The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Procrastination is the deferment or putting-off of an action or task, usually by focusing on some other distraction (compare temporisation). It is Latin for "foremorrowsing," or making some such of tomorrow.

The allure of putting off an unpleasant task is pervasive in our society, a fact which has given rise to jokes and cliches such as "never put off until tomorrow that which you can put off until the day after tomorrow". Procrastination can be as benign as waiting until the last minute to file one's taxes, or never cleaning out the garage. But procrastination can be a persistent trait in some people, known as chronic procrastinators. In these people, it can be a self-destructive state where the procrastinator can get nothing accomplished on time, resulting in serious career struggles, persistent financial problems, and diminished quality of life.

Traditionally, procrastination has been associated with perfectionism, a tendency to negatively evaluate outcomes and one's own performance, intense fear and avoidance of evaluation of one's abilities by others, heightened social self-consciousness and anxiety, recurrent low mood, and workaholism. However, research indicates that perfectionists are not any more likely to procrastinate, though they do feel worse about it when they do put things off. It may cause significant psychological disability and dysfunction in many dimensions of life over time. Procrastinators typically have significantly lower academic grades, worse health, and make less money than non-procrastinators. There is, unfortunately, widespread ignorance about this problem, even amongst mental health professionals, where procrastination is often trivially thought of in its simplest and most benign forms. In fact, many individuals who consider themselves to be "chronic procrastinators" are actually suffering from an underlying mental health problem such as depression or ADD. These individuals frequently do not understand why they cannot "get it together", and can become resigned to a life of shame, underachievement, and constant struggle. Often these disorders can be treated with medication and psychotherapy, whereby the individual can learn new behaviors and achieve a greatly improved quality of life. Thus it is important for people who chronically struggle with debilitating procrastination to see a trained therapist or psychiatrist to see if an underlying mental health issue may present.

Procrastination is also common in students of all ages. Academic procrastination, as it is known, can simply be a symptom of Senioritis (an imaginary syndrome seen in students nearing the end of high school and college). However some students struggle with serious procrastination problems as a result of poor study skills, feeling overwhelmed in a new school, or a learning disorder such as dyslexia or ADD. Teachers, guidance counselors, and others in school administration should be trained to help with these issues when they arise, and many colleges and universities offer classes, coaching, and tutoring in study skills for students who are struggling with procrastination or a learning disorder.

Severe procrastination or ADD can also cross over into computer addiction. In this instance the individual has a compulsion to surf the web or play video games. Although internet addiction is a relatively new phenomenon, it is already being considered as a valid psychiatric diagnosis by mental health professionals.

The term is referenced as a proverb: "Procrastination is the thief of time." This conveys the meaning that deferment is both negative and wasteful of the time on which the action could properly be completed. Don Marquis neatly parodied this adage with the following: "Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday."

Procrastination is considered a virtue by some groups such as slackers and the Church of the SubGenius.

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Last updated: 05-07-2005 07:59:27
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04