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procrastination Web definitionsthe act of procrastinating; putting off or delaying or defering an action to a later time.

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In psychology, procrastination refers to the act of replacing more urgent actions with tasks less urgent, or doing something from which one derives enjoyment, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time. In accordance with Freud, the pleasure principle may be responsible for procrastination; humans prefer avoiding negative emotions, and delaying a stressful task. The concept that humans work best under pressure provides additional enjoyment and motivation to postponing a task.[1] Some psychologists cite such behavior as a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision.[2] 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.[3]

Schraw, Wadkins, and Olafson have proposed three criteria for a behavior to be classified as procrastination: it must be counterproductive, needless, and delaying.[4] 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."[5]

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. [5] On the other hand many regard procrastination as a useful way of identifying what is important to us personally as it is rare to procrastinate when one truly values the task at hand. 7 Tips for Avoiding Procrastination. Without Delay is the Easiest Way.
Every Wednesday is Tip Day. This Wednesday: Seven tips for avoiding procrastination. Going to the gym. Practicing a new skill when you have no skill. Giving bad news. Dealing with tech support. We all have to make ourselves do things that we just dont want to do. Here are some tricks Ive learned that help me power through the procrastination. 1. Do it first thing in the morning. If youre dreading doing something, youre going to be able to think of more creative excuses as the day goes along. One of my Twelve Personal Commandments is Do it now. Without delay is the easiest way. 2. If you find yourself putting off a task that you try to do several times a week, try doing it EVERY day, instead. When I was planning my blog, I envisioned posting two or three times a week. Then a blogger acquaintance convinced me that no, I needed to post every day. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, I think its easier to do it every day (well, except Sundays) than fewer times each week. Theres no ditherin g, theres no juggling. I know I have to post, so I do. If youre finding it hard to go for a walk four times a week, try going every day. 3. Have someone keep you company. Studies show that we enjoy practically every activity more when were with other people. Having a friend along can be a distraction, a source of reassurance, or just moral support. 4. Make preparations, assemble the proper tools. I often find that when Im dreading a task, it helps me to feel prepared. Ill tell myself, I dont have to do X today, but Ill get everything ready. I gather up phone numbers, print-outs, read background information, etc. Dividing a tough task into preparation and execution makes it easier to tackle. 5. Commit. Weve all heard the advice to write down your goals. This really works, so force yourself to do it. Usually this advice relates to long-term goals, but it works with short-term goals, too. On the top of a piece of paper, write, By the end of today, I will have _____. This also gives you the thrill of crossing a task off your list. (See below.) 6. First things first. That is, make sure you dont use little tasks to push off big tasks. I find myself answering email instead of writing, or reading Twitter instead of logging in my research notes. These smaller tasks are important and worthwhile, but I shouldnt use them to delay more taxing work.

7. Reflect on the great feeling youll get when youve finished. Studies show that hitting a goal releases chemicals in the brain that give you pleasure. If youre feeling blue, although the last thing you feel like doing is something you dont feel like doing, push yourself. Youll get a big lift from it.

The Procrastination Boost: Doing Less To Get More Done

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No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination: Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today, Lord Chesterfield famously said.

But is procrastination always the enemy of productivity? Not according to Carson Tate, the founder and managing partner of management consultancy Working Simply, who believes mastering the art of high performance procrastination can set you apart from your peers.

Procrastination is a dirty word in the corporate vernacular, says Tate, but it can be a pr oductivity tool. It causes us to slow down and thinktwo things in our frenetic, always-on culture that dont happen a lot.

In todays fast-paced knowledge economy, workers struggle with competing deadlines, neverending to-do lists and constant distractions. Tate believes procrastination serves as a mechanism of focus in the whirlwind, shedding light on whats really important and empowering others to solve problems. She explains how doing less might just help you get more done.

The Dangers Of A Messy Desk Jenna Goudreau Forbes Staff

Do You Have 'Executive Presence'? Jenna Goudreau Forbes Staff

The Secret Power Of Introverts Jenna Goudreau Forbes Staff

How To Tame Your Inner Control Freak Jenna Goudreau Forbes Staff

Procrastinating Clarifies Priorities Later. Not now. Maybe tomorrow. That pesky task on your to-do list keeps getting pushed down. Your procrastination is valuable information, says Tate. It helps you get clear on what you want to do or need to do. Consider why youre avoiding the task like the plague. Is it out of alignment with your skills, personal goals or the goals of the company? Do you have the tools to tackle it properly? Is it just a timesuck with limited payoff? If you understand the source of your avoidance, you can use it to cull your todo list, Tate says. Strike off the tasks that are meaningless, seek resources for those that are overly complicated, and focus on whats really important.

