 805.Study Skills Library . Albert.1256 w firstname.lastname@example.org Procrastination . Procrastination. New York: Signet Books. Treat the discovery process like a game. in turn will enhance your feelings of self-confidence. You maystill procrastinate. Overcoming Procrastination. 1977. Keep working on it. and Yuen.html 6/6 .
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