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The term procrastination is relatively new to psychology, despite the fact that the psychological essence of the phenomenon indicated by this term is familiar to everyone. Procrastination is a tendency to postpone the execution of necessary things until later. Thus, it is a behavioral pattern in which the activity leading for a person in a given period of time is deliberately delayed. A person remains active, but his activity is aimed at extraneous, insignificant, sometimes just meaningless activities. Therefore, it is critical to understand the underlying reasons behind procrastination.
A separate direction is dedicated to the study of the postponement of the implementation of educational tasks – academic procrastination. It is believed that the educational process is characterized by the conditions in which procrastination most often occurs, leading to negative consequences. Procrastination is one of the most significant factors causing learning difficulties (Brust et al., 2020).
Most students in secondary and higher educational institutions consider themselves procrastinators. Most of them say that they need professional help in overcoming procrastination. In this regard, many foreign colleges and universities provide students with the opportunity to attend special classes to combat procrastination and acquire adequate planning skills for educational activities, as well as prioritizing and allocating their time.
However, it is important to note that the development of theoretical knowledge about procrastination does not occur in-depth but in breadth. New concepts developed in this direction, in most cases, only complement the previous ones but do not refute them. On the one hand, this indicates the obvious versatility of the phenomenon under study. On the other hand, this also shows the need for research to analyze all the accumulated theoretical experience, and at the same time, take a look at procrastination as a phenomenon as a whole, on its essence.
Procrastination is a complex, multi-component phenomenon, and among them is the fact of postponement and the availability of deadlines. Procrastination is always followed by negative consequences, and procrastination, in turn, is always associated with negative emotions and experiences, such as anxiety and guilt. As a rule, in modern psychology, procrastination is understood as a negative phenomenon.
It is also possible to consider the inability to manage the situation as a consequence of procrastination, and it can be synonymous with passivity, pessimism, and maladaptation (Brust et al., 2020). However, in some studies, procrastination is defined as a partially positive phenomenon. In this case, the postponement of the task is justified by the reduction of negative manifestations preceding or accompanying its implementation.
Each person at least once in his life refused to carry out any actions and put them off, especially when it was necessary to do something under duress or under the pressure of circumstances or when there were doubts about the necessity and usefulness of the plan. However, with procrastination, a person lingers even when he is sure of the necessity and importance of action. He has no doubt that this is necessary, useful, necessary, and his plan should have been done yesterday.
He deliberately postpones the intended business, despite the fact that this will entail certain problems and complications. At the same time, he can perform small and insignificant tasks, to which he attaches greater importance than to the truly important. Procrastination can cause stress, guilt, decreased productivity, and discontent from others due to default (Munjal & Mishra, 2019). The combination of these feelings and excessive use of forces can provoke further procrastination.
Chronic procrastination can be caused by a hidden psychological or physiological ailment. Some people can work productively only when a strict time frame is set; the peak of their productivity falls on the last hours and minutes before the deadline. The main signs of procrastination are the lack of productivity and meaning in the actions taken, together with the constant postponement of the really important and useful.
To a certain extent, this is not a big deal since no man can work like a machine. Small breaks for rest and a change of activity affect overall productivity favorably. Therefore, another sign of procrastination is the negative consequences, such as a violation of the deadlines, failure of the planned projects, general dissatisfaction with their professional activities, possible personal and psychological problems.
Procrastination is, in a way, an expression of an emotional reaction to planned or necessary things. Depending on the nature of these emotions, procrastination is divided into two fundamental types. This is relaxed procrastination when a person spends time on other, more pleasant activities and entertainments, and a tense form associated with general overload, loss of a sense of time, dissatisfaction with one’s own achievements, unclear life goals, indecision, and self-doubt.
From the foregoing, one can single out the general featural causes of procrastination, such as irrationality, awareness, negative emotional experiences, and internal discomfort. Consequently, procrastination is a deliberate delay of affairs leading to negative consequences and accompanied by internal discomfort and negative emotional experiences. Procrastination is a heterogeneous phenomenon; its content varies depending on many factors; that is, it can be classified on various grounds.
It is also possible to identify five main forms of procrastination, which will reveal the linking causes behind this phenomenon. These types of procrastination include academic, that is, postponing preparation for verification work, homework, and procrastination in decision-making, including minor ones (Rebetez et al., 2018).
