[Paleopsych] CHE: Tomorrow, I Love Ya!

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Tomorrow, I Love Ya!
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.12.9
[Colloquy transcript appended.

[This is a great discussion of procrastination. But, as always, events and 
processes that have multiple causes are nearly impossible to diagnose. The 
author is very much part of the therapeutic culture, while a great many on my 
list are right-wing hold-'em-responsible sorts. It's true that driving up the 
cost of any behavior, including procrastination, will result in less of it. 
But, at least in today's society, blaming the individual can well result in a 
downward spiral, as is certainly suggested by the author.

[Those who need disciplining the most are also those with the worst problems to 
begin with. So both genes and society conspire against them.]

Tomorrow, I Love Ya!

    Researchers are learning more about chronic dawdlers but see no
    easy cure for procrastination
    Related materials

    Colloquy: Join a [55]live, online discussion with Joseph R.
    Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University who studies
    chronic procrastination, about what, if anything, can be done to
    help students who suffer from it, on Wednesday, December 7, at 2:30
    p.m., U.S. Eastern time.


    Joseph R. Ferrari has a name for people who dillydally all the
    time. Sometimes, he spits out the term as if it were stale gum or a
    polysyllabic cuss word. When he dubs you a "chronic
    procrastinator," however, he does not mean to insult you. He is
    just using the psychological definition for someone who habitually
    puts things off until tomorrow, or next week, or whenever. The
    afflicted need not feel lonely: Research suggests that the planet
    is crawling with dawdlers.

    Procrastinators vex Mr. Ferrari, a psychology professor at DePaul
    University, yet he owes much to the dilatorily inclined. Without
    them he could not have helped blaze a trail of inquiry into
    procrastination (the word comes from the Latin verb
    procrastinare -- "to defer until morning"). The professor is as
    prompt as the sports car that shares his name, but he sees the
    symptoms of compulsive stalling everywhere.

    Mr. Ferrari and other scholars from around the world are finding
    that procrastination is more complex -- and pervasive -- than
    armchair analysts might assume. And helping people climb out of
    their pits of postponement is not as simple as giving them a pill
    or a pep talk.

    The task is particularly challenging in the hothouses of
    procrastination known as college campuses. Free time, long-term
    deadlines, and extracurricular diversions conspire against academic
    efficiency. Students are infamous for not tackling their
    assignments until the jaws of deadlines are closing.

    Professors may call such students slackers or sloths; psychologists
    define them as "academic procrastinators." According to recent
    studies, about 70 percent of college students say they typically
    procrastinate on starting or finishing their assignments (an
    estimated 20 percent of American adults are chronic

    Choosing to do one task while temporarily putting another on hold
    is simply setting priorities, which allows people to cross things
    off their to-do lists one at a time. Procrastination is when one
    keeps reorganizing that list so that little or nothing on it gets

    For some students, that inertia has costs. Researchers say academic
    procrastination raises students' anxiety and sinks their
    self-esteem. The behavior also correlates with some of higher
    education's thorniest problems, including depression, cheating, and
    plagiarism among students.

    Dozens of colleges have created counseling sessions or workshops
    for procrastinators. Yet Mr. Ferrari and other researchers say many
    institutions treat the problem superficially instead of helping
    students analyze their own thought processes and behavioral
    patterns in order to change them. Give a hard-core procrastinator
    nothing more than time-management tips, they warn, and you might as
    well hand him a page of hieroglyphics.

    "Telling a chronic academic procrastinator to 'just do it' is not
    going to work," Mr. Ferrari says. "It's like telling a clinically
    depressed person to cheer up."

    Learning About Loafers

    Laggards have always been tough cases. Even God could not inspire
    St. Augustine of Hippo, the fourth-century philosopher and
    theologian, to act right away. As he slowly came to accept
    Christianity, Augustine wrote in Confessions, the future bishop
    wavered. Clinging to temporal pleasures, Augustine famously asked
    of God: "Give me chastity and continency -- but not yet."

