Understanding Academic Procrastination

Procrastination is not an unfamiliar concept to students. Be it studying for a tough statistics mid-term, doing a boring and monotonous 2-hour transcription, or planning a daunting group project, students can often find solace in putting off doing tasks like these and find ways to disengage and browse cat videos on TikTok for hours. This type of procrastination is referred to as academic procrastination, as it’s related to putting off doing important things related to one’s coursework and schooling. I’ve invited my colleague and friend, Reza Feyzi Behnagh of the School of Education at SUNY, Albany, to write this post with me.

In the past two years and with the funding support from the National Science Foundation, Behnagh (a learning scientist) and Shaghayegh Sahebi, a computer scientist, together with their research team of graduate students, studied academic procrastination . (I have been a recent consultant.) They are looking at how students make plans, set goals , and break large projects into smaller chunks, how they go about studying and checking their progress, and whether and under what conditions they procrastinate.

To gain this understanding, they developed a mobile app (Proccoli) to help students plan and study for their coursework. Why Proccoli? Just like broccoli that kids avoid eating (or procrastinate eating until the end of their meal) while it is good for them, getting things done toward one’s goal might be unpleasant and daunting at first, but learning a cool concept, a nice grade, praise, or a degree or course to complete, make all the effort worth it. Their app is designed to help students set goals, break their goals into smaller chunks, keep track of their studies in a Pomodoro-style timer, and check out their progress in continuously updating charts.

The goal of the SUNY Albany team has been to model and understand academic procrastination in college-age students, how it happens and individual differences that affect it, and to be able to identify the ‘behavioral signature’ of academic procrastination, predict it, and ultimately to help students manage their emotions (e.g., anxiety , boredom ) and get things done!

How do we understand academic procrastination? Unless students tell us what they are doing, how long, how often, and when they are studying (are they pulling an all-nighter the night of their exam? Are they preparing well in advance?), there is no way for us to know for sure. The app and data we are gathering through the app give us a unique perspective to understand under what circumstances and how students procrastinate.

In the past two years, a large group of graduate and undergraduate students have used the app (80-120 a semester), creating hundreds of goals and subgoals (1100 goals and 400 in the […]

Who doesn’t procrastinate?

  • I am too busy.
  • I am too tired.
  • I don’t have the energy.
  • I am too scared.
  • I don’t know where to start.

These are the most common excuses people use when they procrastinate—delay doing what they need to do. How many of these have you personally used?

According to the American Psychological Association, almost 80% of the people surveyed admit to lying to themselves about the reasons they put off doing things.

So, who doesn’t procrastinate?    The short answer is–nobody.  You’re human, and nobody is productive 100% of the time. But some people have allowed procrastination to thoroughly pervade their lives so much that they don’t realize how much of this non-renewable resource they’re losing.  Whatever kind of future, lifestyle, quest you seek, you need time to achieve mastery and time to make it stick.   

Procrastination is often confused with laziness or plain lack of self-discipline. The truth is that people who procrastinate frequently do so because they are perfectionists who fear making mistakes.  When we face difficult or unpleasant tasks, our brains may choose to ignore our long term interests and goal for immediate pleasure. This can lead to a vicious cycle of poor performance and low self-esteem.

So, what are you to do? Procrastinate effectively! But if we make small changes in our environment, this can help us overcome our negative feelings and increase productivity.

Simplify Your House, Simplify Your Life

Organize your house! Sometimes it’s hard for us to focus on important tasks because we have too many other little stressors creep up on us and accumulate. Physical clutter is a form of sensory overload–a stressor, can lead to mental chaos.  So use your procrastinated time to organize around your house. Take out the trash, wash the dishes, vacuum the floor, get rid of things you haven’t seen or touched for the last 24 months and probably won’t ever again 😉

The key to staying organized is focusing on one shelf or drawer at a time, tackling each one as efficiently as possible so that every part of your home stays tidy.

This “mental” state of clutter has been associated with depression and anxiety, among other conditions. Once you have removed your physical clutter, you’ll gain mental clarity and will have some space in your head to tackle the real work.

p.s. Once you’re done with the physical clutter, you might want to do a digital decluttering of your devices.

Offload Your Mental Tabs

No wonder you can’t concentrate on work!  Your mind is constantly going through all the calls you need to make, keeping track of to do list, and basically trying to make sure you survive well. Help yourself right now by making those important calls and writing down all your to do’s.  You’ve got a lot going on inside the brain, and when you can write down your appointments and to do’s, why stress your brain out by keeping them only in your mind?  If your brain were a browser, you don’t want to open up 100 different tabs at the same time.  Even Einstein’s brain would start to process slower with the strain!

Real Connections

You feel guilty–you’ve been meaning to check in on some very important people in your life and return those calls and emails, but your schedule has been hectic. Well, what are you doing now, procrastinating? No time is better than now. There are people who are important to you, right? So, use that non-working time on them.

