In the following study guild, I talk about procrastination. What it is, the effects, the causes, and the solutions to overcome it. This study guild combines research findings from academic articles and personal knowledge about psychology. No where else can you find an article better explained about procrastination. The purpose is to provide readers with comprehensive explanations about procrastination.
What is procrastination?
To keep it simple, procrastination is the delaying of tasks that require immediate attention. An instance of this for school is when projects or preparation for a test are left until the night before.
What are the effects of procrastination?
The effects of procrastination are maladaptive to productivity and quality performance. Procrastination produces anxiety and poor work performance. Without procrastination, a lot more goals can be accomplished.
Why does procrastination occur?
From the behavioral perspective, procrastination is learnt. It occurs through repeated reinforcement. Tasks produce anxiety. When procrastination occurs, the human leaves the task and focus on one that produces less anxiety. This leads to comfort. This comfort becomes the reinforcement. This behavior repeats until it becomes a habit. Once the habit is fixated and affects many aspects of life, it becomes a behavioral disorder.
What causes procrastination?
The causes of procrastination can be divided into environment or biology. Environment refers to the surrounding conditions while biology the genes. Both environment and biology interacts. This results in complex relationships between environment and gene known as epigenesis.
How does biology affect procrastination?
Biology are rooted in the genes. From early point in birth, chromosomal genes are inherited from our parents who inherit their from theirs. Genes are rooted in our ancestry and have evolved and are passed on to us. Genes affect personality, self-esteem, and physiology. They all of which are factors that leads to procrastination.
Biological Cause 1: Personality
Personality defines who we are. This includes our genetic make up. They are the Big Five traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. Of these Big Five traits, conscientiousness controls tasks persistency while openness intellect, creativity, and willingness to learn. Because people score differently on these traits, with some being higher or lower on conscientiousness, they are affected by procrastination varyingly.
Conscientiousness controls persistency. Therefore, the more conscientious an individual is the more likely one continues to work on a hard task.
Openness controls intellect, creativity and willingness to learn. Therefore, the more opened an individual is, the more likely one is to want feedback on how to improve. Open people are more likely to see flaws in their personality and actions and learn from them.
Hence, scoring high on conscientiousness or openness is likely to produce a person who procrastinates less.
Biological Cause 2– Self-esteem
Self-esteem is the perception of one self when compared to the ideal self. One feels more accepting if his current self matches his ideal self. If ideal self is too far away from the current self, the individual experiences low self-esteem.
Low self-esteem deprives confidence. This confidence then affects task performance, because it affects how one feel towards one’s own work skills and ability to change. Thus, someone high in self-esteem is more likely to feel positive towards self, have more confidence, and think that one can excel. Thinking so one will.
Biological Cause 3 – Physiology and the Brain
Procrastination is linked to attentiveness, level of impulsivity, and planning. All of which are linked to the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Individuals damaged here will procrastinate.
Hence, let’s take a look at each one and how each affects procrastination.
a) Attention -is ability to concentrate on a task while inhabiting distracting stimuli. An example of excellent attention is studying at a public place and blocking out the noises nearby. Hence, the more attentive an individual is, the less likely his or her mind wanders.
b) Impulsiveness – is ability to delay gratification. An example that tests this is when a friend tells you to go somewhere, but you can say no. In addition, do you guys see how impulsiveness ties in with Freud’s work and the ID ? The ID operates on the pleasure principle and wants immediate pleasure. Therefore, someone high on impulsivity is more likely to procrastinate, because he or she cannot wait.
c) Planning – is ability to estimate how long a task will take and schedule times appropriately to accomplish it. It is surprising that planning is a trait you are born with, but never the less, you can always work on it. For example, learning how to break tasks down so that they become manageable.
In conclusion, the sources of procrastination are rooted in biology. Personality traits such as conscientiousness and openness affect how hard we try and want to learn. Self-esteem affects how confident we feel about improving. While the prefrontal cortex affects ability to attend, focus, and plan. All in which are control by genes.
Procrastination is rooted in biology, but it is also controlled by the environment. Motivation, distractions, and mood are causes by environment. Let’s have a look at each one and examine how each contributes to procrastination.
