Expert procrastinator? Here's why.
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"I was going to phone for that doctor's appointment yesterday. Honest. Somehow, it just never got done."
"Yeah, I said I'd start exercising right after the new year. Haven't gotten around to it yet."
"I meant to get my wife a nice gift for her birthday. Really. Boy, was she mad."
It's safe to say that everyone procrastinates once in a while. Some of us do it so much that our grades, finances, jobs, and even our health are at risk. We know the risks involved, and yet we somehow just can't seem to stop ourselves.
How come? More importantly, what's a person to do?
You've got to admire the person who publishes a research study on procrastination. Especially when it's as comprehensive and detailed as Dr. Piers Steel's "The Nature of Procrastination: A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review of Quintessential Self-Regulatory Failure," published just this month in Psychological Bulletin [2007 Jan Vol 133(1) 65-94].
While Dr. Steel's research doesn't claim to have all the answers, it certainly provides a few. Over a period of time, he reviewed 553 sources from among the fields of psychology, sociology, political science, and economics. He then selected 216 sources of statistical data about procrastination, summarizing them in a single article through a process known as meta-analysis.
All in all, he explored 4 key areas of procrastination research -- and provided some real answers we can all learn from. (Well, at least the 95% of procrastinators who say they'd like to turn over a new leaf. The remaining 5% probably won't be reading this article anyway.)
It probably won't surprise you to learn that tasks we perceive as enjoyable are typically procrastinated less than those we expect to be distasteful. Of course, perception is not absolute. Chronic procrastinators are more likely to see a task as unpleasant than those who are more proactive.
Your takeaway: When a job simply has to get done, find ways to make it seem more interesting or enjoyable!
It's not only the task itself that separates the thinkers from the doers, though. Individual differences play a key role. Certain personality characteristics seem to predispose a person to either put off important tasks or to dispense with them quickly.
The good news — once you identify your own personal pattern, it's easier to come up with a customized and effective work-around.
What's the result of all this procrastination? Researchers typically look at two factors, mood and performance.
Researchers have also looked at procrastination relative to age, gender, and year.
"Continued research into procrastination should not be delayed," Steel concludes, "especially because its prevalance appears to be growing." Now that's a researcher with a healthy sense of humor!
Elizabeth Eckert can help you explore how simple everyday choices create health - or undermine even the best of intentions. With a background that ranges from energy medicine to structural bodywork to developmental psychology, this "Stick-To-It Coach" has the experience to support you in creating the healthiest possible expression of — you!
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