Humans are social creatures, we need human connections in order to be emotionally and mentally healthy.  Meaningful relationships where you’ll get these real connections can only be sustained if they are bilateral.  We can’t have strong relationship if we’re not there for the people who matter.

Discover Yourself

Take the time to unlock what’s truly within you through curaJOY’s guided journals and fun quizzes that help build emotional wellness, confidence, resilience and discipline. Download the Quest Depot app now to learn more! Spend your procrastination time in a more meaningful way to appreciate who you are as a person, learn and grow, and develop within. You’ll come out of this ready to take on any work project put in front of you.

Circulate

We all have those days where we just sit at our desk and nothing comes out of our brains.  If so, why not move around a bit to get your circulation going.  Countless research tells us that exercise not only help reduce stress levels and provide energy, but it also improves moods and can improve cognitive performance.

So go outside and take a walk around the block or a local park. Even 6 minutes of exercise can make a big difference. 

Some physical activity may be just what you need to get back to your focused, productive self. You’ll become better able to handle that project, and your body will thank you too.

.True Rest

This is probably what you’ve been needing all along. Modern life drags us in a zillion different directions—work, family, social media, fitness, finances, school, friends….and the list goes on.  If you find yourself more distracted and procrastinating more, your body may begging you for some true rest.

Rest

noun
the refreshing quiet or repose of sleep:a good night’s rest.
refreshing ease or inactivity after exertion or labor:to allow an hour for rest.
relief or freedom, especially from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs.
a period or interval of inactivity, repose, solitude, or tranquillity:to go away for a rest.
mental or spiritual calm; tranquillity.

I’ve included the dictionary definition of rest here because so many of us stay on our devices to take a break when we’ve been working online all day long.  True rest means giving yourself a break from what you’ve been doing–some elements of inactivity is necessary to achieve this. 

Without proper rest, it’s hard to show up and shine, especially when you face challenges. Clear your mind and incorporate meditation in that rest period, do some breathing exercises. Sometimes just closing your eyes and listening to some good music puts us right where we need to be.  

The next time you find yourself endlessly “looking for inspirations” on Instagram, Pinterest, Deviantart, TikTok…., try one of the tips in this article, you may find the genius is within yourself.

When we procrastinate, we almost always doom our futures and create more stress. Time is not a commodity. We can never get it back and we should always be aware of that. When we waste time, we are wasting our most valuable resource. The key to beating procrastination is finding the right balance between short-term mood repairs and longer-term goals.

This is why Quest Depot is invaluable to people who procrastinate.  Quest Depot is an unconventional personal growth system that replaces goal setting guides, progress trackers, guided journals, reward charts, and automatically applies the right motivation methods for you and proven productivity proven tools and techniques, so you achieve and live life to the fullest!

It’s time to get things done. If you’re going to procrastinate, do it effectively and still achieve all of your goals every time. Give yourself a chance. There’s nothing to lose. Take your power back at Quest Depot today!

Why Do We Procrastinate And How Can We Beat The Urge?

Why Do We Procrastinate And How Can We Beat The Urge?

The problem with procrastination: by replacing important tasks with easy admin, we’re getting a … [+] Ever find yourself eagerly logging your expenses, or clearing the furthest reaches of your inbox while contemplating whether you’ll ever find the will to finish that report, crunch those numbers or fix that problem?

You’re not alone. Procrastination, which often means doing low-value tasks to avoid difficult, more important ones–or else doing things we enjoy rather than things we don’t–is all too common.

One theory is that it’s hyperbolic discounting in action: the tendency to choose smaller rewards now over larger rewards later.

This concept is normally applied to economics (do you want $10 today or $50 in five months’ time), but it applies here too because, by replacing important tasks with easy admin, we’re getting a really bad value exchange in return for a brief burst of satisfaction.

And for entrepreneurs, who ought to be solely focused on the jobs that are important and urgent, it’s a false efficiency. Succumbing to the draw of simple, repetitive tasks can become a serious issue for the health and growth of our businesses. So, how do we get a grip on it?

Gaining self-awareness

First, we must grasp why we procrastinate in the first place. A 2013 study by the University of Sheffield proposes that we are prioritizing the regulation of the mood of the present self over the consequences to the future self (another good reason to never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry).

Knowing this, we can convert a lengthy, difficult job into a series of smaller, more manageable steps that can be performed with speed, giving us the sense of satisfaction we crave.

Greater self-awareness can also help us work out if the jobs on our to-do list should be there at all. While it’s always useful to have a basic level of understanding about areas that lie outside your expertise, tasks you’re putting off may be best left to those who know more.

For example, you’ve identified a pressing problem in your business: your website is doing a poor job of turning visitors to customers, and it needs to be fixed as soon as possible.

This job is both important and urgent, because it’s hurting new business and your bottom line with every day that passes, but it’s also overwhelming if you don’t know what to fix.