    Late in his life, Leonardo da Vinci, the genius who missed
    deadlines, lamented his unfinished projects. Shakespeare's Hamlet
    pondered -- and pondered -- killing his uncle Claudius before
    sticking him in the final act. Grady Tripp, the English professor
    in Michael Chabon's novel Wonder Boys, couldn't finish his second
    book because he refused to stop writing it.

    In a world of unmade beds and unwritten essays, the postponement of
    chores is commonplace. Now and again, humans put aside tasks with
    long-term rewards to savor immediate pleasures, like ice cream and
    movies, through a process called "discounting." For chronic
    procrastinators, however, discounting is a way of life.

    The scientific study of procrastination was (appropriately enough)
    a late-blooming development relative to the examinations of other
    psychological problems. Only in the 1980s did researchers start
    unlocking the heads of inveterate loafers, who suffer from more
    than mere laziness.

    Mr. Ferrari, a co-editor of Procrastination and Task Avoidance:
    Theory, Research, and Treatment (Plenum Publications, 1995), has
    helped clarify the distinction between delaying as an act and as a
    lifestyle. Not every student who ignores assignments until the last
    minute is an across-the-board offender, known to psychologists as a
    "trait procrastinator." Many students who drag their feet on term
    papers might never delay other tasks, such as meeting friends for
    dinner, showing up for work, or going to the dentist.

    As Mr. Ferrari explains in Counseling the Procrastinator in
    Academic Settings (American Psychological Association, 2004), a
    book he edited with three other scholars, there is no typical
    profile of an academic procrastinator (though family dynamics may
    influence the behavior). Studies have found no significant
    relationship between procrastination and intelligence or particular
    Myers-Briggs personality types.

    Research does show that academic procrastinators tend to lack
    self-confidence, measure low on psychologists' tests of
    "conscientiousness," get lost in wishful thoughts, and lie low
    during group assignments.

    In one study, Mr. Ferrari found that students at highly selective
    colleges reported higher rates of academic procrastination than
    students from less selective institutions. In another, the motives
    for academic procrastination among students at an elite college
    differed from students' motives at a nonselective one (the former
    put off assignments because they found them unpleasant, while the
    latter did so because they feared failure or social disapproval).

    Mr. Ferrari identifies two kinds of habitual lollygaggers. "Arousal
    procrastinators" believe they work best under pressure and tend to
    delay tasks for the thrill. "Avoidant procrastinators" are
    self-doubters who tend to postpone tasks because they worry about
    performing inadequately, or because they fear their success may
    raise others' expectations of them.

    Other findings complicate fear-of-failure theories. Some
    researchers say an inability to control impulses explains
    procrastinators best. And a recent study by Mr. Ferrari and Steven
    J. Scher, an associate professor of psychology at Eastern Illinois
    University, suggests that people who are typically negative avoid
    assignments that do not challenge them creatively or
    intellectually, whereas people who are typically positive more
    easily tackle less-stimulating tasks.

    Science is not likely to resolve the mysteries of procrastination
    anytime soon. After all, among researchers a debate still rages
    over the very definition of procrastination. Mr. Scher suspects
    there are different types of the behavior, especially if one
    defines it as not doing what one thinks one should do.

    "A common thing that many people put off is doing the dishes," Mr.
    Scher says. "But there are also times when those same people will
    all of a sudden find that doing the dishes is the most important
    thing they have to do -- thereby putting off some other type of

    Homework-Eating Dogs

    Psychologists do agree on one thing: Procrastination is responsible
    for most of the world's homework-eating dogs. Where procrastinators
    go, excuses follow.