It is also worth highlighting the compulsive, which most often manifests itself as chronic procrastination in any situation, and neurotic, that is, procrastination in making vital decisions. In addition, there is household procrastination, or daily, that is, the inability to cope with routine, regular activities. Thus, in the general characteristic, only two types of procrastination can be stored in it, such as deferring the execution of tasks and deferring decision-making.
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It is also possible to categorize reasons behind procrastination according to the manifestations of this phenomenon depends on the personal characteristics of people and on their behavior strategies. There are indecisive people who are prone to putting off responsibility due to the pressure of the load, and such people are often peculiar and inherent in terms of genetic background (Gustavson et al., 2017).
There are also avoiding procrastinators, whose behavior is due to the desire not to perform subjectively unpleasant tasks, as well as to avoid evaluations from others. Thrill-seekers can be distinguished, and these are the aforementioned active procrastinators. They deliberately put off making important decisions because they like the feeling of the emotional upsurge that arises when doing things at the last moment. The aforementioned topic of individual-personality characteristics of procrastinators has been raised in many studies but still remains extremely relevant.
The fact is that a single model of the relationship of personality factors with the phenomenon of procrastination does not exist in psychology. Within this area, particular interest should be shown in the key reasons that are based on personality substructures and components directly related to procrastination. The studies show that there can be an evolutionary reason for procrastination (Chen & Chang, 2016).
These reasons may include cognitive characteristics, that is, the locus of control and perception of time, and characteristics of the emotional sphere such as anxiety, fear of failure, and guilt. In addition, it is important to include behavioral features such as lack of self-regulation skills, learning skills, the rigidity of behavioral patterns, disorganization, and biological factors, in other words, low concentration of attention and neuroticism. In addition, in the scientific works of recent years, the theme of the relationship of procrastination with self-control and perfectionism has often been raised.
It is possible to state that a low level of self-control or, conversely, a high level of perfectionism can become the determinants of putting off activities for later. The main disadvantage from which procrastinators suffer is excessive impulsivity (Rebetez et al., 2018). The larger the time gap between the present moment and the future event, the higher the likelihood that a person will choose pleasure “here and now” and not work for the future. In other words, this means that a person will postpone important activities with a delayed result to meet urgent but not so significant needs.
While discussing the practical importance of studying the phenomenon of procrastination, it is important to clarify that stable procrastination is observed in most people around the world. It should be borne in mind that in recent years the level of understanding of procrastination has grown and has a tendency to increase further. At the same time, the very existence of the postponement phenomenon contradicts the conditions of modern society, which makes special demands on the productivity, independence, and responsibility of the individual.
Thus, procrastination is a conscious tendency to postpone the implementation of leading activities, accompanied by internal discomfort and leading to negative consequences; that is, this is a complex, complex psychological concept. In psychology, further studies of this problem are necessary, which would allow developing theoretical knowledge about the nature of procrastination, the psychological phenomena associated with it, and its structure.
In conclusion, procrastination is a complex phenomenon, which, based on the basic theories that explain it, includes: a behavioral component, a cognitive component, an emotional component, as well as a subconscious component. Modern society makes high demands on the responsibility, independence, and productivity of the individual. The study of procrastination is very significant and relevant, especially when the problems and difficulties that arise simply cannot be associated with human laziness and disinterest in performing the necessary activities.
Thus, the phenomenon of procrastination is a complex psychological concept that should not be fully identified with protective mechanisms or impaired motivational processes. This issue requires further study and deeper research, which will clarify the available data on the nature of procrastination, its components, and possible correlations with other psychological characteristics of the person.
Brust, O. A., Häder, M., & Häder, S. (2020). Procrastination and participation in telephone surveys. Bulletin of Sociological Methodology, 145(1), 80-99. Web.
Chen, B.-B., & Chang, L. (2016). Procrastination as a fast life history strategy. Evolutionary Psychology, 14(1), 1-5. Web.
Gustavson, D. E., du Pont, A., Hatoum, A. S., Rhee, S. H., Kremen, W. S., Hewitt, J. K., & Friedman, N. P. (2017). Genetic and environmental associations between procrastination and internalizing/externalizing psychopathology. Clinical Psychological Science, 5(5), 798-815. Web.
Munjal, S., & Mishra, R. (2019). Associative impact of personality orientation and levels of stress on procrastination in middle-level managers. Indian Journal of Public Administration, 65(1), 53-70. Web.
Rebetez, M. M. L., Rochat, L., Barsics, C., & Van der Linden, M. (2018). Procrastination as a self-regulation failure: The role of impulsivity and intrusive thoughts. Psychological Reports, 121(1), 26-41. Web.