So, let’s break it down and work out what the job really entails:

> Do some internet research and teach myself a little about website user behaviour and psychology, so I can be more informed Look at our analytics to see if these reveal anything obvious about my website’s failings Write a short project brief, outlining the problem and what a […]

Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control)

Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control)

If you’ve ever put off an important task by, say, alphabetizing your spice drawer, you know it wouldn’t be fair to describe yourself as lazy.

After all, alphabetizing requires focus and effort — and hey, maybe you even went the extra mile to wipe down each bottle before putting it back. And it’s not like you’re hanging out with friends or watching Netflix. You’re cleaning — something your parents would be proud of! This isn’t laziness or bad time management. This is procrastination.

If procrastination isn’t about laziness, then what is it about?

Etymologically, “procrastination” is derived from the Latin verb procrastinare — to put off until tomorrow. But it’s more than just voluntarily delaying. Procrastination is also derived from the ancient Greek word akrasia — doing something against our better judgment.

“It’s self-harm,” said Dr. Piers Steel, a professor of motivational psychology at the University of Calgary and the author of “The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done . ”

That self-awareness is a key part of why procrastinating makes us feel so rotten. When we procrastinate, we’re not only aware that we’re avoiding the task in question, but also that doing so is probably a bad idea. And yet, we do it anyway.

“This is why we say that procrastination is essentially irrational,” said Dr. Fuschia Sirois, professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield. “It doesn’t make sense to do something you know is going to have negative consequences.”

She added: “People engage in this irrational cycle of chronic procrastination because of an inability to manage negative moods around a task.” Wait. We procrastinate because of bad moods?

In short: yes.

Procrastination isn’t a unique character flaw or a mysterious curse on your ability to manage time, but a way of coping with challenging emotions and negative moods induced by certain tasks — boredom, anxiety, insecurity, frustration, resentment, self-doubt and beyond.

“Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem,” said Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa.

In a 2013 study, Dr. Pychyl and Dr. Sirois found that procrastination can be understood as “the primacy of short-term mood repair … over the longer-term pursuit of intended actions.” Put simply, procrastination is about being more focused on “the immediate urgency of managing negative moods” than getting on with the task, Dr. Sirois said.

The particular nature of our aversion depends on the given task or situation. It may be due to something inherently unpleasant about the task itself — having to clean a dirty bathroom or organizing a long, boring spreadsheet for your boss. But it might also result from deeper feelings related to the task, such as self-doubt, low self-esteem, anxiety or insecurity. Staring at a blank document, you might be thinking, I’m not smart enough to write this. Even if I am, what will people think of it? Writing is so hard. What if I do a bad job?

Why do we procrastinate, and how can we stop? Experts have answers.

If you’re reading this article instead of tackling one of the many projects you meant to do during the pandemic, or before starting the report due tomorrow at work, or as an alternative to changing your car’s year-old oil, feel no shame: This is a safe space, procrastinators, and you’re among friends.

Joseph Ferrari , a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago and author of “ Still Procrastinating?: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done ,” has found that about 20 percent of adults are chronic procrastinators. “That’s higher than depression, higher than phobia, higher than panic attacks and alcoholism. And yet all of those are considered legitimate,” he said. “We try to trivialize this tendency, but it’s not a funny topic.”

Ferrari was speaking while on a road trip with his wife, who chimed in to say that she’s a procrastinator. Her tendencies helped spur her husband’s research interests. He doesn’t procrastinate — he has a 107-page résumé, he said, because he gets things done — but he’s built a career around understanding those who do.

Among his findings: Chronic procrastination doesn’t discriminate based on gender, race or age; we’re all susceptible. As he put it: “Everybody procrastinates, but not everyone is a procrastinator.” And contrary to popular belief, procrastinating has little to do with laziness. It’s far more complicated, he said, than simply being a matter of time management.

To understand what causes procrastination (outside of conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, where executive functioning issues might interfere with task completion), it’s important to be clear about what it is — and isn’t. Procrastination is different from delaying a task because you need to talk to someone who isn’t available, or not getting around to reading a literary classic such as “Moby Dick.” Fuschia Sirois , a professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield in England, defines procrastination this way: “The voluntary, unnecessary delay of an important task, despite knowing you’ll be worse off for doing so.”

On its surface, procrastination is an irrational behavior, Sirois said: “Why would somebody put something off to the last minute, and then they’re stressed out of their mind, and they end up doing a poor job or less than optimal job on it? And then they feel bad about it afterward, and it may even have implications for other people.”

The reason, she said, has to do with emotional self-regulation — and, in particular, an inability to manage negative moods around a certain task. We usually don’t procrastinate on fun things, she said. We procrastinate on tasks we find “difficult, unpleasant, aversive or just plain boring or stressful.” If a task feels especially overwhelming or provokes significant anxiety, it’s often easiest to avoid it.

Another reason people procrastinate, Sirois said, is because of low self-esteem. One might think: “I’m never going to do this right,” or, “What will my boss think if I screw up?”