Don't Delay

Understanding procrastination and how to achieve our goals

Procrastination Is . . .

YouTube, procrastination is . . .

Have you ever procrastinated? Of course you have. So, you've got to watch this YouTube Video - Procrastination. It will make you smile. It will make you think.

Procrastination is writing thank you letters, it's not writing thank you letters. Procrastination is . . .

In our research, we've found that procrastination is anything and everything. A task itself can rarely, if ever, define procrastination as the video captures so beautifully (bravo Johnny Kelly, Bryan Quinn, Sue Harding, John Mark, Fonic Studios, Mike Wyeld, and The Royal College of Art!).

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In our study, "Five days of emotion: An Experience sampling study of undergraduate student procrastination," my thesis students and I used pagers to collect data from undergrads throughout the week. This is known as experience sampling, as we sample our research participants' experiences in real time. This can be done in many ways. In our case, every time we signaled a research participant with an electronic pager beep, he or she would complete some questionnaires in a small binder we supplied (of course, more modern technologies like Palm pilots are a lot more convenient).

I will return to the findings of our research in terms of emotion in another blog entry. For today, I simply want to report what we found as it relates to the YouTube video above.

What were students doing when they were or were not procrastinating?

Of the 1800 pager signals that were administered to the 45 participants, the participants responded to 1485 (82.5%) of these by completing the Experience Sampling form in their binders. Of these 1485 behavioral samples, participants reported that they were procrastinating 537 times (36.2%) which supports previous research which concluded that procrastination is a habitual activity of university students.

At the time participants were paged, they were asked to indicate the activity or task in which they were currently engaged. Here's a list of typical or representative activities.

Not Procrastinating
Studying
Reading
Sleeping
Eating
Working (job, not academic)
Watching television
Talking with family or friends

Procrastinating
Watching television
Sleeping
Talking with family or friends
Playing a game/fooling around
Eating
Working (job, not academic)
Talking on the phone

It is of interest to note that apart from the specific academic projects such as studying or reading, it is not possible to determine on the basis of the activity itself whether a participant is procrastinating. For example, both watching TV and sleeping were listed activities when students reported they were doing what they intended to or should do, as well as when they were procrastinating. Activity content itself is not a definable aspect of procrastination.

That's what I love about this YouTube video. It creatively captures how we can avoid our intended activities by doing just about anything, even 8 things at once!

The best is near the end, I think. Procrastination - "It's trying to avoid the inevitable." The picture here? A coffin.

 

 

 

Even in this light-hearted project on procrastination, the realization is captured so well - procrastination is a deeply existential issue. For those who are really bothered by procrastination, it's about not getting on with life itself, while trying to avoid the inevitable reality of life. I guess that's why I'm such a fan of the re-emergence of existentialism in psychology with Experimental Existential Psychology.

Procrastination is . . . a fascinating topic, don't you think?

References

Pychyl, T.A., Lee, J.M., Thibodeau, R., & Blunt, A. (2000). Five days of emotion: An Experience sampling study of undergraduate student procrastination. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 15, 239-254

 

Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D., is an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, where he specializes in the study of procrastination.

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