Jan 302012
Authors: Carrie Mobley

Everyone does it, though they don’t like to admit it.

With assignments, class and deadlines, procrastination is a problem among many college students. But just how big of a problem is it?

A recent study conducted by Dr. Joseph Ferarri, a professor at DePaul University in Chicago, found that about 20 percent of Americans are chronic procrastinators in all areas of their lives.

“We are a nation of ‘doers,’” said Ferarri in an interview with the American Psychological Association, “but we are also, like people from other industrialized nations, a people of ‘waiters.’”

According to Dr. Michael Steger, an associate professor in the Psychology department at CSU, procrastination can be attributed to something deeper than just “waiting.”

“In some ways, people are always caught between competing impulses to do what seems appealing in the moment versus what needs to be done to accomplish some far-off goal,” Steger said in an email to the Collegian.

“Some people have argued that the part of us that seems rooted in the moment is the evolutionarily oldest part of us, and is the most like other organisms,” Steger added.

CSU student JoDee Hambright said she thinks our human instincts contribute largely to procrastination tendencies.

“Well I’m a sophomore and still undeclared. For me procrastination is a huge problem,” Hambright said. “It’s all about not wanting to think about the future and take that next step into the unknown.”

“One thing I do to work on my procrastination is to set goals for myself and the things I want to do,” Hambright added. “Obviously the system I had set for myself was not working, so it needed to change.”

Similarly, Steger argues that the important part to overcoming chronic procrastination is to remember the long-term and short-term benefits or “reinforcements” that each action will have.

“Imagine someone who is supposed to study for a complex course. If he (or she) doesn’t study, and chooses to hang out on the computer or watch TV, then those activities feel good, and the irritation of studying is avoided,” he said. “If he (or she) does study, then the fun activities go away, and the hard work of studying takes its place.”

“It’s easy to see the appeal of studying when the reinforcement is broken down,” Steger added.

In the end, it comes down to each individual and what he or she is willing to try to accomplish.

“The thing not to do is get down on yourself and start to label yourself a “procrastinator.” It’s tough enough to get everything done without creating a paralyzed self-image,” Steger said. “Everyone can get something done.”

Collegian writer Carrie Mobley can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Professor Steger’s tips and tricks to avoid procrastinating:

* Establish a set schedule of what to do and when
* Reward yourself for completing tasks in a timely manner
* Link things you are avoiding to positive outcomes (studying to getting a better grade)
* Schedule downtime AFTER completing a task instead of before

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