Sunday, January 14, 2007

in which jeremy retypes highlights from someone else's article

Tonight I read this Psychological Bulletin article on procrastination* that was featured in the news and that I mentioned in my post about the Kiwi Cloak quasi-coercive anti-procrastination tool. Beyond whatever personal-practical interests I might have in better understanding procrastination, I also find it interesting as someone in sociology who is interested in rational choice, both because procrastination is perhaps by definition irrational and it's also a great example of something people experience as an individual failing even though there's ample reason to think that it has much to do with the social-cognitive environments in which people find themselves.

Anyway, not that the article is especially splendid, but it's a good systematic review of the area and I did found myself typing in parts as I read it. I've decided to re-arrange and present a dozen quotes here. Not that anybody who reads this blog procrastinates, but I thought maybe some of you might know someone, or know someone who knows someone, and thus perhaps parts will either resonate or not with what your thoughts about procrastination.
  • "[T]o procrastinate is to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay." (p. 66)
  • "The intention-action gap refers to the degree to which people follow up on their original work plans. Most procrastination researchers suppose that delaying is not only irrational but unintentional... Failure to act upon one's intentions is quintessentially self-regulatory failure [cite], almost the definition of low self control." (p. 70)
  • "Several studies have linked procrastination to individual performance, with the procrastinator performing more poorly overall [cites] and to individual well-being, with the procrastinator being more miserable in the long-term [cites]" (p. 65)
  • "The first actual historical analysis on procrastination was written by Milgram (1992), who argued that technically advanced societies required numerous committments and deadlines, which gives rise to procrastination." (p. 66)
  • "Kachgal et al. (2001) believed that procrastination is on the rise. This would be consistent with the increase in other forms of self-regulatory failure (e.g., obesity, gambling, excessive debt) over the last 25 years [cites]." (p. 71)
  • "[J]obs are expected to become more unstructured or at least self-structured [cites]. The absence of imposed direction means that the competent worker must create the order--he or she must self-manage or self-regulate [cite]. As structure continues to decrease, the opportunity for workers to procrastinate will concomitantly increase. Furthermore, the prevalence and availability of temptation, for example, in the forms of computer gaming or Internet messaging, should continue to exacerbate the problem of procrastination." (p. 84)
  • "[A] poor mood itself may not only result from procrastination but also create it." (p. 70)
  • "Procrastinators tended to spend more time on projects if they were likely to fail, whereas the opposite relationship was seen for nonprocrastinators [cite]." (p. 77)
  • "As O'Donoghue and Rabin (1999) concluded, 'Many people who procrastinate only moderately do so not because of intrinsic self-control, but because they have developed schemes to overcome procrastination.'" (p. 71)
  • "Researchers should be able to reduce procrastination simply by adjusting situational aspects, specifically the proximity to temptation and prevalence of stimulus cues. A good example is e-mail, with over 90% of college computer users reporting that they use it to delay irrationally [cites]. Because the e-mail icon is perpetually in the field of view, and its access borders on the instantaneous, simply making e-mail less visible or delaying access to it should decrease procrastination." (p. 82)
  • "For Kuhl and Goschke (1994), 'The repeated use of strict time schedules... fosters the formation of behavioral habits that circumvent conflicts with competing tendencies by establishing quasi-automatic trigger conditions.'" (p. 83)
  • "A considerable amount of reesarch has shown that goal setting does reduce procrastination. Boice (1989) found that daily writing goals helped to keep academic writers on a healthy schedule of publications... Ariely and Wertenbroch (2002) investigated goal setting (specifically, creating deadlines to prevent procrastination), finding that they were effective, but more effective when set by other people." (p. 83)
*Steel, Piers. 2007. "The Nature of Procrastination: A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review of Quintessential Self-Regulatory Failure." Psychological Bulletin 133:65-94.


Anonymous said...

Hah, this almost made me feel guilty, since I haven't began to study for exams yet.

Anonymous said...

Is it at all funny to you that the post immediately following one about you getting early tenure (further, early tenure at Wisconsin) touched on personal issues with procrastination?

I'll bet there are lots of procrastinators who would love to be as successful as you. ;)

Ang said...

The first quote is interesting, I think. I procrastinate as much as the next person, sometimes expecting the situation to suffer as a result,but rarely does the situation actually suffer all that much. In fact, I haven't really had to pay too dearly at all for putting off work. Most of the time, no one can even tell the difference when I actually do get ahead and knock myself on my ass for a project.

Teddy Love said...

Anon 6:43 is right my dear. While I know your issues with procrastination must be horribly painful for you, I (many of us!) would LOVE to be as successful as you, in spite of my shortcomings and struggles and alas, I shall likely never be ... so, uhm, maybe if you spent less time worrying about procrastinating and more time celebrating how wildly successful you've been and how eclectic your interests/talents are, etc., you'll be even MORE wildly successful ... and well, maybe you'll be able to sleep too :))

Anonymous said...

I think there's also a deeper question with procrastination for me. I procrastinate when I'm kind of lost, when I need to be writing but am not quite sure where I'm going with this. So it seems like sometimes procrastination is a sympton for me, not a cause. I wonder if anyone else feels this way.

jeremy said...

Rebecca: I hope it was at least a highbrow sort of guilt.

Anon/TL: I will not on this happy blog discuss the various albatrosses of feelings of underachievement and fraudhood I wear slung about my neck. My understanding is there are common at all different kinds of academic departments.

Ang: I think you are right that a lot of times the feeling that one really should be doing something else, it's not actually that big a deal that one actually be doing that something else.

Anon: Yes, I often feel like I procrastinate the most when I know in the abstract I'm supposed to be working on something but don't have any great sense of what the next steps should be. Which is a species of procrastination, at least insofar as one isn't doing the things to figure out what one should do.

Anonymous said...

The wonderful thing is, when/if you settle down and have a relationship and/or children, you suddenly are not the primary focus. Putting someone else first, especially a child or a partner you love, can make you realize hey it's not always about me.

If you want somebody else in your life, make sure there's room for another ego. Procrastination is a bit like immaturity in this way, boy wonder.

Sister A said...

The more I have to do, the more I procrastinate. I can't seem to get going because the projects are too overwhelming. Instead of just chipping away, little by little, to move forward, I do nothing. UNLESS, I make a list of things to do each day. For some reason, when I write down my daily goals, I achieve them.