Everyone procrastinates to some extent. Some of us, however, claim to do it on purpose. This type of ‘procrastination’, called active procrastination, describes those who enjoy working under a tight deadline, and intentionally put off tasks to do so.
However, according to Griffith University PhD candidate Jason Wessel, the notion of active procrastination is a myth.
In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences, Mr Wessel and colleagues tracked 80 undergraduate students’ assignment progress over a two-week period, and whether they thought they delayed for positive reasons (motivated by pressure closer to deadline, active procrastination) or put things off against their will (passive procrastination).
The researchers found that higher passive procrastination was related to greater delay in assignment progress, while active procrastinators did not actually delay compared to non-procrastinators.
“The study showed that people who thought they put things off on purpose did not actually refrain from working on a task any more than people who didn’t think they procrastinated.”
So why does this matter?
“One of the many problems with procrastination is, for the passive procrastinators who suffer with it, believing the narrative that others actually thrive under the pressure of a deadline can further reduce an already struggling motivation. The truth is the longer we delay, the stress of the deadline tends to hurt our performance, wellbeing, and health.
“Understanding that active procrastination is a myth can help us face up to the idea that putting things off is unlikely to help, despite how nice it may be to tell ourselves so.”
Mr Wessel’s study is the first to show that self-reported active procrastinators do not actually delay.
So next time you find yourself wondering if you can put off work because the motivating pressure will help you, think again.