    Students who engaged in academic procrastination said more than 70
    percent of the excuses they gave instructors for not completing an
    assignment were fraudulent (the lies were most prevalent in large
    lecture classes taught by women who were "lenient"), Mr. Ferrari
    found in one study. In another, procrastinating students generally
    said they experienced a positive feeling when they fibbed; although
    they did feel bad when they recalled the lie, such remorse did not
    seem to prevent them from using phony excuses in the future.

    Mr. Ferrari has also experimented with giving bonus points for
    early work. In a study published in the journal Teaching of
    Psychology, he found that such incentives prompted 80 percent of
    students to fulfill a course requirement to participate in six
    psychological experiments by a midpoint date. On average, only 50
    percent had done so before he offered the inducement.

    Mr. Ferrari believes that academe sends mixed messages about
    procrastination. Most professors talk about the importance of
    deadlines, but some are quick to bend them, particularly those who
    put a premium on being liked by their students. In one of Mr.
    Ferrari's studies, 90 percent of instructors said they did not
    require the substantiation of excuses for late work.

    "We're not teaching responsibility anymore," Mr. Ferrari says. "I'm
    not saying we need to be stringent, strict, and inflexible, but we
    shouldn't be spineless. When we are overly flexible, it just
    teaches them that they can ignore the deadlines of life."

    Ambivalence about deadlines pervades American culture. People
    demand high-speed results, whether they are at work or in
    restaurants. Yet this is also a land in which department stores
    encourage holiday shoppers to postpone their shopping until
    Christmas Eve, when they receive huge discounts. And each year on
    April 15, television news reporters from coast to coast descend
    upon post offices to interview (and celebrate) people who wait
    until the final hours to mail their tax returns.

    "As a society," Mr. Ferrari says, "we tend to excuse the person who
    says 'I'm a procrastinator,' even though we don't like

    But do all people who ignore assignments until the 11th hour
    necessarily suffer or do themselves harm?

    One of Mr. Ferrari's former students, Mariya Zaturenskaya, a
    psychology major who graduated from DePaul last spring, says some
    last-minute workers are motivated, well organized, and happy to
    write a paper in one sitting. Although students who cram for tests
    tend to retain less knowledge than other students, research has yet
    to reveal a significant correlation between students'
    procrastination and grades.

    "Some students just need that deadline, that push," Ms.
    Zaturenskaya says. "Some people really are more efficient when they
    have less time."

    Treating the Problem

    Before Jill Gamble went to college, she had little time to waste.
    As a high-school student, she had earned a 3.75 grade-point average
    while playing three sports. Each night she went to practice, ate
    dinner, did her homework, and went to bed.

    After matriculating at Ohio State University, however, her life
    lost its structure. At first, all she had to do was go to classes.
    Most days she napped, spent hours using Instant Messenger, and
    stayed up late talking to her suite mates.

    As unread books piled up on her desk, she told herself her
    professors were too demanding. The night before her Sociology 101
    final, she stayed up drinking Mountain Dew, frantically reading the
    seven chapters she had ignored for weeks. "My procrastination had
    created a lot of anxiety," Ms. Gamble recalls. "I was angry with
    myself that I let it get to that point."

    She got a C-minus in the class and a 2.7 in her first quarter. When
    her grades improved only slightly in the second quarter, Ms. Gamble
    knew she needed help. So she enrolled in a course called
    "Strategies for College Success."

    The five-year-old course uses psychological strategies, such as the
    taking of reasonable risks, to jolt students out of their bad study
    habits. Twice a week students spend class time in a computer lab,
    where they get short lectures on study skills. Students must then
    practice each skill on the computer by using a special software

    Instructors use weekly quizzes to cut procrastination time from
    weeks to days and to limit last-minute cramming. The frequent tests
    mean one or two low scores will not doom a student's final grade,
    ideally reducing study-related stress.

    Students complete assignments at their own pace, allowing faster
    ones to stay engaged and slower ones to keep up, yet there are
    immovable dates by which students must finish each set of
    exercises. Enrollees learn how to write and follow to-do lists that
    reduce large tasks, such as writing an essay, into bite-size goals
    (like sitting down to outline a single chapter of a text instead of
    reading the whole book).

