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Procrastination



Summary


Regretting at the last minute, the consequences of procrastination are not simple. Procrastination, as a common phenomenon, has profound impacts on people’s lives and health. In recent years, many researchers have begun to focus on the causes, psychological and physiological effects of procrastination, as well as possible solutions.


Procrastination is not simple as it looks


Procrastination refers to an individual’s choice to delay taking action when faced with a task, resulting in time constraints or compromised quality in task completion. It generally manifests as deliberately postponing the start of a task, delaying during the task, and postponing the completion of the task.


Perhaps every time when people talk about procrastination, they think it’s making a big deal out of it, but that’s not what it looks like. Procrastination affects an individual’s work efficiency, mental health, and quality of life. Long-term procrastination often shows signs of depression, anxiety, stress, and physical health problems. Moreover, procrastinators are prone to making mistakes and having low work efficiency during the completion of the task.


To understand the impact of procrastination, researchers have conducted various observational and experimental studies. In one study involving thousands of college students, researchers linked a series of adverse outcomes. In this research, about 3,500 students were followed for nine months, allowing researchers to track whether procrastination students later developed health problems and thus assess the relationships between procrastination and health damage. Additionally, researchers also conducted experiments to observe the performance of procrastinators during finishing tasks and explore the personal traits of those with procrastination.



Procrastination is not laziness


Researchers have found that procrastination is associated with a range of potential health problems and other negative outcomes, including depression, anxiety, stress, disabling arm pain, poor sleep quality, lack of physical activity, loneliness, and financial difficulties. Moreover, procrastinators actually work slower than non-procrastinators and make more mistakes. As deadlines approach, the work performance of procrastinators often declines. Regarding the personal traits of individuals with procrastination, study results vary: some studies suggest that procrastinators may be impulsive, anxious, and have difficulty regulating their emotions.



Researchers emphasize that procrastination is not a manifestation of laziness. Procrastinators are actually “very busy doing others things rather than what they should be doing.” Procrastination is considered a behavioral pattern, not merely laziness.


Although these studies provide much useful information about procrastination, most of them are observational studies and cannot definitively prove a causal relationship between procrastination and poor health. Additionally, when researching the personal traits of individuals with procrastination, the results vary, indicating that more research may be needed in this area to draw more accurate conclusions.


How to deal with chronic procrastination?


There are currently some attempts and methods for treating and addressing procrastination, such as time management interventions, eliminating distractions, cognitive-behavioral therapy, emotion-focused approaches, and mindfulness training.

1. Time management interventions: some research reports suggest that this method has been successful. However, it is important to note that poor time management is just one symptom displayed by procrastinators and does not address the root cause of procrastination.


2. Eliminating distractions: In daily life, you could try to eliminate unnecessary distractions to improve focus. For example, put down your smartphone, and choose to study in a library instead of at home.


3. Cognitive-behavioral therapy: For severe procrastinators, they may benefit from this method. This kind of therapy involves managing thoughts and emotions and attempting to change behavior. Research has found it to be the most helpful, but there is still room for improvement.


4. Emotion-focused approaches: The Sirois Lab favors this method. Procrastinators may sink into a shame spiral, delaying tasks and feeling ashamed, and then feeling worse and worse. Researchers suggest that self-forgiveness may do the trick, such as adopting mindfulness training.


5. Mindfulness training: In a small trial with college students, participants reduced procrastination through eight weekly mindfulness sessions. Students practiced focusing on their bodies, meditating during unpleasant activities, and discussing the best ways to take care of themselves.


However, the most effective way to treat procrastination is still being explored, and different methods may produce varying results due to individual differences. But perhaps, after learning about these methods, taking immediate action is the best "procrastination antidote.”


 

References


[1] Johansson F, Rozental A, Edlund K, et al. Associations Between Procrastination and Subsequent Health Outcomes Among University Students in Sweden[J]. JAMA Network Open, 2023, 6(1): e2249346-e2249346.


[2] Day V, Mensink D, O'Sullivan M. Patterns of academic procrastination[J]. Journal of College Reading and Learning, 2000, 30(2): 120-134.


[3] Steel P. The nature of procrastination: a meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure[J]. Psychological bulletin, 2007, 133(1): 65.


[4] Kroese F M, de Ridder D T D. Health behaviour procrastination: a novel reasoned route towards self-regulatory failure[J]. Health psychology review, 2016, 10(3): 313-325.


[5] Rozental A, Forsstrom D, Hussoon A, et al. Procrastination Among University Students: Differentiating Severe Cases in Need of Support From Less Severe Cases[J]. Frontiers in Psychology, 2022, 13.



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