Procrastinating Empowers Others To Solve Problems Sometimes not acting immediately creates the space for others to step up and solve problems, says Tate. Consider what happens when you receive an email from a colleague or direct report and choose to sit on it for a few hours. Oftentimes the problem resolves itself without your input. [Not acting] enables others and helps develop your team, she says. While being frequently unresponsive would likely backfire, strategic procrastination can build people up. One of Tates clients, a sales executive, had a new team member who continuously came to him with questions about resolving issues. The first couple times the executive asked what the sales rep thought, and they talked through the scenario. The next couple times, the executive waited to respond. Soon, the sales rep became more confident and self-sufficient, and the emails stopped entirely.

Procrastinating Identifies Your Energy Cycles Lack of motivation may also signal that your scheduling is off, says Tate. Complex tasks that require a lot of mental effort, like writing and analyzing information, need to be completed when your energy is high and your brain is rested. However, if youre a morning person scheduling high -intensity projects in the afternoon, or vice versa, sluggish energy levels will likely lead to procrastination. Tate recommends using these signals to tap into your bodys natural rhythms, so that you can get the most out of your day. For those times when you dont have the energy to start a big project or you find your energy waning, she suggests using a five-minute list: A to-do list of easy, low-intensity tasks that you can do in less than five minutes. Whether its an internet search, printing out and sorting documents, or light research, it helps you stay on track through dips in concentration.

Procrastinating Leads To Creativity Hesitancy to start a project may also be a sign that the idea is not fully formed or inspired. Ideas need time to percolate, says Tate. Inspiration strikes when your brain is at rest. Procrastinatingwhether its watching a silly YouTube video, lingering by the water cooler or pushing off a difficult task and doing an easy oneis a time-out for your brain. A relaxed brain more easily connects disparate ideas in new, creative ways. Ever had a big idea in the shower or while taking a run? High-performance procrastinators use another task or project to stimulate their thinking on all of their projects and tasks, Tate says. Procrastination actually assists us in getting the work done at the ideal time. 10 Easy Ways To Be More Productive At Work 1 of 10 + show more Understand Your Body's Timetable

It's important to organize your day around your body's natural rhythms, says Carson Tate, founder and managing partner of management consultancy Working Simply. Tackle complex tasks when your energy's at its highest level. For many this may mean first thing in the morning, after you've rested and eaten. Save low-intensity, routine tasks for periods when you're energy regularly dips, like late afternoon. Everyone is different, so it's important to understand your own timetables, she says.

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Study Skills: Overcoming Procrastination

Recognizing and Dealing with Procrastination

Michael is a first-year student at the local college. During the first few weeks of class he is asked to participate in a variety of activities, each of which takes away from his study time. When given the choice between going to the movies and reading a chapter of economics, Michael almost always picks the movies. He tells himself "I'll catch up later." He doesn't realize that each time he makes such a choice, he will suffer from the consequences in due time. As the term continues, the consequences begin to appear. He pulls an all-nighter to cram for an Art History test. He completes a Philosophy paper an hour before class, but can't get it printed in time. The consequences become more and more serious. As the term comes to a close, Michael is rushing to start research papers, to complete assigned readings, and to prepare for final exams. He has trouble sleeping. He feels overwhelmed by the amount of work he needs to complete. Tension causes him to eat poorly. He blanks out on his Chemistry final. Michael's grades for the term are lower than he had anticipated when he started the term, and they are much lower than his high school grades. A similar chain of events occurs the next term. Thinking he can't handle college, Michael becomes depressed and considers leaving school.

Is Michael stupid? Incompetent? Not cut out for college?

No. Michael's hypothetical situation is a classic case of procrastination. Procrastination is putting things off until later. A pattern of procrastination may emerge when one has poor time management skills, inappropriate priorities, and unrealistic perceptions of cause and effect relationships.

Unfortunately, this fictitious scenario is all too common in schools across the country. And procrastination affects students and other people outside the academic setting as well. People often put off tasks they dislike, such as paying bills, washing dishes, doing laundry, repairing things, and writing letters.