    Each student must also examine his or her use of rationalizations
    for procrastinating. The course's creator, Bruce W. Tuckman, a
    professor of education at Ohio State, says he also teaches students
    to recognize the underlying cause of procrastination, which he
    describes as self-handicapping.

    "It's like running a full race with a knapsack full of bricks on
    your back," Mr. Tuckman says. "When you don't win, you can say it's
    not that you're not a good runner, it's just that you had this sack
    of bricks on your back. When students realize that, it can be
    easier for them to change."

    Many of the worst procrastinators end up earning the highest grades
    in the class, Mr. Tuckman says. And among similar types of students
    with the same prior cumulative grade-point averages, those who took
    the class have consistently outperformed those who did not take it.

    After completing the course, Ms. Gamble says, she stopped
    procrastinating and went on to earn a 3.8 the next semester. Since
    then, she has made the dean's list regularly, and now helps counsel
    her procrastinating peers at Ohio State's learning center.

    "In workshops, we'll say, 'How many of you identify yourselves as
    procrastinators?' and they will throw their hands in the air and
    giggle, even though procrastination is a very negative thing," Ms.
    Gamble says. "Why do we do this so willingly? The answer is that
    let we let ourselves procrastinate. If someone was doing it to us,
    we wouldn't be so willing to raise our hands."

    A Universal Problem

    Psychologists generally agree that the behavior is learned and that
    students choose to procrastinate, even though they may feel
    helpless to stop. Mr. Ferrari, the DePaul professor, describes the
    behavior as a self-constructed mental trap that people can escape
    the same way smokers can kick the habit.

    Mr. Tuckman qualifies his optimism by saying one cannot hope to
    cure procrastination so much as reduce it.

    "It's very hard to go from being a hard-core procrastinator to a
    nonprocrastinator," says Mr. Tuckman, one of many researchers who
    has developed a scale that measures levels of procrastination.
    "You're just so used to doing it, there's something about it that
    reinforces it for you."

    Scholars are learning that procrastination knows no borders. At a
    conference of international procrastination researchers this summer
    at Roehampton University, in England, Mr. Ferrari and several other
    scholars presented a paper that compared the prevalence rates of
    chronic procrastination among adults in Australia, England, Peru,
    Spain, the United States, and Venezuela. They found that arousal
    and avoidant procrastinators were equally prevalent in all of the
    nations, with men and women reporting similar rates of each

    That is not to say all cultures share the same view of
    procrastination. Karem Diaz, a professor of psychology at the
    Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, has studied the behavior
    among Peruvians, whose expectations of timeliness tend to differ
    from those of Americans.

    "In Peru we talk about the 'Peruvian time,'" Ms. Diaz writes in an
    e-mail message. "If we are invited to a party at 7 p.m., it is rude
    to show on time. ... It is even socially punished. Therefore, not
    presenting a paper on time is expected and forgiven."

    Few Peruvians are familiar with the Spanish word "procrastinación,"
    which complicates discussions of the subject. "Some people think it
    is some sexual behavior when they hear the word," Ms. Diaz says.
    Yet the professor has been intrigued to find that some Peruvians
    identify themselves as procrastinators, and experience the negative
    consequences of the behavior even though social norms encourage it.

    Strategies for helping people bridge the gap between their actions
    and intentions vary. A handful of colleges in Belgium, Canada, and
    the Netherlands have just begun to develop counseling programs that
    draw on cognitive and behavioral research. The early findings:
    Helping students understand why they dawdle and teaching them
    self-efficacy tends to lessen their procrastination -- or at least
    make it more manageable.

