Shocking study

95 per cent of university students procrastinate

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A recent study by a University of Calgary professor sheds new light on the topic of procrastination and suggests 95 per cent of university students procrastinate.

The study, conducted by Professor Piers Steel, was published in Psychological Survey. It claimed chronic procrastinators make up 15 to 20 per cent of the population.

In his review of academic research, Steel found impulsiveness to be a personality trait contributing to procrastination in adults because it makes individuals value the present over the future.

Steel suggests people procrastinate when they’re uncertain about a task, when the task isn’t rewarding, or when the rewards aren’t immediate.

Steel said the review is important because “[procrastination] is a human condition, and it is rising. It affects people adversely, but people are misinformed about it.”

He said there are many theories about procrastination, but not all are true. For example, one theory relates procrastination to perfectionists.

While low self esteem is a contributing factor, Steel said confident people can also procrastinate.

“It is when a task is aversive, can be pushed back, and has no set deadlines, that people mostly procrastinate,” he said. “Taking out the garbage [is a prime example].”

Steel describes “the ultimate procrastinator” as young, spontaneous, surrounded by temptation and working on something he or she hates.

“As we get older, we procrastinate less,” Steel said. “It starts decreasing by the mid 20s.”

Although only 75 per cent of university students admit they procrastinate, Steel suggests the numbers are higher. He said university students have self-discipline issues, deal with distant deadlines, and are surrounded by temptation, all of which lead to procrastination. A university student on average spends one-third of the day procrastinating.

As for pointers to avoid procrastination, Steel suggested breaking long-term goals into more attainable daily goals and performing tasks when one is the most energetic.

He also said it would help to distance oneself from those temptations since it plays a major role in procrastination.

“That is the reason why a lot of people prefer working in offices as opposed to working at home, and why students study better at the library than in dorm rooms,” Steel said.

Tracey Ropp, a learning skills counsellor for Student Development Services at Western, recommended students make their own schedules and set deadlines for themselves to avoid procrastination.

Students can also get help with time management and organizational skills by booking an appointment with SDS.

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