There are several reasons why one should avoid procrastination. First, procrastinators who do poorly on an assignment may attribute the failure to lack of ability rather than poor time management. Once one loses confidence in one's abilities, it is difficult to get it back. Second, putting off tasks until the last minute often results in stress and anxiety, which affect one's performance and even one's health. Third,

procrastination often leads to feelings of guilt as one thinks about all the things one should be doing. Fourth, procrastinators are particularly susceptible to Murphy's Law, "if something can go wrong, it will," because they don't leave enough time to complete a task let alone make allowances for unforeseen difficulties. Finally, habitual procrastination negatively impacts the way one is viewed by others.

There are varying degrees of procrastination. One way to "measure" procrastination is the frequency with which an individual puts off tasks. Some people only procrastinate occasionally and sporadically, or they may put off certain tasks but are able to complete other tasks on time. Serious procrastinators, on the other hand, habitually put off all kinds of tasks; their behavior may become so predictable that they labeled as habitual procrastinators. Another way to measure procrastination is to consider the consequences of such behavior. If one is satisfied with one's achievements and performance on assignments, and if one can complete late assignments without getting "stressed out," then procrastination may not be too serious a problem. Only minor behavioral changes may be necessary to avoid procrastinating in the future. However, if grades suffer and stress results from putting things off, then procrastination is a serious problem. In this case major behavioral modification is probably necessary.

So how can one avoid falling into the downward spiral brought on by procrastination? The guidelines below may provide procrastinators with the strategies needed to break out of that behavioral cycle.

A Non-Procrastination Plan

Make a Schedule

Allocate specific times to complete tasks using semester, monthly, weekly, or daily planners.

Get Motivated

It does no good to make a schedule unless it will be followed. Work with a friend to motivate each other. Consider how long-term and short-term goals will be fulfilled by getting things done on time. Visualize how it felt to get tasks done on time in the past, and remember how stressful it was to put off work.

Reevaluate Your Priorities

How do you prioritize success in school, social life, work, and other activities in your life? If school is your first priority, that work must come before any other activities. If you decide success in school is not your first priority, then don't expect high grades.

Take Responsibility

Don't make excuses to yourself for procrastinating, and don't blame others when distracted. Saying "I'm so busy I never get to..." is just an excuse and form of procrastination. Staying on track is a personal responsibility. It's in your hands.

Cause and Effect Relationships

Step back and critically examine cause and effect relationships in your life. How do you explain failures? To what factors do you attribute them? Be honest. Did you receive a poor grade on a project because you started it late or didn't put in enough time? Avoid rationalizations like "The prof hates me" or "I didn't understand the assignment." Thoughtfully examine the consequences of your behavior.

Working "Under Pressure"

Some people describe themselves as "working better under pressure." If you feel this way, honestly and critically the validity of this statement. When you work under pressure, are you really turning in your best work? If not, procrastination is having a negative impact on you. If you really think you are doing your best, make sure the pressure comes from you and not someone else.

Variety is the Spice of Life

Make two activity lists: "Things I like to do" and "Things I have to do." Mix up activities from both lists and work on each activity for a short period of time. Alternating between fun and distasteful tasks helps to maintain motivation and interest.

Think Small

Because it is easier to put off overwhelming tasks than small ones, divide major assignments into smaller parts and work on one part at a time.

Be Realistic

Some people procrastinate because they have too much to do. They have every intention of doing things in a timely manner, but they run out of time. There are only 24 hours in a day. Thoughtfully examine your obligations and responsibilities. Is your schedule realistic? Are you involved in too many activities? Don't "spread yourself too thinly" because none of your projects will get the full attention they deserve.

Focus on Assets

Some people are good at summarizing major ideas. Others write exceptionally well. Some people work well with others. Find out what your assets are. Then work them into everything you do. This will improve your confidence and motivation for tackling a distasteful job.


Reward yourself lavishly when tasks are completed on time. Make the reward appropriate for the difficulty and boredom of the task.

Summary: A Seven Day Non-Procrastination Plan

Monday: Make tasks meaningful Tuesday: Divide large assignments into smaller parts Wednesday: Write an intention statement Thursday: Tell everyone about your schedules and plans Friday: Find a reward for doing things on time Saturday: Settle any problems now Sunday: SAY NO

Information from Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio

How To Kill Procrastination For Good No Kidding!

Procrastination, my friends, is the enemy of our success.

We tend to put off what we consider to be important, and we put it off because we think of it as a daunting task. The root of procrastination, hence, I believe lies in the fear of not being able to complete the important task.

Lets suppose the most daunting task for you everyday is to produce a blog post. Chances are, you put off writing the post to the last possible moment. And sometimes you dont even write it.

The worse thing about procrastination is that when you put off a task to a later time, you cant do anything else in the mean time either!