    Timothy A. Pychyl, an associate professor of psychology at Carleton
    University, in Ottawa, Ontario, says group meetings are a promising
    approach, particularly those in which students make highly specific
    goals and help each other resist temptations to slack off. "For
    many people, it's an issue of priming the pump ... as simple as
    making a deal with oneself to spend 10 minutes on a task," Mr.
    Pychyl says. "At least the next day they can see themselves as
    having made an effort as opposed to doing nothing at all."

    Clarry H. Lay, a retired psychology professor at York University,
    in Toronto, who continues to counsel student procrastinators, uses
    personality feedback to promote better "self-regulation" among
    students. In group sessions, he discusses the importance of
    studying even when one is not in the "right mood" and of setting
    aside a regular place to work. Some participants become more
    confident and efficient. Others see improvements, only to
    experience relapses.

    Each semester one in five students miss the first session. Some
    sign up early but never show, while others arrive late or attend
    sporadically. But Mr. Lay understands. The counselor is a chronic
    procrastinator himself.


   55. http://chronicle.com/colloquy/2005/12/procrastination/
[Immediately below.]

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Colloquy Transcript

There's Always Tomorrow

    Wednesday, December 7, at 2:30 p.m., U.S. Eastern time

    The topic

    Conventional wisdom holds that procrastinators are just plain lazy.
    But psychologists who study chronic dawdling say the behavior is
    much more complex than that. Researchers have found that college
    campuses are hothouses of procrastination, with an estimated 70
    percent of students saying they typically postpone starting or
    finishing their assignments. Some of those students feel incapable
    of changing their behavior, which can sink not only their grades
    but also their self-esteem.
    Many colleges offer time-management workshops to help students
    overcome procrastination, yet some experts say treating chronic
    procrastinators requires intensive counseling that gets at the root
    causes of habitual dillydallying.
    Why do some students waste their time when they should be working?
    Should American universities offer cognitive and behavioral therapy
    for the problem, as many European ones do? Is there hope for a
    cure? If not, what is to be done?

    The guest

    Joseph R. Ferrari is a professor of psychology at DePaul University
    and a leading researcher of chronic procrastination.

                     A transcript of the chat follows.

    Eric Hoover (Moderator):
        Welcome to The Chronicle's live chat with Joseph R. Ferrari, a
    professor of psychology at DePaul University and a leading
    researcher of chronic procrastination. Thanks for joining us today.
    We will now take questions.

    Question from Mark Grechanik, University of Texas at Austin:
        Do you think frequent quizzes may help students to engage in
    the learning process faster?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        Good point; it may. But the issue here is that folks wait to
    study not that they don't study. Still, you are right. Generating a
    system that reduces procrastination is the solution.

    Question from Anon, small NY college:
        Intensive counseling doesn't sound like it would fit into a
    college student's schedule. How can we lessen procrastination if we
    can't provide intensive counseling? If time management
    tips/workshops don't work, what does?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        For the CHRONIC PROCRASTINATOR, therapy. Even small NY towns
    (and I lived and worked at several) have professional clinical and
    counseling psychologists in the area. They need to get a student
    rate and seek professional help. Also, the college counseling
    center could have a staff person trained to hold sessions. Good

    Question from Maryann P. county college in NJ:
        How can I solve my problem of often being late for
    appointments, term papers, kids appointments, car-pool? I am
    getting worse at it lately.
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        Do you schedule back to back? Give yourself 20 minutes between
    tasks so if one takes longer, you are not overloaded. Remember, to
    prioritze is not the same as procrastinating.

    Question from Laura Wennekes, University of Amsterdam, The
        Isn't "procrastination" a natural response to artificially
    imposed notion of "deadline"?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        "Natural." Wow, no. It is learned. There is NO gene for
    procrastination. I hear a little rebellion here - like 'imposed
    deadline.' Look, life is full of commitments. We have
    responsibilities to meet those deadlines.

