Joseph Ferrari, a DePaul University professor of psychology and a recognized specialist on procrastination, has performed multiple research on why students put off critical tasks. He says that when it comes to overcoming procrastination, most people tend to follow one of two paths: changing how they think or changing what they do.
Ferrari believes that many people try to overcome procrastination by thinking differently- for example, by using "if-then" plans or setting aside specific times each day to work on important tasks- but this approach rarely works long term because it requires very strong will power that not everyone has. Instead, he recommends that people change what they do by engaging in more rewarding activities or removing barriers to getting things done. For example, if you find that planning ahead makes you anxious, you could consider breaking down big projects into smaller pieces that can be completed over time.
Ferrari has published several articles on procrastination and has four books to his name: Three Books on Procrastination (2014), Why We Procrastinate (2016), Overcoming Procrastination (2018), and Living with Uncertainty (2019).
He received his bachelor's degree in psychology from San Diego State University and went on to get his master's and doctoral degrees there as well.
At such time, taking a little pause and engaging in a calming activity is the best answer. His work shows that when we try to force ourselves to do something, our brains will always find a way to resist.
The most effective way to deal with procrastination is by taking small steps. This means starting small, even if you feel like you cannot do it, and then building up your ability to cope with stress and pressure over time.
For now, set a timer for every task you need to finish. If you want to read for more than 20 minutes, set a timer for that too. When the timer goes off, you will be forced to stop reading or writing immediately which will help you avoid getting distracted by other things around you.
You should also make sure that you are not doing anything that is going to cause you further stress. If you know that watching television will only make you feel bad about yourself because of all the junk food commercials that you watch, then don't let others convince you to give it a try. Instead, find another form of entertainment that doesn't involve being bombarded with advertising.
Finally, remember that success comes from constant effort and improvement, not perfectionism.
"What I've discovered is that, while everyone procrastinates, not everyone is a procrastinator," explains APS Fellow Joseph Ferrari, a psychology professor at DePaul University. He is a pioneer in current study on the problem, and his studies indicate that up to 20% of the population is a chronic procrastinator.
In addition to being human, we also become more or less susceptible to procrastination as we get older. Some research suggests that as many as one in four adults over the age of 55 is a chronic procrastinator. However, younger procrastinators are out there too, just more likely to be born into already-hectic families or schools where delay of gratification isn't as important.
It's true that not every person who delays gratification is going to be a good leader; however, this doesn't mean that leadership is hard for some people and not others. Instead, it means that some people have natural tendencies toward delay of gratification/self-control while others don't. There are always exceptions to rules, but in general, we become more or less susceptible to procrastination as we get older.
Now, before you go thinking that you're one of these "twenty percent", let me tell you that no one really knows why some people are chronic procrastinators and others aren't. Some researchers believe that it has something to do with our inherent nature, while others think it's based on how we were raised.
According to Mahesh Garkoti, clever individuals are more inclined to delay on mundane activities since they are focusing on more important things. Adam Grant, a Wharton psychologist, believes that delay is essential for invention and that Steve Jobs exploited it purposefully. He added that "all great creators were known for their capacity for delayed gratification."
There are two types of procrastinators: those who delay tasks that require cognitive effort (like writing reports) and those who delay rewards that require physical effort (like exercising). The former group is made up of thinkers who want to avoid making decisions until all the facts are available. The latter group includes actors who don't want to spend their time working out before a show.
People with ADHD tend to be both cognitively and physically lazy. Since planning ahead is difficult for them, they often fail to prepare adequately for classes or work projects. When it comes to delaying rewards, they may spend hours playing video games instead of going for a run.
As you can see, smart people are prone to delay because it helps them focus on what's most important. However, excessive procrastination can be a problem for those with ADHD since it results in missing deadlines and failing tests. In addition, impulsive individuals who act first and think later risk getting themselves into trouble by doing something risky like driving home from school without wearing a seatbelt.