Environmental Cause Number 1 – Motivation
Motivation gives reasons to do a task. Low motivation is a source of procrastination. This is often true when deciding whether a task is worth time and effort. Hence beliefs affect motivation, and by changing beliefs, a task can motivate us more or less. To illustrate the power of beliefs, here’s a following passage from Celestine Chua in her how to overcome procrastination blog page. In it, she talks about her early school years where her interests lies in web design and is disinterested towards unrelated school work. Hence, she does not get very good grades. However, excellence is a part of her self-concept. It is important to her that she is not a failure. Therefore, she later learns to redefine what excellence means to her. In doing so, she makes sure to do everything excellently. Hence, she starts doing very well in classes and eventually graduates as the top student in university. In addition to her success, she is now the life coach and writer of The Personal Excellence Blog. In summary, re-evaluating the reasons to do a task increases motivation. Greater motivation means less procrastination. Hence, the next time, you start on a task, list a few reasons why you are doing it and what you hope to accomplish.
Environmental Cause Number 2 –Distractions
Distraction is anything that sways us from focusing on a task. They can be divided into those that require immediate attention and those that don’t. Those that do are called important distractions and those that don’t non-important. Here’s a linkto a list of each.
Recognizing non-important distractions decrease procrastination, because it makes you aware. Being aware prompts one to take measures.
Here’s a following guild on how to avoid distractions:
1. Recognize what distractions are and what are distracting you. For example, ask yourself if it is msn. If the log in sign that is popping up when somebody logs in is making you talk to them. If so, then log off.
2. After recognizing what is distracting you, find ways to avoid them. General ways include studying at the library, with a hardworking friend, disabling face book. Library is a quiet place to study so it helps you focus. Secondly, seeing other people study motivates you to study.
3. Lastly, learn to delay gratification. To say “NO” when a friend requests you to go somewhere.
Environmental Cause Number 3 –Mood & Energy
Mood fluctuates from hours to hours. It is affected by how much energy we have. The less energy, in most cases the less positive we are. An instance of this is getting home from work and feeling too tired to study. Hence, mood and energy affects procrastination.
In a better mood and energy state, we are more inclined to get tasks done. We become more productive. And when we are not, less so. Hence, it is important to be in the mood to study.
Here are some tips to help you be in the right mood:
1. Having a proper sleeping pattern. Studies have shown that at least 8 hours of sleep is necessary to get us functioning for the next 16 hours. Furthermore, a regular sleeping pattern maintains normal level of hormone productions that makes us healthy.
2. Reserving or saving up energy for studying. If you find yourself really tire after coming home from school, make sure you take a short nap to replenish that.
3. Physical exercise. Studies have shown that jogs reduce stress. This means increased positive feelings.
4. Study free of distractions. Distractions affect mood. Just simply listening to music can change your mood, because music has emotional implications.
Environmental Cause Number 4 – Task Difficulty and Need for Perfection
Task difficulty refers to how hard it is to complete a task. Need for perfection is the desire to do a great job. They both cause procrastination, because they produce anxiety. This anxiety is the result of cognitive dissonance, what we call when we experience two conflicting perspectives. In procrastination, we want to succeed, but one hand, realize that the task is too hard. Hence, anxiety results.
When anxiety results, we close our mind. We become discouraged, and we start questioning ourselves. “How do I begin? Can I accomplish this? If so, how long would it take?” Hence, we spend time thinking everything through.
However, the process can be made easier. Here are some tips to overcome anxiety. First with respect to task difficulty, seek teachers, friends, or internet for help. Do some research into the topic. Inspire yourself for ideas. Break big tasks down into smaller ones. We often see it as a whole and this makes everything look harder than it should be. Plan when to get your tasks done. This encourages you to make quick decisions. Secondly with need for perfection, lower your expectations. Realize that the task is difficult. That you may not do a very good job at first but will try your best and learn from it.
In summary, procrastination is a learnt habit with maladaptive consequences affecting productivity and quality performance. Procrastination is the result of both biology and environment. Biology such as personality traits like conscientiousness and openness affect how hard we try and want to learn. Self-esteem affects confidence and believing that you can improve. While the prefrontal cortex affects ability to attend, focus, and plan. Personality, self-esteem, attention, impulsivity, and planning decide who is more or less likely to procrastinate. As for environment, motivations, distractions, mood, energy, task difficulty, and perfectionism contributes to procrastination. Motivation provides reasons for persisting. Recognizing non-important distractions encourages attention. Excellent mood and energy fuels inspiration. Reduced task difficulty and need for perfection minimize anxiety. All in which interacts together to affect procrastination, and recognizing what controls you can provide ways to overcome them.
From this study guild, I hope the readers now have comprehensive knowledge about what procrastination is, how it occurs, what causes it, and many ways to overcome it. My ultimate goal through this project is to help everyone lead a more productive, brilliant, and successful life in this and the next few years. In addition, hopefully, many will fulfill their New Year’s Resolution.
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