    Question from Evan, University of Delaware:
        Are you aware of the book "The Now Habit" (Niel Fiore) and the
    related "lifehacker" movement popular among IT professionals for
    over-coming procrastination? What do you think of them?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        Yes, there are many 'self-help' books out there. Most don't use
    good research to support them. Read the scholarly stuff for good

    Question from Nora, big state university:
        In my experience, procrastination is directly related to
    anxiety around writing. I sit down to write, and have bodily
    "symptoms" and have found psychoanalysis to be helpful. Have you
    considered the psychoanalytic treatment of writing blocks and
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        If analysis works for you, great. I recommend
    cognitive-behavioral therapy because it changes the way a person
    THINKS and BEHAVES instead of thinking about why one's mother acted
    a specific way.

    Question from Kris, MIT:
        Could you please explain how research into procrastination
    differentiates between depression-related procrastination, and
    procrastination in someone who would not be clasified as depressed?
    Is such a distinction even possible? Thank you from a chronic
    procrastinator, second generation.
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        Yes, this is a learned thing and for you you had a model. Yes,
    there is a relation between procrastination and depression, but
    correlational. Does procrastination lead to depression? Or does
    depression lead to procrastination? No causal experiements have
    been done.

    Question from Kathleen, U. of Rochester:
        What does evidence suggest regarding a genetic contribution to
    chronic procrastination?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        None! It's too easy to blame things on one's genetics. If that
    is the case, then one can't change, and that is foolish.

    Question from Mark, NGO Abroad:
        The people I know who do not procrastinate are ones who get a
    great sense of satisfaction finishing things and checking it off
    the list. They tend to enjoy throwing things away rather than
    keeping them around in case they need them. Basically they have
    greater throughput. I dont really enjoy finishing things, I worry
    that they are not perfect. My question is what makes them get such
    satisfaction from completion?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        You are right about non-procrastinators (myself included). And
    you are right about the link to perfectionism. Procrastinators try
    to be perfect to have others like them. Nonprocrastinators try to
    be perfect to do a good job.

    So, stop focusing on what others will think of you as reflecting
    your self-worth. You are a good person even if the project is a B
    or B+.

    Question from Erica, NYU:
        Recently, I've seen a bunch of web pages advertising "coaches"
    who help a person get over their procrastinating habits. Does your
    research suggest that coaching is effective?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        In my 2004 book, Counseling the Procrastinator in Academic
    Settings, there is a chapter on digital coaching. Good luck.

    Question from Evan, University of Delaware:
        Sometimes I am much more productive on projects that have no
    deadline than those that do. Do you think the deadline itself is
    the culprit as much as the task at hand? How are they related?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        Sounds like a little rebellion against having an external
    deadline here. Ask yourself why you work against it, instead of
    work with it.

    Question from Marla, U. of Texas:
        Do you think the internet has worsened the problem of
    procrastination, or that it is just a different form of an ongoing
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        Worsened. Now we email at the last minute instead of placing a
    letter in the post 3 days before.

    Question from Erin McLaughlin, University of Pennsylvania:
        What are the indicators of a chronic procrastinator versus a
    student just uninterested in a project or class?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        Hmm, I think they would look the same and act the same. But the
    procrastinator would get anxious about not working on the target

    Question from Carmen, Northeast Iowa Community College:
        The Chronicle article about procrastinations makes no mention
    of Adult ADHD,a likely cause for at least 5% of procrastinators,
    and possibly many, many more, as there would be a natural selection
    bias toward procrastination in the ADHD population. What are your
    thoughts about this?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        Nice. I have a paper in press in "Clinical & Counseling
    Psychology" where we examined procrastinators with adult ADHDs.
    There was a link. Look for the article. Cheers.

    Question from Tammy, mid-size East Coast univ.:
        How can I know if a therapist is good at working with
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        Good point. Look for a PhD psychologist with a
    cognitive-behavioral style. If they try time management on you,
    walk away.

