Sonya Ratliff

Procrastination: Is It Good, Bad, or Both!

If I were to describe my level of being a procrastinator, I would probably say mild to moderate. Over the years, I’ve used procrastination as a way to motivate myself to complete a task. This is particularly the case with tasks that I don’t like doing or tasks that appear difficult at first glance. Sometimes my procrastination is hoping that the project or task will be canceled or eliminated, or due dates pushed back.

Procrastination comes from the Latin verb procrastinare, which means deferred until tomorrow. 

Psychology Today offers this explanation:

“Everyone puts things off until the last minute sometimes, but procrastinators chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions. Procrastination in large part reflects our perennial struggle with self-control as well as our inability to accurately predict how we’ll feel tomorrow, or the next day. “I don’t feel like it” takes precedence over goals; however, it then begets a downward spiral of negative emotions that deter future effort.

Procrastinators may say they perform better under pressure, but more often than not that’s their way of justifying putting things off. The bright side? It’s possible to overcome procrastination—with effort. Perfectionists are often procrastinators: it is psychologically more acceptable to never tackle a task than to face the possibility of falling short on performance.”

And author Garth Sundem has this to say in The Positive Side to the Personality of Procrastinators:

“A Journal of Research Personality study shows the personalities of people who procrastinate are largely what you would expect: Disorga­nized, impulsive, distractible people who are likely to rate their enjoyment of projects higher when the time it takes to complete projects is lower. At least that’s the case when some force beyond themselves assigns the project. See, believe it or not, there’s a positive side to the personality of procrastinators: Procrastinators also believe in their own self-efficacy and are motivated by factors other than achievement.

More and more, research is showing that procras­tination isn’t a defect in ability or personality, but rather a disconnect between the demands of a task and what motivates the procrastinator. Procrastinators are intrinsically and not ex­trinsically motivated, meaning that neither tempting them with rewards nor warning them the sky will fall is likely to up their motivation to the threshold of action. Instead, the procrastinator has to want to do something.”

Overcoming procrastination

The first step in overcoming procrastination is awareness. This means figuring out your thoughts and habits.

  • Changing your outlook is vital. There’s a good chance you’ve been procrastinating because the decision or tasks ahead of you seem daunting. These need to be broken down into smaller tasks with more realistic and achievable goals that you can commit to.
  • Try to avoid situations that provide easy distractions or that disrupt your thinking or productivity. If you need to study, for example, schedule time in an appropriate environment, away from friends and noise.
  • Break off habits you enjoy but that are distracting. An example might be a teacher listening to great music while he or she is supposed to be marking papers. Instead, use the music as a reward for task accomplishment.

Finally, believe it or not, there is a Procrastinators’ Club of America based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The club describes its purpose as promoting “the philosophy of relaxation through putting off until later those things that needn’t be done today.” The club publishes a newsletter called “Last Month’s Newsletter.”

Sonya Ratliff

About Sonya Ratliff

Sonya joined DePaul University’s School for New Learning in February 2016. She has more than 20 years of experience working with faculty/students at higher education institutions including; Chicago State University, City Colleges of Chicago, and the University of Phoenix. During that time, she held various positions in Student Services, Information Technology, and Academic Affairs. Sonya earned a BS in Health Information Administration and an MS in Education and Technology from Chicago State University. Sonya has dedicated her career to helping faculty/students bridge the gap between the traditional classroom and the online learning environment. In her spare time, Sonya likes to read, shop, and spend time with her family. She is an Instructional Designer with Faculty Instructional Technology Services assigned to SNL.

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