Why does it happen?

Quite simply, your mind remains occupied by the thoughts of the delayed task, and you give yourself continuous mental torture until you complete the task.

Ive written about overcoming laziness before, and the best way I could find to do it was Just do it.

This, indeed, kills procrastination. But the question still remains: How do you do it? Because when you are procrastinating, you simply cant do it. This is the problem!

I hear you my friends. And here is a good news: you can pull off this feat with only a bit of discipline! Do the task youre likely to put off first every morning

Why do we procrastinate? Because we allow ourselves to immerse in other worthless activities and slowly withdraw into a passive mode, where we can not do physical or mental hard work.

The trick to overcome such a condition is to not let this condition overcome you.

Our habits are even more deeply engraved in our minds than the temporary condition of laziness, so its just a matter of forming such a habit that can redeem us from the curse of procrastination.

Try this recipe: Do your most important task first every morning, and discipline yourself to do so every morning for at least couple of months.

Ingredients: Discipline, Determination, and a deep desire to succeed.

Since you are a blogger, and I am supposed to be talking to you, here is what you should do: Write a post everyday right after turning on the computer, even before checking your email and stats. If you need some inspiration, OK go check your feed reader. But remember, you are checking your feeds for inspiration, so dont click away. Youll be lost in the blogosphere before you realize.

Do it for a couple of months, and I assure you, youll develop a habit of writing a post the first thing after turning on your computer. You wont even remember you used to procrastinate!

Good and Bad Procrastination

December 2005

The most impressive people I know are all terrible procrastinators. So could it be that procrastination isn't always bad?

Most people who write about procrastination write about how to cure it. But this is, strictly speaking, impossible. There are an infinite number of things you could be doing. No matter what you work on, you're not working on everything else. So the question is not how to avoid procrastination, but how to procrastinate well.

There are three variants of procrastination, depending on what you do instead of working on something: you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or (c) something more important. That last type, I'd argue, is good procrastination.

That's the "absent-minded professor," who forgets to shave, or eat, or even perhaps look where he's going while he's thinking about some interesting question. His mind is absent from the everyday world because it's hard at work in another.

That's the sense in which the most impressive people I know are all procrastinators. They're type-C procrastinators: they put off working on small stuff to work on big stuff.

What's "small stuff?" Roughly, work that has zero chance of being mentioned in your obituary. It's hard to say at the time what will turn out to be your best work (will it be your magnum opus on Sumerian temple architecture, or the detective thriller you wrote under a pseudonym?), but there's a whole class of tasks you can safely rule out: shaving, doing your laundry, cleaning the house, writing thank-you notes anything that might be called an errand.

Good procrastination is avoiding errands to do real work.

Good in a sense, at least. The people who want you to do the errands won't think it's good. But you probably have to annoy them if you want to get anything done. The mildest seeming people, if they want to do real work, all have a certain degree of ruthlessness when it comes to avoiding errands.

Some errands, like replying to letters, go away if you ignore them (perhaps taking friends with them). Others, like mowing the lawn, or filing tax returns, only get worse if you put them off. In principle it shouldn't work to put off the second kind of errand. You're going to have to do whatever it is eventually. Why not (as past-due notices are always saying) do it now?

The reason it pays to put off even those errands is that real work needs two things errands don't: big chunks of time, and the right mood. If you get inspired by some project, it can be a net win to blow off everything you were supposed to do for the next few days to work on it. Yes, those errands may cost you more time when you finally get around to them. But if you get a lot done during those few days, you will be net more productive.

In fact, it may not be a difference in degree, but a difference in kind. There may be types of work that can only be done in long, uninterrupted stretches, when inspiration hits, rather than dutifully in scheduled little slices. Empirically it seems to be so. When I think of the people I know who've done great things, I don't imagine them dutifully crossing items off to-do lists. I imagine them sneaking off to work on some new idea.

Conversely, forcing someone to perform errands synchronously is bound to limit their productivity. The cost of an interruption is not just the time it takes, but that it breaks the time on either side in half. You

probably only have to interrupt someone a couple times a day before they're unable to work on hard problems at all.

I've wondered a lot about why startups are most productive at the very beginning, when they're just a couple guys in an apartment. The main reason may be that there's no one to interrupt them yet. In theory it's good when the founders finally get enough money to hire people to do some of the work for them. But it may be better to be overworked than interrupted. Once you dilute a startup with ordinary office workerswith type-B procrastinatorsthe whole company starts to resonate at their frequency. They're interrupt-driven, and soon you are too.