    Question from Michelle, Washington University:
        What is your viewpoint on freshman transition programs? Do you
    think they could be useful in heading off patterns of
    underachievement due to procrastination? And did you find anything
    that indicated how to prepare for independent study?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        Good point. No data here, but anything that tries to get
    students to examine what and why they do or do NOT work is good.
    Just don't hope that the 20% who are chronic procrastinators will
    be 'cured' by a week-long section of a freshmen course.

    Question from Laura, large eastern university:
        How do you get a procrastinator to actually go to therapy,
    however? Especially if they already feel they don't have enough
    time for everyday commitments.
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        Can't make anyone do anything they don't want to. As my old
    Italian grandmother said (loses something in translation, but...)
    "for some folks, they will not get off the beach until the water
    hits their behind."

    Question from Donald, small Rhode Island College:
        Is procrastination a result of executive processing disorders?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        No data. Unlikely for most people. Remember, there is a
    difference between correlations and causality.

    Question from John Gault, Missouri Valley College:
        Are you saying there is nothing that can help these students
    except professional counselors? Is there nothing the professor or
    the school can do?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        Professors can design their classes to give extra credit for
    doing assignments EARLY, instead of punishing for being late.

    I'm not saying there is nothing. Remember, 80% of us procrastinate,
    but 20% are procrastinators. Programs can work for most folks, but
    for the 20% who are real procrastinators, where this is their
    lifestyle, they need therapy.

    Question from LLC, The University of Akron:
        I work in a career center, and see another side of chronic
    student procrastination related to making life decisions, applying
    for jobs, preparing for life after college. It seems like it takes
    a "crisis point" to motivate the truly chronic procrastinators ...
    are there some other tools, tips, techniques, resources you'd
    recommend to help us "kick-start" those that need the assistance?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        Right, some folks need a crisis to kcik them into moving.

    Question from Pat, Shorter College (small private):
        My husband just gave a bunch of low grades to students who
    failed, all semester, to turn in assignments. Do you think there's
    a group behavior/dynamics factor in procrastination?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        Probably not. They may have been having some group planned
    strategy to delay for other reasons. But we do know that in group
    assignments where performance is rated for everyone,
    procrastinators will engage in loafing--and the non-procrastinators
    in the group don't like them.

    Question from Constant Beugre, Delaware State University:
        Can having a 'to do list' and stick to it help in reducing
    procrastination? I have tried this technquen with some
    procrastinators in the past and it seems to work for some but not
    for others.
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        You are again making my point - for 80% of us who procrastinate
    on some things, a to-do list system and other things will work. But
    for the 20% procrastinators who do this as a lifestyle, they will
    reshuffle the list and come up with excuses why they can't do

    Question from LLC, The University of Akron:
        Although genetics may not make us procrastinators, our
    personalities may help us be more prone to procrastination. MBTI
    perceiving types, for example, like open-endedness, see many
    options and are not as comfortable choosing only one option, are
    more spontaneous ... are certain personality types more prone to
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        MBTI has very poor reliability and validity, if one reads the
    scholarly literature. We found it did not relate to proc
    tendencies. So drop that party game!

    Question from D.S., large research university:
        Most people are surprised to hear I procrastinate because I am
    amazingly good at coming through in the clutch, and when I work
    with focus, I get a lot done, and so, the pattern continues. Do I
    need to have a big failure to motivate change in myself?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        You sound like a chronic AROUSAL procrastinator, who enjoys
    working against a clock for a rush experience. Fail enough with no
    one bailing you out, and you may want to change.

    Question from Alaine Allen, University of Pittsburgh:
        I work with pre-college students who seem to procrastinate out
    of fear (ex. anxiety about writing a college application essay).
    What type of advice would you give to those students beyond the
    common "just do it" statement.
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        To break it down and do just smaller sections, to focus on the
    goal of getting it done, not what has to be done, look at each TREE
    and not the FOREST.

