Procrastination Research—Part I
Some people like a little perspective, so here’s some background ideas, keeping in mind the literature on procrastination is more intellectual and theoretical. For example, some think of procrastination as consisting of two types--the Relaxed Type and the Tense-Afraid Type.
The relaxed type of procrastinators view their responsibilities negatively and avoid them by directing energy into other tasks. It is common, for example, for relaxed type procrastinating children to abandon schoolwork but not their social lives. Students often see projects as a whole rather than breaking them into smaller parts. This type of procrastination is a form of denial or cover-up; therefore, typically no help is being sought. Furthermore, they are also unable to defer gratification. The procrastinator avoids situations that would cause displeasure, indulging instead in more enjoyable activities. They may not appear to be worried about work and deadlines, but this is simply an evasion of the work that needs to be completed. They ignore the time needed for their preparation for examinations. Their logical mind will give reasons to procrastinate.
The tense-afraid type of procrastinators usually feel overwhelmed with pressure, unrealistic about time, uncertain about goals and many other negative feelings. They may feel a sense of malaise. Feeling that they lack the ability or focus to successfully complete their work, they tell themselves that they need to unwind and relax, that it's better to take it easy for the afternoon, for example, and start afresh in the morning. They usually have grandiose plans that aren't realistic. Their 'relaxing' is often temporary and ineffective, and leads to even more stress as time runs out, deadlines approach and the person feels increasingly guilty and apprehensive. This behavior becomes a cycle of failure and delay, as plans and goals are put off, penciled into the following day or week in the diary again and again. It can also have a debilitating effect on their personal lives and relationships. Since they are uncertain about their goals, they often feel awkward with people who appear confident and goal-oriented, which can lead to depression. Tense-afraid procrastinators often withdraw from social life, avoiding contact even with close friends.
Lots of authors espouse the idea that procrastination is really a failure to think about thinking (“metathinking”), rather than a conscious or unconscious conflict between values, ideas or anything else. For example, Do you have Blockbuster or Netflix? If you do, pay attention to the number of movies in your queue. You may have noticed some “peculiarities” about your choices and your viewing habits. If you have Netflix, especially if you stream it to your TV like me, you tend to gradually accumulate a cache of films you think you’ll watch one day. While this may not be a big deal, is it is illustrative. Why are there so many documentaries and dramatic epics collecting virtual dust in there? By now you can, from memory and in detail describe the faces of Brad Pitt and Kate Capshaw on the cover of “The Curious Life of Benjamin Buttons.” You haven’t watched the movie(s); rather, you keep passing them over on the way to the movie of the week, yet, there they sit, more and more of them, awaiting “something.” You don’t watch most of the movies (procrastinate), yet you keep adding more. Why?
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