Errands are so effective at killing great projects that a lot of people use them for that purpose. Someone who has decided to write a novel, for example, will suddenly find that the house needs cleaning. People who fail to write novels don't do it by sitting in front of a blank page for days without writing anything. They do it by feeding the cat, going out to buy something they need for their apartment, meeting a friend for coffee, checking email. "I don't have time to work," they say. And they don't; they've made sure of that.

(There's also a variant where one has no place to work. The cure is to visit the places where famous people worked, and see how unsuitable they were.)

I've used both these excuses at one time or another. I've learned a lot of tricks for making myself work over the last 20 years, but even now I don't win consistently. Some days I get real work done. Other days are eaten up by errands. And I know it's usually my fault: I let errands eat up the day, to avoid facing some hard problem.

The most dangerous form of procrastination is unacknowledged type-B procrastination, because it doesn't feel like procrastination. You're "getting things done." Just the wrong things.

Any advice about procrastination that concentrates on crossing things off your to-do list is not only incomplete, but positively misleading, if it doesn't consider the possibility that the to-do list is itself a form of type-B procrastination. In fact, possibility is too weak a word. Nearly everyone's is. Unless you're working on the biggest things you could be working on, you're type-B procrastinating, no matter how much you're getting done.

In his famous essay You and Your Research (which I recommend to anyone ambitious, no matter what they're working on), Richard Hamming suggests that you ask yourself three questions: What are the most important problems in your field?

Are you working on one of them?

Why not? Hamming was at Bell Labs when he started asking such questions. In principle anyone there ought to have been able to work on the most important problems in their field. Perhaps not everyone can make an equally dramatic mark on the world; I don't know; but whatever your capacities, there are projects that stretch them. So Hamming's exercise can be generalized to: What's the best thing you could be working on, and why aren't you? Most people will shy away from this question. I shy away from it myself; I see it there on the page and quickly move on to the next sentence. Hamming used to go around actually asking people this, and it didn't make him popular. But it's a question anyone ambitious should face.

The trouble is, you may end up hooking a very big fish with this bait. To do good work, you need to do more than find good projects. Once you've found them, you have to get yourself to work on them, and that can be hard. The bigger the problem, the harder it is to get yourself to work on it.

Of course, the main reason people find it difficult to work on a particular problem is that they don't enjoy it. When you're young, especially, you often find yourself working on stuff you don't really like-- because it seems impressive, for example, or because you've been assigned to work on it. Most grad students are stuck working on big problems they don't really like, and grad school is thus synonymous with procrastination.

But even when you like what you're working on, it's easier to get yourself to work on small problems than big ones. Why? Why is it so hard to work on big problems? One reason is that you may not get any reward in the forseeable future. If you work on something you can finish in a day or two, you can expect to have a nice feeling of accomplishment fairly soon. If the reward is indefinitely far in the future, it seems less real. Another reason people don't work on big projects is, ironically, fear of wasting time. What if they fail? Then all the time they spent on it will be wasted. (In fact it probably won't be, because work on hard projects almost always leads somewhere.)

But the trouble with big problems can't be just that they promise no immediate reward and might cause you to waste a lot of time. If that were all, they'd be no worse than going to visit your in-laws. There's more to it than that. Big problems are terrifying. There's an almost physical pain in facing them. It's like having a vacuum cleaner hooked up to your imagination. All your initial ideas get sucked out immediately, and you don't have any more, and yet the vacuum cleaner is still sucking. You can't look a big problem too directly in the eye. You have to approach it somewhat obliquely. But you have to adjust the angle just right: you have to be facing the big problem directly enough that you catch some of the excitement radiating from it, but not so much that it paralyzes you. You can tighten the angle once you get going, just as a sailboat can sail closer to the wind once it gets underway. If you want to work on big things, you seem to have to trick yourself into doing it. You have to work on small things that could grow into big things, or work on successively larger things, or split the moral load with collaborators. It's not a sign of weakness to depend on such tricks. The very best work has been done this way. When I talk to people who've managed to make themselves work on big things, I find that all blow off errands, and all feel guilty about it. I don't think they should feel guilty. There's more to do than anyone could. So someone doing the best work they can is inevitably going to leave a lot of errands undone. It seems a mistake to feel bad about that. I think the way to "solve" the problem of procrastination is to let delight pull you instead of making a todo list push you. Work on an ambitious project you really enjoy, and sail as close to the wind as you can, and you'll leave the right things undone.