    Question from Laura, big eastern Univ.:
        Sometimes I even procrastinate on enjoyable things. Do you
    think it may be some sort of rebelliion against "scheduling"? I
    have often wondered, because sometimes I will have a better chance
    to get something done if it is "impulsive." Where would you start
    to fix something like that?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        Could be. I have a book chapter on procrastination and
    impulsivity. They are not as opposite as you think.

    Question from Janet, large Long Island college:
        Are stimulant medications such as Metadate or Ritalin effective
    in reducing procrastination.
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        No. keep away from the meds. Instead, focus on learning new
    skills for life.

    Question from Alec, University of Cambridge, UK:
        Hello, could you please mention a few proven concrete
    exercises/methods to combat ones procrastination tendencies,
    especially concerning very long term, multifaceted goals such as
    writing up a PhD thesis. Thank you.
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        We have several good tested, research-supported techniques in
    the 2004 book, Counseling the Procrastinator in Academic Settings,
    as well as the founding book in 1995.

    Question from Ed, U. of Kentucky:
        I see my earlier questsion was answered. What about heling
    children out of this who have already caught procrastination from
    the parent?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        Well, it was not 'caught' as much as modeled and learned. So
    they need to learn alternative ways to handle the situation and how
    they perceive the situation. Can the parents model 'getting it

    Question from Ed, U. of Kentucky:
        What questions should you ask when looking for a cognitive
    therapist? How long should it take to change the habit?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        Cognitive-behavioral therapy is more short term than
    psychoanalysis. Listen to how they would work with you. Do they
    focus on your thinking pattern and your behaviors? Do they offer
    you skills and new ways to treat your behaviors and thoughts?

    Question from Mona Pelkey, United States Military Academy:
        My star procrastinator just left my office. He is unhappy
    because he just can't seem to get motivated enough to put in the
    effort to get the grades he wants. For the past hour and a half I
    literally sat over him, pushing him to make a list, prioritize it,
    and start the tasks. I am exhausted and so is my student. Help!
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        He is still trying to be PERFECT. Life is not perfect, neither
    should he be. Clincial folks talk about an 80% rule where the
    client is 'cured' if they reach 80% of their life goal. So get this
    student to be happy with 97% then 95% then 90%, etc.

    Procrastinators would rather others say that they lacked EFFORT
    than lacked ABILITY. By never finishing they can protect their
    self-views and say have the ability but that they never tried hard
    enough. He needs to stop thinking his self worth is tied only to
    getting an A.

    Question from Bonnie, Huston-Tillotson:
        Regarding that 20% - what is (are) the pay-off (s) for
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        Protecting one's self-esteem and social-esteem (how others feel
    about your ability). Never finish, never get judged by others. Let
    others decide and act for you.

    Question from John Gault, Missouri Valley College:
        What criteria can be used to determine if a student is one of
    the 20% that needs counseling or just a normal procrastinator like
    the rest of us?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        In the 1995 text we have several reliable and valid self-report
    measures that assess one's procrastinator tendencies. Buy the book
    and take the measures!

    Question from Nina, Duke University:
        I have bipolar disorder and am having a hard time determining
    if I'm procrastinating and using BP as an excuse, or am really
    having trouble getting things done because of of rapid cycling. Any
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        I can't play therapist here, but remember procrastinators are
    great excuse makers, blaming it on others, parents, genes, other

    Question from Eric Hoover:
        Looking ahead, what are some new avenues you would like to
    explore in your research on procrastination? What are some
    questions you would like to see addressed in future studies?
    Joseph R. Ferrari:
        I want to continue to look at the cross-cultural meanings of
    procrastination. And funny you should ask, I have been asked by a
    reader of a publishing house to write a pop book based on scholarly
    research outcomes. So, I think I will take them up on that offer...

    Eric Hoover (Moderator):
        That wraps up our chat. Thanks to everyone who sent questions
    today. And Prof. Ferrari, thank you for your responses.

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